New Hire Orientation Blog
8 New Hire Orientation Mistakes to Avoid
If you’ve been following the articles on this blog, then you know there’s no gentle way to say this: Most onboarding programs are horrendous. It’s frustrating because in nearly every article you read here you’ll find all kinds of statistics and evidence of how incredibly important it is to get employees off to a very solid start so they can perform well for years to come. Rather than reviewing all that information yet again, let’s just jump right into X new hire orientation mistakes your company should avoid.
Mistake #1: Lack of Formal Onboarding Programs
The biggest mistake most companies make is not having a formal onboarding program at all. Only around a third of companies have created formal programs. What does it mean to have a formal onboarding program? It means your company has taken the time to really think through everything an employee needs to get up-to-speed as quickly as possible, and then support them as they begin contributing their productivity to your bottom line. In other words, it means coming up with a plan that has real objectives, real training resources, and the support of key stakeholders in making it happen for each and every new hire.
Mistake #2: Too Much Too Fast
Almost as bad as having no formal onboarding program is the new hire orientation mistake of creating a program that you try to cram down their throats in a day or two. If you completely overwhelm your new hires with mountains of paperwork and mind-numbing presentations about every single company policy and procedure which, if violated, could get them fired, then don’t be surprised if you don’t find them at their desks after it’s all said and done. They’re probably thinking their time would be better spent looking for a different job. When you rush the process, there’s no way you can give them what they really need to succeed on the job. This, in turn, makes them feel like you must not really care about them, which only reinforces their desire to ditch you for another opportunity. If your company suffers from high new-employee attrition, then you need better onboarding.
Mistake #3: Inadequate Job-Specific Training
Besides all the paperwork, benefits information, company policies and procedures, workplace culture and so on, another main purpose of onboarding is job-specific training so the new hire knows exactly what they’re supposed to do and how to go about doing it. This seems like a no-brainer, and yet a shocking number of companies make this most basic of new hire orientation mistakes – they don’t train new employees to do their job! Or the attempts made to do so are entirely sub-standard. Doing this right includes a detailed inventory of all the specific skills needed in their daily work, and assessment of where they’re at on those skills, and then the right training content to fill any gaps. Making sure you deliver this training with a method that best suits the individual learner will speed this process up significantly, so you’ll also need to assess their preferred learning styles. Few things are more frustrating to any human being than being required to do something without adequately explaining what to do and how to do it.
Mistake #4: Failure to Set Clear Performance Goals and Provide Feedback
Another critical element in the onboarding process has to be setting very clear performance goals for the new hire to meet. They also need to be measured, and frequent feedback and coaching should be delivered along the way that helps them meet their targets. This is why onboarding is best viewed as an ongoing process over an extended period of time.
Mistake #5: Viewing Onboarding as a Static Process to Get Through
What does and “extended period of time” mean in the context of onboarding? Research has shown that one of the worst new hire orientation mistakes a company can make is skimping on onboarding. In fact, any program that is completed in less than a month is probably doing more harm than good and contribution to new hire attrition. Program lasting from 1-3 months have become relatively common, but only because they often match up with a company’s new hire probationary period of 90 days. The same can be said of 6-month programs as well. It’s beginning to dawn on both researchers and best-in-class companies that onboarding should be viewed as a dynamic, iterative program that pays close attention to a new hire’s development through their entire first year.
Mistake #6: Giving New Hires the Silent Treatment Between Offer and First Day
If your company’s onboarding process doesn’t begin until the new hire walks through the doors for their first day of work, you’ve already made one of the worst new hire orientation mistakes you can make. Onboarding should begin as soon as an offer is made. Many call this pre-boarding, and the companies that do it have seen spectacular results. In fact, one study showed that companies who do pre-boarding retain 81% of their first-year hires. Impressive! Pre-boarding is a good time to send a new hire your employee handbook so they can go through it at their leisure and ask questions when start the job. You could give them access to the company LMS (assuming you have one) so they can get a feel for the kinds of training and learning opportunities available to them. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Mistake #7: Not Soliciting Input and Feedback from New Hires
Nothing makes people feel more valued than when their employer specifically seeks their input. Make this a prominent feature of your onboarding process. Give them a survey to ask about what they thought of your pre-boarding materials (if you did pre-boarding). Give them a survey that asks for detailed feedback about every aspect of their first day on the job. Solicit their input and feedback about other aspects of your onboarding program as it unfolds and is delivered. After all, this is your chance to find out if what you’re doing is working from the perspective of the new employees themselves.
Mistake #8: Failure to Benchmark and Measure Onboarding
You know the old management adage that you can’t manage something if you don’t measure it, right? And yet most companies can add failure to measure to their list of new hire orientation mistakes. Some of what you measure around onboarding will include those new hire surveys and feedback mentioned above. But you should also benchmark and track a variety of other metrics that will tell you if your efforts are working, including new-hire attrition, job satisfaction, or any others from a host of possibilities (stay tuned for a whole article about onboarding metrics).
These eight new hire orientation mistakes are the ones most commonly made in company onboarding programs (or the lack thereof). The only way to avoid them is by taking the time to establish solid onboarding programs. Then you’ll also reap the many benefits they bring!