Think onboarding is a waste of time? Only if you’re doing it wrong

How to avoid common mistakes when onboarding new employees

They say that you only have one shot at making a good impression. It's certainly true if you manage a business and constantly hire new employees, as their experience throughout the first weeks of employment at your company can set the tone for what they can expect from working with you over the long term. The first interaction a new employee will have with your organization is likely to be their onboarding process, so having a well-structured onboarding strategy can help you create an engaging, positive work experience for your employees from day one.

However, many employers don't pay that much attention to onboarding and merely see it as a quick way to provide new employees with the minimum amount of preparation they need to start working. We contacted employers who do put a high emphasis on onboarding and asked how the process helped them, and they reported that their employees are more engaged (49%), more confident (46%), and have greater trust in the organization (45%). This boosted employee productivity and morale. Thirty-one percent of employers have even seen lower employee turnover, an important metric that often influences a business's bottom line.

How can I improve the onboarding process for my organization?

Once you realize how important employee onboarding can be, both for the happiness of your employees and your organization's long-term future, you can start thinking of ways to make it more engaging and effective. These are some of the ways you can adjust your actions and mindset to improve the onboarding process:

  • Determine how much time and attention you can dedicate to this. While you obviously want to help a new employee integrate and learn the ropes as quickly as possible, you probably have a ton of other things to do and giving them all your time and attention probably won't be good for business. Delegating some onboarding tasks to other members of your team not only streamlines the whole process and frees up your time but also gives a powerful signal to your team members by showing that you trust them. 
  • Have a thorough plan but be prepared to be flexible. Having an onboarding checklist with all the vital elements of the job and organization that the new employee has to get acquainted with is a good idea, but over-relying on it can affect your results. Each employee is different and some may require additional preparation in areas where others are already highly skilled.
  • Provide positive feedback without overdoing it. Praising your new team member as they go through the onboarding process can provide them with the morale and motivation they need to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Obviously don't go overboard, though, as your praise won't have the same impact on the employee if they sense that you're only saying it to motivate them. 
  • Promote the company culture. Adjusting to a new job isn't just about getting used to performing your tasks but also about adjusting to the workplace, the people, and the overall company culture. When onboarding a new team member, make sure to tell them about your organization's background, its core values, and what its main goals are for the immediate and long-term future.
  • Give new employees long-term career opportunities. While many employers blame employees for constantly switching jobs, many of the latter don't do it out of disloyalty but simply because they're looking for ways to grow their careers. When coaching new employees, don't simply focus on the short term. Try to make them understand how they can contribute to the company's goals while also growing as professionals.

What should I avoid when onboarding new team members?

While knowing what to focus on when onboarding new people is valuable, knowing what not to do can be equally important. These are some things you can do to avoid onboarding mistakes:

  • Don't consider it to be a routine task. Simply viewing the onboarding process as a mere formality, meant to help the employee make their way around the workplace and complete some paperwork, can reduce the chances of that employee spending a long time with you. Administrative onboarding tasks are important, but you should use the opportunity to form a human connection with the employee by helping them gain confidence and get acquainted with your organization.
  • Don't underprepare for the employee's first day. The first day of work at a new company is always confusing, but the company not knowing exactly how to fill your time can add to that confusion. You need a clear plan that starts at 9 a.m. (or whenever their workday or shift begins) when the new employee enters the office and includes all the steps that they need to go through on day one.
  • Don't provide too much information at once. Although having a well-planned and eventful first day can help the new employee hit the ground running, too much information to learn and tasks to complete might confuse and demotivate them. Stretch the onboarding process over at least a week and make sure to give the employee time to process all the new information.
     Don't forget to set clear expectations. All employers discuss work tasks and salary information with new employees, but only some of them tell employees exactly what they expect from them. It's important to use the onboarding process as an opportunity to set clear expectations and establish performance metrics.

The way you handle the first few days with a new employee can set the tone for years of successful collaboration. Having a well-designed onboarding process can improve employee retention and performance while also making life easier for the employee at their new job, effectively creating a win-win situation.

More tips on effective hiring practices:

Improve the quality of your new hires by discovering five ways to be a more strategic recruiter in 2022.

Build your online business with these onboarding best practices for remote workers.

Learn how to incorporate technology into your hiring practices with these six ways successful employers use data to hire.

These Interview questions for small business owners to ask can help you make effective hiring decisions. 

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