5 Mistakes to Avoid in Onboarding

Onboarding is often treated as an afterthought in the hiring process. Companies put a lot of time and effort into recruitment. Managers seek top talent, but they fall short if the effort ends after the offer letter is signed.

Don’t think of onboarding as a cost or hassle when recruiting top employees. The impact of a great onboarding process on employee engagement and productivity is profound. Likewise, a terrible onboarding situation can have massive negative effects. Not only can it cost the employer, but it’s also harmful to the new employee.

Hiring is costly, and a terrible onboarding process can cause quick turnover. This means companies lose money in recruiting again sooner than expected. During this gap, the tasks associated with the job role are not being performed.

Onboarding is about successfully embedding your new hire into the organization physically, professionally, and emotionally. To set up your new team members for success, avoid these five mistakes in onboarding.

1. Not Having a Plan or Checklist

One mistake to avoid in the onboarding process is not having a plan. Letting the new hire know their start date is great. But do they need a parking pass? Is the office hard to find on your organization’s campus? What documents do they need?

Create a plan for their first day and develop onboarding templates and checklists in advance. That way, individuals with similar roles will be treated similarly on their first day. This is a big factor that can help foster company culture and buy-in with new employees. Another benefit is that the checklist can help the hiring manager remember key administrative aspects of the hiring process.

Tax documents, payroll, benefits, keys, and badges are all essential components of your onboarding process. Taking care of these things is important for the employee as they join the organization. Forgetting key paperwork — with the result that your new hire misses their first paycheck — doesn’t leave a good impression.

2. Out-of-Date Documentation

Having a plan and checklist is all well and good as long as they’re current. If you haven’t updated your checklists in five years, it’s probably time for a refresh.

Old documents that are no longer relevant do not help your new hire be successful. Using outdated documents also doesn’t build a strong trust in you as the employer. It can give the impression that the organization lacks attention to detail.

How can you combat this? As part of your recruitment process, make it a point to do an annual or semiannual audit of your onboarding documents. Make edits as necessary and keep a “revised date” in the footer of documents. That way, you can tell at a glance when they were last changed.

3. Lack of Connections

Sitting your new recruit in a conference room with a pile of manuals their first day can leave them feeling disconnected. Positive and productive work environments require good work relationships. Successful employees should feel seen and connected to their teams. While paperwork, checklists, and job manuals are important and necessary, make the first day and week about more than those.

Introduce the new employee to the team. If you’re in a traditional office setting, walk them around the building and make introductions. Let them know who they will be working with on a regular basis and how their roles connect. If your group works remotely, set up a video call meet-and-greet instead. You could even connect people through emails.

Some organizations allow or even require new employees to shadow other employees in various departments to learn more about the company. Helping your employees feel connected in their first week and month can help with retention and buy-in.

4. Undefined Expectations

Many employers appreciate getting the question: “What does it take to be successful in this role?” When potential employees ask this, it shows they not only want the job but want to do it well. If you don’t have a clear job description for the role, you aren’t setting your employee up for success. Clearly define your expectations upfront.

This lets your direct reports know what behavior is necessary. Some employees start a job and don’t know their exact hours or the dress code. How can they meet expectations if they don’t know them?

Some employers set up weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings with their employees so everyone is on the same page. Waiting until the annual review to tell people how they are falling short wastes everyone’s time.

More frequent check-ins allow for adjustments and growth throughout the year. You and your employees can learn and move the organization forward together.

5. Failure to Discuss Goals

It might seem counterintuitive to talk about growth during onboarding, but not doing so could be a mistake. Here’s why. You hope to hire the best of the best. You don’t want an employee who just comes in, does the minimum, and doesn’t want to develop professionally. Great recruits also want to see how they can advance in their career.

Be sure to talk about the options for professional development during the onboarding process. You can also bring up growth potential in their role and upward mobility. Get a pulse on where they want to be in five or 10 years. You can then create a professional development plan for them. For example, if you’re a nonprofit and your recruit is new to that world, they could take a few courses.

In this example, they could sign up for a nonprofit management certificate program at a local college. For a few credit hours, your organization can invest in the employee. This benefits you because the employee will learn more about their job and the field. It also can help in retention. The employee sees that you’re investing in them, and it helps with job and career satisfaction.

Onboarding is about successfully embedding your new hire into the organization. By having a plan, keeping documents up to date, encouraging connections, defining expectations, and discussing career goals, you’ll establish an effective onboarding process. More than that, you’ll help your newbie start their position on a positive note.

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