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Mistakes in Onboarding New Employees and How to Avoid Them

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 03/29/2024

employee onboarding
Here's a look at some common mistakes around onboarding new employees and what small businesses can do to navigate them.

Table of Contents

Mistakes in onboarding new employees can frequently occur in small businesses. The process may not be strategically planned out, or it may not be seen as a valuable step in the new-hire experience – whatever the reason, a new hire’s first impression of the business is still crucial. Nearly 3 in 10 new hires who are unhappy with their onboarding experience plan to begin the job hunt again within just three months.1

That’s why many companies are focusing on developing their onboarding process to help increase retention rates, clarify expectations for performance, and improve internal communications and relationships.

Here's a look at some common mistakes around onboarding new employees and what small businesses can do to navigate them:

Equating orientation with onboarding

Sometimes, companies mistakenly equate orientation, which involves completing routine paperwork and other tasks, with onboarding, which aims for a cohesive integration into the workplace and a greater sense of being part of a new team. Orientation is usually more tactical in nature, while onboarding entails a comprehensive approach to providing knowledge a new hire needs to be effective at their job and understating the culture of your business.

Do you equate orientation with onboarding? Orientation involves completing routine paperwork and other tasks. Onboarding aims for a cohesive integration into the workplace and a greater sense of being part of a new team.

Not taking the strategic view

Some businesses, in a rush to get new employees up to speed, may neglect the ways in which onboarding can help individuals get a sense of the company's mission, values, and most important strategic goals. Effective onboarding can clarify the important ways in which employees are part of the big picture and serve a key role in helping the company grow.

Waiting until the first day to start the process

A successful onboarding process starts well before the employee's first day on the job. Once a new hire accepts an offer, consider sending them materials about the company, including relevant links on the business’s website. Ahead of Day 1, you may also want to provide them with:

  • Information on benefits, if you offer them
  • A detailed schedule of the onboarding process
  • Details for the first day, including where to go and members of the team the new hire will meet

You may also want to arrange for a manager or other company representative to welcome the new employee by phone or email.

Looking at onboarding as a one-time event

Bringing a new employee on board is sometimes looked at as a brief, one-time event prior to officially becoming a member of the team. But the most effective onboarding initiatives take place over a period of weeks or even months. This is aimed at integrating customized training programs with a continuous immersion in the company's culture and ways of doing business.

Is onboarding a brief, one-time event? The most effective onboarding initiatives are continuous and take place over a period of weeks or months.

Introduce other employees and departments over time, so the new hire can broaden his or her internal network of colleagues and acquaintances. A broad network means there are more resources available to that employee and more sources of information they can call upon. New hires often have valuable perspectives, drawn from experiences in their past employment, which they should feel encouraged to share with people they meet in their new job.

Neglecting to solicit new-hire feedback

How effective is your onboarding process? Who better to ask than a new employee after they have been on the job for a few weeks or months? Some businesses overlook a great opportunity to assess the quality of their onboarding process by soliciting these individuals’ feedback.

What does the new employee think was most effective about their personal onboarding experience? Where did the process fall short? Create feedback loops where everyone involved – the new hire, their manager, HR, etc. – can provide input on successes and shortcomings in the process. What you learn from this feedback can make the onboarding experience even better for future new hires.

The first few weeks and months can set the stage for a new employee, and a strategic, comprehensive onboarding process can help make this transition smoother. This can lead to greater job satisfaction, higher morale, and increased productivity — all strong reasons to commit to an effective onboarding process as you bring new people into the company.

12024 Pulse of HR: The Future of First Impressions


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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