These 17 Onboarding Mistakes Are Costing You Your New Hires

It can be extremely frustrating to see most of your new hires quit within the first 6 months, some even after just a month. After days and weeks of recruiting, hiring, and training employees, you still see them walk out the door.


So you start to wonder:


What’s wrong with my company? Why can’t I retain my new hires?  


You may not be aware of it, but you may be committing some serious onboarding mistakes that are driving your new hires away.


In fact, a 2009 Aberdeen study revealed that 86% of their respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term is made within the first six months of employment.


SilkRoad Director of Product Marketing Amber Hyatt adds:


“A well-designed, fun, and engaging onboarding process has a significantly greater effect on employee engagement and retention when compared to the old-school mentality of one-day orientation.”


Unfortunately, not a lot of companies and organisations are able to grasp this. SHRM, the world’s largest HR professional society, found in a study that 25% of organisations in the US lose new employees within a year primarily due to poor onboarding. It was also revealed that 20% of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment.


In this blog, we pinpoint 17 notorious onboarding mistakes that often cause new hires to quit. See if your company is committing any of these:

 Here’s a common onboarding mistake you might be doing too:


Simply listing down all the necessary details when writing a job post without incorporating the company’s brand and culture. Little attention goes to how the job post is presented and packaged, and how it’s sent to different media and platforms.


Think of this:


Your job post will be the first point of interaction between you and your potential hire. Once your new hire sees your job posting, he/she gains some sort of a preview of what it’s like to join your company.


The application process and the interviews also add colour and details to that preview; they’re your new hire’s next chance to learn and discover more about your company. During these early conversations, your company’s culture and values should be communicated effectively to your new hire.


Your new hire’s first few days should just feel like a continuation and reinforcement of these pre-established ideas. In this way, you avoid overwhelming your new hire with the new environment and responsibilities on his/her first day, and you’re assured that your new hire has already started easing into his/her position.   


Does this situation seem familiar to you?


After your new recruit has taken the job offer, signed all necessary contracts and left your office, all communication is broken. No messages or emails are exchanged until your new recruit returns for his/her first day.


Seems a lot like your company? This could be another reason why your new employees quit.


You might think emails are necessary only once your new hire has settled down and started working.


Here’s a trick:


You can use emails to keep in touch with your new hire before their first day, too!


In fact, Executive Speaking CEO Anett Grant recommends sending emails containing detailed schedules to new recruits before they start. One week before, you can email them saying that you’re glad to have them as a new addition to the team and add an overview of what they should expect. On the day before they start, send them a brief itinerary of what they’ll do on their first day.


Sending emails like these will help avoid your new recruits feeling lost and clueless when they show up on their first day.


On the other hand, your hiring managers can make use of email reminders as well.


Google “Just-in-time” checklist is a simple but proven approach that significantly reduced their new hire’s time to productivity by 25%.


The best part?


It’s so simple, you can try it out, too. Here’s how Google does it:


The Sunday before a new hire’s start date, hiring managers receive an email reminder listing down tasks that are proven to impact the productivity of their new hire the most. The 5 critical tasks listed down in the email are:

  1. Have a role and responsibilities discussion.
  2. Match your new hire with a peer buddy.
  3. Help your new hire build a social network.
  4. Set up onboarding check-ins once a month for your new hire’s first six months.
  5. Encourage open dialogue.  


Paperworks are good, but not on your new hire’s first day.


Often, companies devote most (if not all) of a new hire’s first day to filling out tax forms and enrolling in benefits. This might seem harmless on the surface, but if you take a look at it closer, you’re actually wasting your new hire’s time on things he/she could have accomplished at home.


Don’t make your new hire spend his/her first day stuck in a corner writing their names and personal info on several documents again and again.


While paperwork does need to be filled out and collected, it doesn’t make sense to waste your new hire’s valuable time on these matters. Instead, send your new hires a package of documents or give them a link where they can apply online days before they start.  




A new hire’s first day should be spent building relationships with his/her colleagues and his/her direct supervisor and getting to know the office more.


First impressions last. This can’t be more true, especially for your new hires on their first days. As your newly hired employee tries to show their good side, you should also make a conscious effort to make a good impression.


If you won’t be able to prepare the workspace and equipment for your newly hired employee, it would be better for you to just delay his/her start date. Think of this: without any workspace or equipment, what will your new hire do?


(Please don’t leave him/her in a conference room filling out the papers the whole day.)


As it’s your new hires’ first day at work, they are extra sensitive to everything that goes around the office and how things are dealt with. If they aren’t provided with a designated workstation and all the equipment they need for their work on their first day, it’s not hard for them to assume that your company is disorganised and doesn’t value its new hires.


