If a poor onboarding experience has you second-guessing your decision to accept the role, you’re not alone. According to Gallup, only 12% of employees feel their organization does a good job onboarding new hires—leaving 88% with a negative view of the process. And yet it’s such a critical thing to get right: a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.
The value of a fast start
Unfortunately, many employers may feel like they are ‘done’ as soon as a job is accepted or an employee has access to the right tools and systems. “It’s almost like a set it and forget it approach,” says Chim.
Instead, companies should realize that getting someone in the door is not the finish line. And that’s where a fast start comes in. “The first days and weeks in a new job is when an employee is most open to learning, but also most concerned about whether or not they made the right decision on the role and company to begin with,” says Chim. “A fast start can make the new hire feel like they are set up for success.”
A faster onboarding is a win-win for both sides, reaffirming the employee’s decision as well as benefiting the company in higher, quicker productivity. “Of course, the idea is not to rush the process,” says Chim, “but rather invest in the experience to achieve the best outcome for the employee and the employer.”
7 onboarding errors
Despite the demonstrated importance of onboarding, many managers and companies are failing to do it right. The following seven pitfalls are especially common.
Pitfall #1: Mismatching expectations between recruiting and the role itselfAccording to Chim, the single biggest onboarding error can happen before the offer is made. “Whether it is because a role has not been defined properly up front, that circumstances have changed or because a hiring team wants to get a candidate to accept a role by telling them what they want to hear, the real job may not match expectations set during recruiting,” warns Chim.
“When a new hire discovers that the job is significantly different than what they had expected, they can become disappointed, disengaged and possibly start looking for another career move.”
Pitfall #2: Not reinforcing messages to help a new hire understand why and how they add value
While it may be obvious to the hiring manager why the offer was made, the new hire may be less clear on why they won the role. “The more you leave a new hire guessing, the more likely imposter syndrome will emerge,” says Chim.
So what should companies do instead? “Tell a new hire what you saw in them during the interview process and assessment that made them the perfect fit. Then remind them when they show those qualities by ‘catching them in the act’ with an explanation for why a behavior that comes naturally to them is exactly why you picked them over all the other highly qualified candidates for the job.”
Pitfall #3: Not helping to set up the right relationships
Chim believes that much of a person’s success in today’s business world depends on working with and through others. “Making a list of resources up front and then introducing a new hire to the people they will be working with and how is critically important,” she says.
Pitfall #4: Forgetting that a new hire to a team, but not the organization, is still a new hire
When an employee moves from one team or department to another, it’s especially easy to shortchange their onboarding experience. “While they may have context and experience with the company,” says Chim, “there is still inherent risk in taking the role that they are concerned about, there is still a lot of learning about the business environment and stakeholders and there is still adaptation to a different cultural context for the new sub-team to contend with.”
Pitfall #5: Not giving space in group settings for a new hire
“It sometimes may be easier to move quickly through a meeting or focus on content without realizing that someone is still catching up,” advises Chim. “Especially in a remote setting, managers need to actively create opportunities for new hires to develop a voice and role.”
Pitfall #6: Not getting out of the way
Many managers struggle with the balance of giving direction and letting the employee find their own way. “While there is a place to make sure you are aligned and supportive, it is an entirely different thing to not give a new hire the space to make an impact and shine,” says Chim.
Pitfall #7: Assuming on-boarding is done too soon
As great as a fast start can be, it varies greatly depending on the individual and role. “Hiring managers need to be cognizant that a new hire may not have full context or relationships to be successful for some time,” says Chim. “Actively check in, provide context and help make connections for 6-12 months with a new hire.”
How to recover
If a manager sees any of these onboarding pitfalls taking place within the organization—or has committed these errors themselves—it’s time to go into action.
First off, remember that these mistakes are extremely common. “As new relationships are being developed, there will invariably be misalignment or misunderstandings,” says Chim. “After all, we all take our histories into our futures by leveraging heuristics we developed from prior lives into new ones.”
Second, don’t delay rectifying the mistake. When there’s a breakdown in the onboarding process, it should be addressed in real time. “Whether the conflict is between the new hire and their manager or a peer, we recommend that the individual who is incumbent to the organization take the lead in initiating a follow-up discussion to talk about what happened, why and how to address things differently in the future,” she says.
Handled correctly, an onboarding issue can actually become a retention opportunity that deepens the connection between the company and employee. “Showing a new team member that the organization is able to professionally and directly diffuse and help to address the situation will reinforce to the new hire that this is a place that they want to be,” says Chim, “where they won’t be left questioning both the why and the how of issue resolution.”