How to Avoid 5 Common Onboarding Mistakes at Your Small Business

Pete Jansons

An employee’s first days, weeks and even months on the job are the most crucial to their success, which makes onboarding a crucial process for small businesses to have. And yet, only 32 percent of companies have a formal onboarding process, according to the Aberdeen Group. As the process of familiarizing new employees with the organization and giving them the resources necessary to succeed, onboarding helps organizations succeed as well. Without a formal onboarding process, employees may not get the direction and clarity they need to succeed, which can lead to costly on-the-job mistakes, low levels of productivity and high turnover.

Just as important as having an onboarding program is making sure you’re doing it right. Below are five onboarding mistakes to avoid when creating your employee onboarding program.

Onboarding mistake 1: Starting too late. Research shows the highest performing organizations begin their onboarding program before the new hire’s first day. Send the new employee a welcome email with information on when and where to show up, the orientation schedule and any paperwork they need to fill out. (Make it easier by enabling them to fill the forms out electronically, as opposed to printing them out, filling them out by hand and having to bring them in.) This will help calm those first day jitters and helps the employee arrive prepared and ready to “hit the ground running.”

Onboarding mistake 2: Treating it as a ‘one and done’ element. Onboarding is an ongoing process. Exactly how long the onboarding process should last will vary by company. For some companies, a standard onboarding process is 90 days, for others it may be up to six months or even a year. The length will vary on how much information the employee has to take in and the requirements of the job, among other factors.

Onboarding mistake 3: You focus on the wrong information. While you want to be sure employees know and understand things like the company’s attendance policy, what their benefits are and the company’s overall mission, you also want to be sure the employee understands what is expected of him or her as an individual. A 2016 Gallup poll shows only about half of employees indicated they knew what was expected of them at work. If your employee is unclear about what is expected of him or her, it creates confusion and frustration on both sides. A large part of the onboarding process should focus on clarifying what is expected of the employee and how he or she will be evaluated. Take time to set up goals and timelines, and go over the steps needed to accomplish these goals.

Onboarding mistake 4: You don’t have an end goal in mind. When setting up your onboarding program, it’s important to know what you want employees -- and management -- to get out of it. Set goals for managers to follow up with employees to gauge how the employee is acclimating to the role and the company. Finally, gather feedback from the employee about his or her experience to see where there are opportunities to improve.

Onboarding mistake 5: You do everything on paper. If you’re still doing everything on paper, you’re doing yourself and your new hires (not to mention the environment) a disservice. Going digital with electronic forms makes it easier for your HR team to fill out the necessary new hire information more quickly. It also eliminates the likelihood of human error through typos, misspelled words or misinterpreting illegible handwriting. For new hires, it’s easier for them to fill out information on their own time -- especially if they’re emailed the forms ahead of time. Consider a cloud-based solution, such as Workterra, which makes onboarding efficient for you and a better experience for new hires. Your team can easily automate and manage tasks, track new hire information and create better engagement with employees.

Make your onboarding process easier: Check out The Benefits of Using Technology in Your Onboarding Process.

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