5 Onboarding Problems — and How to Prevent Them

A robust and structured onboarding process can create the framework for employee success.

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5 Onboarding Problems and How To Prevent Them
Learn how to solve the 5 most common onboarding issues

For better or worse, an employee’s first few months with your company will dramatically impact their long-term prospects of success.

The best onboarding process will get your new hires up to speed quickly with the education, information, tools, and training they need to hit the ground running. Yet, too many companies have new hires fill out paperwork and then put them in the job without creating the framework for success.

Let’s examine the common problems with onboarding, how to address them, and why onboarding is so important.

The critical role of employee onboarding

Companies that do onboarding right see substantial gains, such as:

  • 77% of employees meet their first performance goals
  • 54% of companies report higher employee engagement
  • A 25% increase in retention rates
  • A 20% increase in manager satisfaction with new hires
  • An 11% increase in productivity

Companies that do not invest in a formal onboarding program may struggle to realize some of these benefits.

When you have problems with onboarding new employees or cut the process short, you’re shortchanging your business. Research shows that it takes new employees 12 months to become as efficient as fully trained coworkers. A robust onboarding process can cut that time significantly and increase productivity.

How to fix the most common employee onboarding issues

With all the positives associated with a strong onboarding program, you may wonder why so many companies don’t do it. Yet nearly 59% of employees say they had no workplace training and that most skills were self-taught.

Don’t let employees fail. Here are some of the most common employee onboarding issues and how you can solve them.

1. Lack of a formal onboarding process

Your company may have a casual and unstructured culture, but it needs to have a formal onboarding process.

When you create a formal onboarding process, it demonstrates to a new hire that you have a plan and you will work with the employee to help them perform well. A good plan can instill confidence in the company and generate excitement. A poor plan can make you look like you’re disorganized or you don’t care.

According to a study by the Aberdeen Group, 86% of new hires make up their mind whether to stay or leave a company within the first 6 months after starting. When companies have a formal, structured onboarding program, 69% of employees are more likely to stay 3 years or longer.

Want to learn more about what should be part of your onboarding program? We’ve put together an onboarding checklist to help.

When companies have a formal, structured onboarding program, 69% of employees are more likely to stay 3 years or longer.

2. The onboarding process is too short

Many companies confuse onboarding with orientation. An orientation takes care of any necessary paperwork, assigns desk space and tools, and only takes a few hours or a day. By comparison, onboarding can last up to a year.

It’s a plan to help employees succeed by exposing them to the education, knowledge, training, and coaching they need to grow and produce. Onboarding is a crucial part of a People Ops strategy, which puts employees first to create an empowered, supported workforce.

Some companies also try to jam a ton of information into a very short period. This can leave employees feeling overwhelmed. A structured onboarding program staggers information, giving employees time to understand and master aspects of their job. It then uses that as a foundation to build the next level of competencies.

Work these days has also gotten significantly more technical. The average employee in an office setting will use 9.39 apps to do their job, and that doesn’t include employees working remotely. When the onboarding process is brief, it’s unrealistic to expect employees to learn all the tools they need for success.

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3. Onboarding is generic

Not every employee is the same, and they certainly don’t have the same roles within your organization. As such, onboarding needs to be customized to their role to be effective. It’s not productive to train everyone on everything, and it can hinder the learning process and overwhelm new hires.

For example, someone that is going to be a field salesperson needs a deep understanding of what a product or solution can do, its benefits, and how it solves a customer’s needs. They don’t necessarily need to know how to build the product.

4. Not updating or measuring the onboarding process

A lot has changed in the past few years. Have you reviewed your onboarding process to make sure it’s still current? For example, as companies have switched to more remote or distributed workflow, does your virtual onboarding process still capture all the elements needed for success?

An important aspect of any program is judging its success. Do you measure outcomes? You should. Otherwise, how will you know if you need to make adjustments?

A strong onboarding program will track KPIs such as:

  • New hire satisfaction
  • Voluntary/Involuntary employee turnover
  • Retention
  • Training completion rates
  • Employee engagement over time
  • Time to productivity
  • Employee satisfaction

At each step, you are trying to determine the ROI of your onboarding efforts to isolate areas where you can improve.

5. Focusing only on processes, not culture

It takes more than just handing out mugs or T-shirts with a company slogan. You need to explain the reason behind mission and vision statements and show how your values are applied to their work.

When an employee starts their new job, there’s no question that there’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of information to impart. However, failing to deeply embed company culture into your onboarding process is a big mistake.

People who feel connected to the company’s mission are more engaged and productive. They understand how their role fits into the greater goals.

It takes more than just handing out mugs or T-shirts with a company slogan. You need to explain the reason behind mission and vision statements and show how your values are applied to their work. Employees need a clear understanding of the why behind the what to embrace and apply the company values to work.

Nearly 2/3 of employees surveyed said they don’t know their company’s mission statement or how it applies to them. Yet, it’s the alignment of personal and company goals that inspires passion, engagement, and productivity.

Is it time to assess your onboarding program?

Providing a structured and well-designed onboarding program is essential to building a strong and sustainable company. However, just 1 in 10 employees surveyed feels their company has a strong onboarding process. What would your employees say?

You can learn more about how to assess your company’s onboarding program in our guide, How to Assess Your Company’s Onboarding Program.

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