November 26.2017, 3.59pm

5 Onboarding Mistakes HR Pros Make And How To Avoid Them

First impressions matter. How often have you heard that expression? Yet many HR professionals still fail to apply it when dealing with incoming employees.

Onboarding is now accepted as a vital process when assimilating new hires into your organisation yet many companies still aren’t getting it right. What are the major mistakes companies make – and crucially, how can you avoid them?


1. Starting too late

Too often, HR spend a huge amount of unnecessary time in the employee’s first few days handling paper work – no employee should spend the majority of first day filling out forms. However, it’s telling that 83 percent of high performing companies begin their onboarding process before a new hire even enters the office. Are you one of them?

Modern HR onboarding software lets you give new hires access to their own employee dashboard before they sit down at their new desk, and documentation can be easily uploaded by the employee at their convenience. This option – and mobile accessibility – allows them to input personal details, read company policies, watch training videos or access team structures and checklists. As a result, this can help them to stay engaged in the run up to their start date and to save time for important additional welcoming and training processes.


2. Failing to sufficiently prepare for their arrival

Employee perception is important. Why woo a new hire during the recruitment process if you make them feel like an afterthought on their first day? Ensure that all logins, phones or computers are set up for arrival and be ready to go on day one. Google found that sending hiring managers a reminder the Sunday before a new hire’s start date reduced their ‘new hire time to productivity’ by a month!

Anett Grant, CEO of Executive Speaking, recommends emailing new recruits the day before they start, with a detailed schedule for the first day. This can settle their nerves and make them feel like a valued team member with goals to achieve. Making them spend their first day reading policies and procedures certainly won’t make them feel valued! We’d also advise setting out a structured plan for the first week, which includes role-important meet and greets to ensure the employee feels a sense of structure and purpose in their role, while also meeting those they’ll liaise with in a purposeful way. No more awkward introductory emails!

At Executive Speaking, a half-hour cake party introduces new hires to their co-workers. This is one way to assimilate a new hire into the company culture and create a buzz around a new joiner. Dr. John Sullivan, HR thought-leader from Silicon Valley, points out that only four percent of new hires know whether they want to stay in a new job after their first day. Like Grant, he recommends treating a first day as a celebration rather than an administrative exercise.


3. Not setting clear expectations from the outset

An important part of onboarding is understanding an employee’s goals, explaining the company goals and working to align these in a common mission. One Gallup poll found that only 50 percent of employees strongly agreed that they knew what was expected of them at work.

Another survey found that 23 percent of people who left within six months of starting a new job said that, “receiving clear guidelines to what my responsibilities were,” would have helped them to stay in the job.

Without clear targets, it’s impossible to acknowledge achievements so it’s easy for new hires to become demotivated and disillusioned. This highlights the need for ongoing performance evaluations and regular one-to-ones with mentors or managers. Every worker wants to know what’s expected of them. This can be done by establishing clear expectations and agreeing upon the metrics that you’ll use to measure their performance from the get-go.

Considering it takes on average, 6 months, for a new hire to feel competent in their new role within an organisation, ‘onboarding’ should actually be a 3-6 month process. This should consist of the employee completing training, familiarising themselves with important tools and processes, and building rapport with their team. CoreHR’s software allows organisations to set a task list of items that can be completed over a period of time – no more encapsulating everything into a one day or one week event. Both HR and Managers can then monitor and track employees progress, and engage with the employee as they progress throughout the onboarding process AND their career.


4. Ignoring employee engagement

Employees need to be viewed as customers, so it’s important to keep them satisfied and engaged. A recent Deloitte report recommended that managers work with new hires to create a development plan to achieve ‘quick wins.’

It also recommended using mentor and buddy programmes to help employees connect quickly with their co-workers. Buddy programmes offer a newbie a point of contact to show them around, answer organisational questions and reduce the possibility of isolation. It also helps them to better understand the company culture.

Gamification has been used by companies like Travelport to encourage employees to engage with their onboarding portal. Giving employees a 90-day plan and checking in on them regularly can make them quickly feel like they’re part of a team. Surveys and one-to-ones can also give you feedback on how their assimilation process is going in the early stages.

5. Not having an ongoing process in place

Replacing employees is expensive, but 36 percent of employers still have no formal ongoing onboarding process in place. It’s no surprise that we see 23 percent of UK employees admitting that they are disappointed with their job after just six months.

Onboarding is about nourishing new hires and helping them to become the professional you believe they can be. It’s unfair to expect them to grasp everything from their day-to-day duties to the company culture through osmosis. Onboarding should be the first step in any talent management process, and a continuing process.

“The best experiences in orientation and onboarding build relationships and networks that rapidly integrate new hires and give them the core capabilities (both behavioural and technical) that will enable them to be effective employees within particular corporate cultures,” according to a recent Deloitte report.

Additionally, the rate and speed at which new employees learn will differ per person. It is therefore important that company knowledge and training documents are available for every new employee. Clear guidelines on where they can access such important training materials such as policies, documentation, videos, sites relevant to their role etc is crucial. This will allow them to learn at a rate suitable to them and make them more comfortable within the organisation. CoreHR’s software can provide these resources for specific employees as part of onboarding, such as a link function-specific training resource or knowledge hub area that is only applicable to the department in question. This can then be made available to the relevant employees and specific departments.

Onboarding needs to be a coordinated and ongoing approach if it’s going to succeed. Aim to show new hires the things they need to know right away while continuing to support and acclimatize them over time.


If you’d like to learn more about hiring and retaining top talent, along with the greatest challenges and opportunities for HR professionals in 2017, download our research report below.

The Challenges and Opportunities Facing HR in 2017

Kevin CunneenBy Kevin Cunneen

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