It’s important for your new hire to know what your expectations are early on. Let him/her know the day-to-day responsibilities, duties, tasks, and whatnots. It’s also important to address ethics and accountability in the workplace.


However, while discussing all of these matters, don’t centre your talk on the “Top 10 Ways You Can Get Fired.” Don’t stress out the You have to—or else’s. Onboarding doesn’t work that way.


Throughout the onboarding process, your goal is to encourage your newly hired employees to engage in the work they were hired to do, not make them focus on how they could avoid getting fired.


Here’s an alarming finding:


A BambooHR survey revealed that 23% of people who left within the first six months said that “receiving clear guidelines to what my responsibilities were,” would have helped them to stay in the job.


It gets worse:


A 2015 Gallup poll found that only half of 2.2 million surveyed employees responded that they knew what was expected of them at work.


Like what we’ve mentioned in the previous number, it’s crucial for newly hired employees to know and understand what they’re expected to do. Without clear goals and targets, it’s difficult to acknowledge and recognise achievements and it’s even more difficult for employees to have a sense of direction in what they’re doing.


From the get-go, set clear expectations with your new hire and agree on the metrics that will be used to measure their performance. Eventually, you can also start discussing how performance evaluations and one-to-ones with mentors are done.


Remember this:


Workers want to know what’s expected of them. A worker who knows his/her targets will be more motivated and productive in achieving those targets than those who do not have a full knowledge on what they’re supposed to do.


This is an obvious sign of a bad onboarding process: the absence of employee training.


If you’re letting your new hires jump right into their responsibilities and duties without proper training, you’re brewing up a disaster. In fact, a recent Totaljobs survey revealed that 2 out of 3 employees changed jobs because of a lack of training and development opportunities.


Training gears up your new hires not only to perform better but also to have more confidence in their roles and career growth.


Days before their training and start date, it’s also crucial for your newly hired employees to be supplied with information such as the type of training they are to receive, who their trainer will be and his/her short bio, as well as the expected duration of the training and when they can start working on their own.


A good onboarding consists of not only a good training but also a provision of the training materials in various formats: handbooks, videos, or even employee shadowing. Employees have different learning curves and have different learning methods, so you should be able to accommodate these as much as possible.


Rather than forcing and relying solely on a particular format, use a combination of these and experiment on which earns better results and helps new hires learn better.  


This is also a good point to remember:


Investing in training and training materials is an indication of how invested you are on your new employees. They would know and feel that. And there’s nothing more gratifying for new employees than to know that their employer is concerned with their professional growth.   


Are you familiar with the term job shadowing?


It’s a type of job training where a new employee follows and observes a trained and experienced employee. While this is an effective form of training for certain jobs, this definitely won’t suffice to replace your onboarding process.


Companies, especially those with limited time and resources, often end up relying solely on employee shadowing. After a brief orientation on where the pantry is, or where the fire escape is, the new hire is left on his/her own to “shadow” another team member for a certain number of days.


Your model team member can only help your new hire up to a certain extent—and he/she can even grow tired of answering the same questions again and again.


You’ll need more than just a model employee for this.




Informed employees are engaged and high-performing employees.


Use your onboarding process as a means to help your new hire understand the larger picture of how various departments and groups contribute to achieving your company’s overall goal. Involve the managers, the VPs, and other key personnel in welcoming the new hire and orienting him/her on how things work together.


No matter how smart or great your new employees are, you can’t assume them to be able to figure their roles out and train themselves. In some cases, leaving new employees on their own can even lead to new-hire anxiety and a lack of confidence in their new roles.


While it’s good to let your employees think critically on their own and figure out some matters, there’s a stark difference between a good onboarding that encourages critical thinking and a lazy and bad onboarding process that leaves new hires to explore things on their own.




Some new hires may pick up things fast and some may need minimal supervision, but that doesn’t make it a trend.


If you want a highly-engaged and productive new hire, you have to guide them from the start until you see they can manage on their own.  


And it’s not enough to orient your newly hired employees on things that they should and shouldn’t do. Provide them with the how’s and why’s of what your company does. Be as transparent as you can be, and make sure that your employees (both old and new!) have access to important company information and resources.


All of these things boil down to one thing: trust.


By being accommodating and transparent to your new hires, you are starting a relationship built on trust—a crucial factor that promotes great long-term employer-employee relationships.


It’s standard procedure to introduce the new hires to managers and even high-performing workers.


What companies and organisations often miss out is introducing the new hires to their co-workers. These newly hired employees, after being introduced only to top-level managers and supervisors, return to their workspace without knowing anyone from the team whom they could easily approach.


