Top 7 Onboarding Mistakes

Next time you hire someone, make sure you avoid these common pitfalls.
Freelance Writer and editor, Self-employed
August 01, 2012

As a small-business owner, you most likely revel in the euphoric feeling of finding an ideal hire—a person who fits into your culture beautifully, whose experience and characteristics are exactly what you are looking for. You envision he or she immediately boosting your bottom line with genius ideas and skipping onboarding activities altogether. After all, this hire is perfect.

Okay, put on the brakes. Regardless of previous experience, each new employee needs to participate in a proper onboarding process, meet his or her team, ease into the business and be trained properly. Skip those steps and you risk losing your future MVP.

Here are seven onboarding mistakes to avoid.

1. Starting the process on an employee’s first day. Onboarding needs to begin the moment an offer is accepted, according to Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions, a business consultancy in Northampton, Mass. She recommends sending a welcome packet to the candidate and his or her family complete with details on where to park and what to expect on their first day.

2. Ending the process after the employee’s first day. A person’s first day on the job can feel like a whirlwind. Give your new rock star time to process and get up to speed. Chinsky Matuson recommends checking in once a week for the first month (or longer) with one-on-one meetings or out-of-office lunches.

If you don’t have time for a weekly meeting, rotate the employee through various departments so they get a full view of the company. Set up more formal 30-, 60- and 90-day check-ins to gauge progress and assimilation into the new environment.

Waiting to set up work tools. Every new hire needs a computer, desk, phone and e-mail address. Make sure to set up those items before their arrival, advises George Bradt, founder of Prime Genesis, an executive onboarding company in Stamford, Conn. It looks poorly on the company when you aren’t prepared.

Delegating everything out. While you may not have time to administer every piece of paperwork to your new employee, don’t pawn off the entire onboarding process to your human resources team or new hire ambassador. It is important to put in face time with the newbie, says Chinsky Matuson.

“People connect based on emotion,” she says. “If they feel like they’re being set aside while more important things are being handled, they will not feel connected.”

Skipping intros. A new hire can feel overwhelmed when first arriving on the job and may not remember each person they shake hands with, especially if first meetings happen in a crowded conference room. Bradt recommends small-business owners personally introduce new employees to their immediate team one by one. Extra bonus: Plan one-on-one lunches outside the office with the person’s closest five or six co-workers.

Not involving them immediately. It’s likely that a new hire will be even more effective if he or she understands every part of an organization, so involve them in cross functional teams, events and a wide variety of meetings, recommends Bradt. Similarly, invite them to join you on a work trip (even in the first week), if you think the experience will accelerate their understanding of the business.

Resisting help. Employee turnover can be a major problem for small-business owners, especially if they don’t have a formal onboarding process in order. Chinsky Matuson recommends employing a third-party onboarding expert to help design a program that will fit your company and goals. Not sure where to find such an expert? Try contacting the Society of Human Resource Management for a reference in your area.

What other onboarding mistakes do you think should be avoided?