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10 Common Mistakes Made During Employee Onboarding

By Betterworks
8 minute read
Updated on September 21, 2022
10 Common Mistakes Made During Employee Onboarding

An effective onboarding strategy doesn’t have to be complicated to create lasting success. In fact, a highly efficient approach that is streamlined yet thorough enough to properly immerse a new hire in their job responsibilities and an organization’s culture has proven to provide the greatest positive impact.

Still, despite the benefits of a straightforward and succinct onboarding process, many organizations find themselves mired in needlessly complicated, drawn-out onboarding that fails to adequately prepare a new team member for the rigors of their new role. Even worse, insufficient onboarding can have a cascading effect that ultimately impairs the overall employee experience, damages brand perception, and inhibits productivity.

For that reason, Betterworks Engage has gathered a list of the ten most common mistakes made during employee onboarding to help you avoid such pitfalls and leverage your own onboarding process to the most positive impact possible. When coupled with the invaluable people data and actionable insight gathered from Betterworks Engage’s innovative feedback platform, you can design and maintain an onboarding strategy that’s ideally suited for your organization’s specific needs and goals. Such a system can prove to be vital in providing a competitive advantage, satisfying employee journey, and healthy culture well into the future.

1. Procrastination and Disorganization

There’s a reason why the most successful organizations – 83% of them, in fact – begin the onboarding process before a new employee even sets foot in the building on their first day of work. Effective onboarding is highly organized, properly distributing important tasks across a limited amount of time before the new hire is expected to be ramped up and ready to go.

In other words, an employer should avoid procrastination and disorganization. They should create a detailed schedule and plan for employee onboarding that clearly spells out what is required every single day. That isn’t to say, however, that an organization should immediately hand an intimidating mountain of paperwork to a new hire as they sit down at their desk for the first time. Instead, employers should balance onboarding time for maximum productivity, effectively developing the new hire while avoiding aimless training sessions thrown together at the last minute.

Technology, as is often the case, provides employers with powerful solutions to help find that balance. To make the best use of time, HR can utilize onboarding platforms specifically designed to streamline the process, providing the new employee both mobile and desktop access to most, if not all, training sessions and reference materials as well as questionnaires and required paperwork. Such solutions allow a new hire to complete benefits and tax forms more conveniently without using valuable onboarding time that could otherwise be devoted to more value-added tasks.

2. Poor First Impressions

As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. While no one expects organizations to roll out the red carpet and cater lunch from the finest restaurant in town for a new hire’s first day, there’s something to be said for at least having everything in place. Imagine being the newest employee of an organization where everyone in the office already knows each other and the day-to-day routine like the back of their hand. Suffice it to say, those first days can be intimidating, even overwhelming if everything doesn’t go smoothly.

If that new employee walks up to a messy workstation, a computer that doesn’t work, not an office supply in sight, and no technology subscriptions in place that are necessary for the job, that first impression is going to be a negative one that could very well carry forward throughout the duration of employment. HR, management, and coworkers should all be prepared for a new employee’s arrival, making certain their immersion into their new position, as well as the organization’s culture, is free of any hiccups and as beneficial as possible. Although every stage of the employee experience is important, the impression given during onboarding could very well affect an employee and, therefore, the enterprise itself for years to come.

3. Unclear Goals and Expectations

According to a recent poll, only 50% of workers strongly agreed that they understood what their employer expected of them. Such a statistic doesn’t bode well for organizations that rely on a cohesive workforce that works in unison to reach both individual and organizational goals. Onboarding is the ideal time and environment to be transparent and upfront with a new employee, providing succinct expectations for their particular role as well as what they add to the enterprise itself.

Since it takes, on average, six months for a new hire to feel fully ramped up and entirely prepared for the rigors of their position, employers must use that time to consistently check-in on the employee’s progress, reinforcing critical concepts, and requesting feedback to see where the process can be improved. Betterworks Engage’s platform can prove to be a boon to employers looking for a highly efficient – even automated – system that provides real-time data on opinions that could shape the entire spectrum of the employee experience.

4. Exaggerating or Understating a Job’s Scope

While jobs evolve over time and what might be an accurate description of responsibilities today isn’t necessarily accurate in the future. Therefore, job descriptions are fluid in nature, just like the marketplace itself. However, it’s incumbent upon an employer to present an accurate list of – once again – expectations specific to the position relative to the required tasks and skill at the time it’s filled. Such transparency helps a new employee adopt a realistic perspective and significantly improves their transition into your overall workforce. When the new employee arrives with the expectation to perform within a certain defined position, any curveballs will likely be interpreted as deceptive. There are few more efficient ways to scare off a new employee by making them feel like they’ve been duped.

5. No Formal Schedule or Process

Harkening back to the need for adequate preparation, the onboarding process is vital to the success of the entire organization and requires deliberate planning to be successful. Therefore, onboarding should be a combination of education, relationship building, and networking to ramp up a new employee as quickly as possible without cutting any corners.

Establishing formal procedures will serve as a much-needed foundation as onboarding progresses and a new hire becomes more comfortable in their new position within an organization. However, formality should never be mistaken for rigidity as a high degree of flexibility is required to accommodate every individual’s unique learning pace and ability to absorb new information. Coordinate with co-workers, management, and session leaders to best prepare for future onboarding events, and always provide follow-up material to your new hire as important reference points that reinforce what they learn throughout the process.