Introduce your new hires to his/her co-workers as well as to other recently hired employees. If possible, you can even hire new employees in batches rather than individually. By doing so, you’re creating opportunities for new hires to build relationships with the people they will soon work with from the outset, helping them build a more cohesive team.


If you’re going to welcome your new hire on his/her first day with tall piles of long-form documents, Powerpoint materials, or your thick book of policies and procedures, you’re doing your employee onboarding completely wrong.


The workforce we have today is mostly millennial. Unfortunately, the information presented in documents and long lists isn’t as engaging and effective for the current workforce as it used to be before.


Think of this:


Instead of using materials with lengthy paragraphs, why not use shorter and focused chapters and segments of content?


Doing this will allow your new hire to understand and retain information easier and better.


You can also use different mediums to present your materials. Videos are a great and effective material in helping the new hire absorb information in an entertaining way.   


However, even though the use of visuals is effective, there are also things that are better taught with experience. For example, org charts may be helpful in visualising lines of communication and departments in your organisation, but touring your new hires around the office and actually showing them where to go and whom to talk to is a better way to familiarise them with the company’s organisational structure.


How long does your company’s onboarding process last?


Onboarding should ideally last 90 or 100 days; however, a 2017 CareerBuilder survey of over 2,300 hiring managers and HR professionals revealed that 72% hold their onboarding process in one month or less. 25% said that their onboarding lasts only a day or less.


You might be wondering...


What’s so bad with having your onboarding in one day? What’s the need for 89 more days?


A shorter onboarding process tends to overwhelm newly hired employees with an overload of information—much of which they won’t really retain in the long run. Don’t cram crucial information such as the company’s culture, history, workload into five long, dull hours of orientation.


Split up the topics you need to cover in little, concentrated chunks. It’s completely fine if your new hire takes 30, or 60, or 90 days to grasp and understand all the things you have to discuss—what matters most is retention.    


As an HR manager, you already have a lot of responsibilities on your shoulder: from managing compliance tasks, handling day-to-day employee concerns, to creating a strong company culture.


While the onboarding process is under your responsibility as well, there’s no need for you to do it on your own. Instead, ask help and participation from your company’s leaders to create a smoother, more efficient, and more productive onboarding process.


Try this:


Examine your existing onboarding process. Which parts are effective? Which parts seem to be ineffective? Which part do your new hires like? Which part do your new hires dislike? Which do your new hires suggest to add/remove?


As you start to remodel your onboarding process, involve the managers and take into consideration the feedback from your new employees. After you’ve made the necessary revisions to your onboarding process, have your current employees participate in a dry run and ask for feedback.      


It may seem weird to give performance feedback to someone who just joined, but it’s important to give and get feedback from your new hires even during the initial days.


For practice, hold informal mini-reviews with your new hire. Don’t hold back in giving constant feedback especially in terms of which tasks they are to be evaluated on, how they will be evaluated, and what constitutes a good job. Around this time, you should also let them know the things they should expect on formal performance evaluations.


On the other hand:


It’s also important to encourage feedback from your new hire with regards to their onboarding experience. This feedback will give you insights as to how your onboarding is performing, enabling you to make the necessary changes to gain better results.  


This is one of those onboarding mistakes that is sadly easily overlooked.


Without the supervisor to guide the new employee on the first day, recruits tend to feel lost and clueless of they’re supposed to do. In anyone’s case, the feeling of helplessness in an unfamiliar place could just be the worst thing—and this is something you want to spare your new hires from at all costs.


Make sure the supervisor in charge is informed and aware of the new hire’s schedules. Should the supervisor be absent on the new hire’s first day, it may be better for you to adjust the schedules.




First impressions are everything. If your new hire shows up eagerly and on time on their first day, only to be told the supervisor assisting them for the day isn’t present, how do you think will they view your company and how you handle new hires?


Marking and booking calendars is not enough, sticking to it is the key!


When you have a disorganised onboarding process, it will be painfully obvious: you’ll probably be exhibiting one, two, or even more of the onboarding mistakes mentioned earlier. Your new hires show up on their first day, only to wait and observe as you scramble on your feet preparing the workspace, equipment, and your company manual.


Here’s what could be worse:


Some companies don’t have any onboarding process at all.

Let’s reiterate this one more time:


Onboarding is a crucial process that helps new hires get familiarised with his/her new responsibilities, ease into the company culture, and enable them to be effective team players. It’s an important factor that you should invest your time and resources on if you want to engage your employees more and improve your organisation’s retention rate.


Without a well-planned onboarding (or any onboarding at all), it will be impossible for you to build a solid relationship with your new hires—one that’s built on mutual understanding and trust, and one that’s built to last more than six months.





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