5 Onboarding Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

man squinting at employee onboarding mistakes

Onboarding. Whether you have been job-hopping the last several years, or you’ve been with your current employer for as long as you can remember. Onboarding is something that we’ve all experienced some time in our life. Yet onboarding new employees is something that a lot of companies struggle to get right and they make a lot of onboarding mistakes.

There are a lot of contributing factors to why so many companies struggle with onboarding. Sometimes it’s a cultural thing. Sometimes it’s just poor planning.

Either way, if you’re reading this, chances are that you want to make your onboarding better. That’s great! Especially since 54% of companies who have onboarding programs report higher employee engagement.

I’ve collected some of the worst mistakes companies make when onboarding new employees. The ones that really crush souls and dampen spirits, and some tips on how to make sure you don’t fall victim to them.

Mistake 1: Lack of or no communication after offer letter

Let’s step into the shoes of a job seeker for a second. You went through a rigorous selection process, and you managed to get the offer letter. Woohoo! The job is yours, and you are so excited to start. You accept the offer, already imagining how fun and exciting this new adventure will be.

Then you never hear from that company until you walk in the front doors on your first day.

No ‘welcome aboard’ email, no ‘can’t wait to meet you’ message, not even an account setup request – nothing.

Kind of spoils the mood, huh?

It can be a nerve-wracking thing when people make a career change or switch employers. Feeling like you’re about to jump into a murky abyss is terrifying.

So how can you make that jump a little less terrifying? Communicate!

Even if the time between offer acceptance and start date is a few days, you should send them a message expressing how excited you and the team is for them to start. The thought of a group of people looking forward to their arrival will help calm their nerves.

If there are a few weeks between offer acceptance and start date, think about sending them a couple of messages throughout that time period. No need to overdo it, but rather just offer a few friendly words. Asking them a couple of helpful questions, like what coffee or tea is their favourite or what their go-to afternoon snack is.

Bonus points if you can use that information to plan a nice little gift for them the first day.

The main idea is to make it known that you didn’t forget about them and that you’re happy they’re joining your team.

Mistake 2: Not introducing them to their team

Work can be difficult, but having some people at work that you get along with can make it a whole lot better. That’s why it’s important to acclimate your new hire by introducing them to the team.

It is also beneficial to your team as a whole, as they get an opportunity to meet their newest co-worker. Having a set time to let people introduce themselves could avoid some awkward or hap-hazard intros. Plus, no one wants to feel like they didn’t get a chance to meet the new person.

There are a few ways to get this done, depending on your circumstances. You could even do the meet-and-greet before their first day. Invite them in for a quick 15-minute meet up to walk around and meet everybody. This is a good option for local candidates and small teams.

If your new hire is remote or only moving to your location shortly before their start date, hold a video conference call with them and the team. A virtual meet up of sorts. Not as strong as an in-person handshake, but it’s still an excellent way for everyone to say hi.

If time is short between offer acceptance and start date, then a team lunch their first day might be your best bet. You could do introductions on the morning of their first day too.

Either way, make sure introductions, especially key introductions, don’t drag into a week-long process. Valuable bonding time will be lost if it’s stretched too long.

Mistake 3: Not having their desk ready for the first day

"This one is just painful but happens to so many people. Imagine how disheartening it would be to walk into your first day at work only to realize your new employer more or less forgot about you." Click To Tweet

This one should be an easy one to avoid; all it takes is a little planning and reminder notifications. There are two different levels of success here, and you can determine which one is best for time and company culture.

The first level of success here is doing the bare-bones. If there is a desk with some pens, a notepad and a computer where they can sit and at least look like they belong there, then that’s a (small) win. The less they feel like they stand out like a sore thumb, the better.

The second level of success, which is the one everyone should aim for, is a desk that is ready to roll. It makes the new hire feel like they belong. This includes everything in the first level and some additional gifts and goodies.

Some ideas for this could be some company swag, preferred snacks (use this in tandem with the tip in the first mistake and avoid two mistakes), or a card signed by everyone on the team, welcoming them to the office. Also, think about how your special gift can reflect your culture or how it can help the new hire make connections with their new co-workers.

So set a reminder on your calendar for three or four days before your new employee arrives. Make sure you have a desk ready for them with all the trappings of a great place to work.

Mistake 4: Making them fill out a tonne of paperwork their first day

No one loves paperwork, and it’s a huge momentum killer on the first day. I understand that things need to get filled out and filed, but there is a better way then having a stack of paper to sign as soon as they walk through the door.

The first day is valuable time. This is where the new hire starts forming first impressions of everyone and everything. Plus, every other company forces people into paperwork on their first day.

Why not stand out and make the first-day fun.

After all, according to HCI, only 21% of companies have a formal program focused on culture. There is lots of room to stand out.

One way to avoid this is to send them the paperwork they can fill out at home before their first day. This also solves mistake 1 (albeit in not the best way), and you can have some of the more monotonous tasks out of the way quickly.

Another option to avoid this mistake is to spread the paperwork out. This is the best scenario if you need them to be physically there to fill things in.

Prioritize the paperwork by what you need to be done first and really prioritize. If you have over four documents for them to fill out, consider taking a second look.

Then just have them fill everything in during their first week. Tonnes of paperwork on the first day is painful, but a couple of things here and it is very manageable.

Mistake 5: Not Pairing Them up with a Mentor or Buddy

New hires have questions, even if you prepare them as best as you can. Some of these questions will be job-specific that you may not be able to answer (we can’t be experts on everything).

This is where mentors and buddies come in. You might wonder what the difference is.

Essentially, mentors tend to someone with knowledge or skills that the new hire is hoping to learn for working with your organization. A mentor is also usually slightly more senior in the hierarchy than a buddy.

A buddy is just that. A friendly face that your new hire can go to to ask simple questions or just help bridge the new hire into the rest of the social group. Buddies should be considered more of a peer to the new hire instead of a higher-up.

Pairing new hires up with either or both will help them adjust much faster than if they were left to their own devices, so says 87% of companies who utilize mentors and buddies. Plus, it shows you want them to feel invested in and welcomed.

If you need some ideas or a nudge in the right direction, sail on over to our Mentor Handbook resource here. You’ll be able to download a copy of our fully crafted handbook, ready for use!

Connection is Key

There are other mistakes that we make when onboarding; some are worse than others. The main focus of any onboarding program should be ensuring that the new hire feels like they are accepted into the organization. People always want to feel needed and useful, so work on your process, so that actually happens.

Hopefully, you won’t make these five mistakes. If you would like some additional tips and tricks, head over to my other article, The Dos and Don’ts of Onboarding! Good luck with your onboarding!

Before you go, don’t forget to net yourself a copy of our onboarding checklist! Row on over here to get your copy!