Onboarding Mistakes

6 Mistakes You’re Making in the Onboarding Process

Onboarding a new hire is one of the most important things you’ll do for that employee during her time with your company. Not only does it leave a lasting first impression, it can have a huge impact on her decision to jump in with both feet or keep one foot out the door. In fact, 33% of employees know within the first week of working for you whether they want to stay with the company long-term or not.

Yet onboarding employees well can be easier said than done. Here are the mistakes you want to avoid to ensure your newest employees feel welcomed and are set up to succeed.

1. Day 1 is overwhelming

When you’ve been tasked with filling a seat that’s been empty for some time, it’s easy to fall prey to the pressure of getting your new hire up and running as quickly as possible. But look at it from a new employee’s perspective. If he’s immediately thrown into the fire, how’s that going to feel?

Treat the first day like the new experience that it is for your employee. You don’t want to inundate a new hire with too much information that she can never hope to retain. Instead structure a detailed, but manageable plan for how her first few days will go. Give her a schedule that outlines what she’ll be doing, with whom and when. Build in time to meet coworkers and get familiar with her responsibilities, as well as free time to learn her way around the office and settle in. Give her time to ease into a new environment and demonstrate that you care about making sure she feels welcomed and supported.

2. Day 1 is underwhelming

Just as bad as getting thrown into the fire is being left to fend for yourself. While your new hire doesn’t necessarily expect fanfare and the red carpet, he does expect to have a clean and dedicated workspace, business cards, basic office supplies and a computer or other tools needed for his job.

It may seem painfully obvious, but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is scheduling a new hire’s start date when the people who are key to his success are out of the office. I know, it sounds crazy, but it happens more often than it should. Suffice it to say that your new employee needs time with his direct supervisor and proper introductions to his co-workers during his first couple days on the job.

3. You bury new hires with paperwork

There’s nothing like being greeted with a stack of paperwork to make someone feel welcomed. Yeah, not really. Skip handing new employees a pile of papers to fill out on their first day and start this process immediately after they accept the position.

You already know what documents you need filled out, so have a folder with everything ready (even your part already filled out) and email it to her once she’s accepted the position.

4. Not having a training plan

Simply asking Joe to let new hire Beth shadow him for the day isn’t going to cut it. Joe will be resentful that he’s got to step away from his normal daily duties to deal with the newbie. And if he hasn’t been properly trained himself, Joe may not make the best impression or be capable of effectively teaching someone else. He has the potential to be a great mentor for a new hire, but you need to discuss with him what that looks like and what his responsibilities will be.

Ensure that a clearly defined training plan is in place for all new hires. This will typically include general training on company policies and procedures, as well as specific job training. Consider what new hires need to be successful and effective, both in your environment and at their particular jobs. What information do they need access to, who do they need to know, what systems or policies most impact them, and what special on-the-job training might be helpful?

5. Setting new hires free too early

Your new employee seems to have learned his new responsibilities fairly well, so you and his colleagues are all done, right? Wrong.

Onboarding isn’t just about the first few days or weeks of a new employee’s journey. It’s best viewed as an ongoing process throughout the first six months to one year. Some onboarding programs deliver training over a period of time, training employees one step at a time as they become proficient in their roles. Support should be provided along the way, as well as monitoring to identify concerns and challenges as quickly as possible. Your attention to their development will boost morale and confidence, and protect the investment you’ve made in them.

6. Providing unclear expectations (or none at all)

Down the road, your new hire will have her first employee review with her manager, where she’ll learn how well she’s living up the company’s expectations of her. So be clear about what those expectations are from the get-go.

Unfortunately, many managers fail to set clear expectations for new hires. Often, they lack training in management and leadership skills themselves, so they’re left to figure out what good management entails. Just like their reports, who are equally unclear about what good performance looks like.

You’ve seen it before. One of your managers hires the perfect new employee. She’s thrilled to finally have some help, and everything seems perfect. Then six months later, that same manager is sitting in your office complaining about that same employee. You ask if the manager clearly documented expectations, and her answer is all too often something along the lines of “Um, not really. But he should just know what’s expected.”

This is a recipe for high turnover. And it’s an all-too-common cycle that can be avoided with a formal onboarding process.

Recruiting and retaining top talent is a constant challenge. Don’t let a lame onboarding process make it even harder. By taking the time now to develop a detailed and repeatable onboarding process, you’ll be making an investment in your employees’ success, as well as your own.

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