New Hire Orientation Blog
5 True New Hire Orientation Nightmares
I’ve been writing about talent management, workforce management, and onboarding issues for years. It should come as no surprise, then that I’ve either read about or heard first-hand some of the truly horrible experiences people have had when starting a new job. Some of them just seem so unbelievable, leaving me wondering how such things can occur in the modern workplace. And yet they do happen, and with alarming regularity. Keep in mind that nearly two-thirds of companies do not have any formal onboarding program AT ALL. Here are 5 true new hire orientation nightmares real people have experienced:
- Will She Stay or Will She Go?
I’ll kick things off with a very simple little story from a friend of mine:
My first job in New York City was with a small cruise company and had no onboarding. When I went to go get lunch on my first day my boss asked if I was coming back, to which I responded, “Do people do that to you?”
She also described that first boss as “insane,” which is what you’d have to be in order to completely ignore proper onboarding, given how critical it is for getting employees started on the right foot. Needless to say, my friend only lasted a few months in that particular job.
- No Questions, Please
A high school friend of mine recently told me this story:
Shortly after I graduated college and moved to the Pittsburgh, I got a job through a temp agency proofreading for a big corporation. Onboarding could be described as “skimpy.” Although they taught me to proof daily investment and stock market statements, they never explained what any of it meant, and they didn’t like it when I asked questions because they said I didn’t need to understand it! The culture was an “old boys” kind of network – I was reprimanded for wearing a pair of nylons that had a rhinestone at the ankle!
Doesn’t seem like too much of a nightmare, but there’s a lot packed into this little story. It sounds like although some amount of training was provided, the company was not interested in giving this new employee any kind of context for the work, including any kind of understanding of the material she was asked to proofread. It’s not surprising that this kind of male-dominated company would also raise gender issues. My friend soon decided to look for other opportunities.
- A Bait-and-Switch Nightmare
You wouldn’t think the classic bait-and-switch technique would apply to employment, but it can. My high school friend I was just talking about decided to leave the proofreading job and go for a position at an insurance company (for a whopping 25 cents more per hour). She did the switch through a temp agency who told her the job would entail explaining healthcare benefits to the company’s employees. Here’s how she explained what happened:
A team of smart young people and I would have TWO WEEKS of intensive training so we would know the ins and outs of the insurance plan. No selling, thank goodness! The reality was, we had 2 HOURS of training. And the job was not explaining insurance benefits to company employees. It was a well-known insurance company raising rates for their 65+ customers. My job was to call elderly people and tell them their already-high insurance rates would be doubling. I was cursed at, hung up on and worst of all, subjected to elderly women and men breaking down in tears over the phone. The onboarding for this job was practically nonexistent. No “Welcome,” no “Here are your fellow workers,” not even “Here’s the lunchroom.” We received lists each day and we had to get through a certain number of calls. The day I got a list that had the names of my grandma and two aunts on it, I took a bathroom break and never returned. I lasted almost 3 days, which was about 1/5 of the time originally promised just for training!
This kind of lackluster onboarding is just inexcusable. The company was paying to recruit and hire these workers, but the lack of onboarding (not to mention hiding the true nature of the work, whether it was done on the part of the company, the temp agency, or both) was clearly causing a lot of turnover and employee churn. That’s a big waste of resources, and stressful for the workers involved.
- Just Shut Up and Work
You might think a company with at least 100 employees would give at least a bit of thought to their onboarding program. But here’s what happened to one person whose story I read about:
The new hire was handed a big stack of paperwork and shown to his workstation. And that was it, literally. When he eventually ran into a manager and asked about where he could find his time, the manager’s abrupt response was, “Working. That’s what we do here: work.” He lasted less than three weeks before quitting.
If you’ve read any of the articles on this site, then you know how much emphasis I place on crafting a really great first-day experience for any new hire orientation program. Obviously, it would not involve that kind of curt interaction with a manager! The first day literally sets the tone for what will be the new employee’s tenure in the position. And if the wrong tone is set, that tenure might be very short!
- I Got the Job! Or Did I?
Here’s a story collected by onboarding software vendor Click Boarding:
“After I accepted my job offer via email, I didn’t hear anything from anyone for 14 days. I followed up with HR and they couldn’t remember who I was or when I was supposed to start. I immediately started looking for a new job.”
I Included this one because one of the biggest mistakes a company makes is giving new hires the silent treatment between making the offer and their first day of work. It’s one of the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to onboarding. That time, whether it’s a few days or a few weeks, is a critical piece of the onboarding puzzle. Take a look at our orientation checklist for a whole selection of things you can do with pre-boarding to build up to a new hire’s first day of work.
I could go on with a nearly endless supply of new hire orientation nightmares like these. There are many about the lack of workstation preparations, which means new hires show up and are expected to work, but don’t have a computer, telephone, or a desk on which to place either! There are nearly as many about administrative mix-ups and mistakes that leave new hires at the wrong location, or with the wrong paperwork, or being subjected to the wrong kind of pre-employment medical exam (you really don’t want to know what happened to that poor person). But I think you get the point. Avoid these new hire orientation nightmares by creating a robot, thoughtful onboarding program for your new hires!