6. Overflow of Information at Once

As previously established, the first days, weeks, or even months in a new job can be overwhelming. For that reason, it’s important to evenly distribute information to avoid intimidating a new hire with too much data at once. As tempting as it might be to inundate your newest team member with as much information as possible to improve their ramp up speeds, such actions usually have the opposite effect. Overloading an employee is likely to overwhelm them to the point where little, if any, critical information regarding the position and organization is absorbed.

7. Ignoring Cultural Adaptation

Hiring an individual means an employer sees potential in them and that, with time, they will be a valued and productive part of the organization. That isn’t to say, however, that every new employee will immediately take to the culture and environment within their new workplace. Like most aspects of life, understanding and fitting into an organization’s culture is learned behavior that occurs with experience and repetition.

Often times, coworkers are the best conduits for relaying information regarding an organization’s culture, policies, and procedures. While classroom instruction and reference material can certainly be helpful in providing bullet points and summaries, they are a far cry from actual first-person experience. Request coworkers to volunteer their time and attention to a new hire, walking them through the paces of the daily routine to accelerate their understanding and acceptance of your organization’s culture. This is particularly beneficial if a new hire, for instance, has spent their entire career in smaller companies but now faces the foreign landscape of a much larger workplace and workforce.

8. Failing to Provide Management Support and Input

A supervisor’s desk is always overflowing with a variety of projects, all requiring focus and attention to be successful. In other words, managers already deal with crowded schedules and little spare time. Therefore, devoting any of that precious time towards tasks deemed outside of their normal responsibilities could be viewed as a burden to a busy manager’s already jam-packed routine.

Given its importance to both the individual and organization, however, onboarding should be viewed by management as a part of those normal responsibilities, just as essential to the organization’s success as financial reports and customer service. This conundrum presents yet another example of the absolute need to organize and schedule onboarding events well in advance, providing supervisors ample time to integrate one-on-one meetings with new hires or even conducting onboarding sessions into their schedule. As important and helpful as HR is to the process, they are not a substitute for the unique insights and impactful guidance a manager can provide a new team member.

9. Confusing Onboarding With Orientation

Mistakenly used as synonyms for one another, orientation is a particular component of onboarding that is in no way representative of the overall onboarding process itself. More precisely, orientation is a singular event occurring at some point during onboarding, providing the new hire an opportunity to complete routine paperwork and other necessary tasks that are more administrative rather than focused on culture and the bigger picture. HR can neatly bundle orientation into a single morning or afternoon but onboarding is an ongoing process that builds on itself and gradually envelops the new employee in an organization’s policies, procedures, and culture.

10. Neglecting to Collect Feedback

You wouldn’t try your hand at backpacking through the wilderness without a map and compass at your side. Neglecting to collect feedback throughout the onboarding process is very much like a dangerous trip through the backcountry, walking blindly through the process without any sort of guidance to lead the way. Fortunately, Betterworks Engage’s platform is more like a GPS unit rather than a mere compass and map to inform your onboarding strategy.

With real-time, precise people data gathered at the most advantageous stages of the onboarding process using Betterworks Engage’s feedback platform, HR and management can actively track an employee’s progress and gauge the effectiveness of their onboarding strategy. Likewise, Betterworks Engage allows an employer to make needed changes as onboarding progresses to gain the most benefit from this immensely important early stage of the employee experience.

Maximizing the effectiveness of the onboarding process correlates directly with higher job satisfaction, individual and workforce morale, and improved productivity at every level of an organization. Therefore, the insights afforded by Betterworks Engage‘s platform – equal parts convenient and comprehensive – are critical to establishing and maintaining an engaged, driven workforce that will inevitably serve as a powerful competitive advantage in a crowded, cantankerous marketplace.

Going forward, once an employee segues from the onboarding stage to regular employment, Betterworks Engage continues to inform the journey through employee lifecycle surveys, pulse polls, and crowdsourced, bottom-up employee conversations that build on a successful onboarding strategy. Neglecting to collect feedback throughout that employee journey – the onboarding process naturally included – is intentionally ignoring a vital source of insightful people data that is very difficult, if not impossible, to gather by any other means.

Other Onboarding Considerations

Of course, depending on the organization, a variety of other factors should be taken into consideration when developing a comprehensive onboarding strategy, including:

  • Promising something, tangible or intangible, to a new employee and failing to deliver
  • Isolating a new hire from their co-workers, workstation, and overall office environment/culture
  • Micromanaging the onboarding process and, thus, inhibiting the natural learning process
  • Consistent negativity towards performance, expectations, or organizational culture
  • Providing unhelpful, inconsistent information
  • Assuming a new hire’s needs and expectations rather than gathering authentic feedback
  • Failing to alter onboarding strategy according to differences between generations
  • Starting the onboarding process for a new employee without a direct supervisor in place
  • Don’t throw a new hire into the deep end of the pool and expect them to swim

When developing your onboarding strategy, always be sure to consider these common pitfalls, avoiding the costly mistakes that continue to plague even the biggest of organizations. With the insights and guidance provided by Betterworks Engage’s rich feedback platform, you can now leverage the wealth of people data sitting idle in your workforce to develop an onboarding strategy tailor-made for your specific needs and goals.