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10 Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 06/21/2018

SHRM session: 10 onboarding mistakes
At this year's SHRM Conference, Interchange Consulting Group principal Amy Hirsh Robinson identified common onboarding mistakes businesses can make. Before bringing a new employee on board, review these 10 common pitfalls.

Table of Contents

Onboarding is often treated as a cost or a hassle compared to the effort put into recruiting top employees, but its impact on employee engagement and productivity can be profound. Take a look at your company’s onboarding process and see where you can make some simple, effective changes. One good place to start is by knowing about common onboarding mistakes and how to avoid them.

At the 2018 SHRM Conference and Expo in Chicago, Interchange Consulting Group principal Amy Hirsh Robinson addressed ten onboarding mistakes you can start addressing today.

1. Not having a clean and ready workstation on day one — First impressions can be lasting impressions, and new hires are more sensitive to what goes on around them as they find their bearings in their new work environment. If your company can’t provide a functioning workstation when they arrive, it’s not a huge cognitive jump for them to assume your company doesn’t have its act together in general.

2. Cramming 20 hours’ worth of info into 4 dull hours of orientation — Don’t let new hires’ first impression of your company be one of drudgery and boredom. Split up the workload and spend time focusing on your company’s culture, history, and maybe even learn a little about the employees. After all, you’re getting oriented to them as well.

3. Neglecting the importance of cultural adaptation — Just because an employee was hired in part for how well they fit into the company doesn’t mean they’ll embody your company values from the first day. It’s going to take some time for your company and the employee to get to know and adapt to each other.

4. Ignoring the needs of mid- and senior-level employees — Onboarding isn’t just for rank and file employees. Executives have many of the same needs. One common mistake is to assume the onboarding processes doesn’t apply to them, or that there’s nothing they and you can learn from it.

5. Failing to address generational needs and differences — You may have heard that baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials approach work differently. While the coverage of those differences has been more than thorough, it’s important that you not only recognize their different approaches, but incorporate them into your onboarding process. For example, millennial employees often care more in general about a company’s culture and how they can champion its values, while boomers typically appreciate hierarchies more than millennials, and Generation X thrives on efficiency. Get it done right and let’s move on. Speaking of which…   

6. Starting a new hire when their supervisor is absent — Don’t waste a new employee’s first day. It’s an easy win for your onboarding process to ensure that managers and supervisors will be available to help guide employees through their first experience with the company. Informed and engaged managers can have the greatest effect on employee onboarding and can foster loyalty that translates into lower turnover and greater retention of top performers.

7. Relying on org charts to explain lines of communication — While some people are visual learners, a piece of paper or a computer screen are no substitute for experience. Show new employees where to go and who to talk to. Introduce them to members of the team and their places within it and you’ll open wide those lines of communication from the start.

8. Assuming a new hire can’t be productive from the start — Your new employees were hired for a purpose. The sooner you can put them on that path, the more productive they’ll be — and likely the more grateful they’ll be for the opportunity to work for your company. While they may not know all the ins and outs of your company yet, you may be surprised how much they can contribute from day one.

9. Running a disorganized program — The issues with disorganized onboarding should be obvious. The way employees are treated at the beginning of their time with your company will stay with them throughout their careers. Disorganized onboarding makes delays and mistakes more likely and shows employees — like in mistake number one — that maybe it isn’t only the onboarding process that’s a disaster. 

10. Adopting a sink-or-swim approach because it worked for you — It’s good for employees to learn on their own and apply critical thinking and figure out their jobs. But it’s important to give them guidance along the way. Not everyone has the same needs, and not everyone learns or reacts the same way. One successful swimmer (you) doesn’t make it a trend, nor does it make a good policy.

Now that you have an idea of some simple steps you can take to improve your onboarding process, read The Importance of an Employee Onboarding Process for an in-depth look at how optimizing your entire onboarding process and giving it the kind of attention most companies spend on recruitment alone can help lead to better employee engagement, productivity, and ultimately profitability.


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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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