5 Misconceptions About Employee Onboarding

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Approx. 7 min. read
Last updated: June 26, 2018

Improve your employee onboarding process to ensure your new employees adapt to the company culture and become engaged and informed in the workplace.

The employee onboarding process is a crucial element of employee well-being, retention and engagement. The first couple of weeks and months have a great impact on whether the employee stays within the company or leaves it. One study found nearly a fifth of new recruits have left a company between the first week and ninth week of starting a job. Another important landmark is six months - according to the same study, a third of those surveyed have left a job within the first six months of starting. On the other hand, almost 90 percent of those surveyed felt that a decision to stay in the company long-term is made within the first six months.

The largest reasons for quitting before hitting the six-month mark were poor onboarding, unclear understanding of duties and expectations, and poor management. Since onboarding plays such a crucial role in the success of your company, we’re here to debunk five common misconceptions about employee onboarding. Let’s go!

1. Onboarding Takes a Week or So (Tops)

You come into a new workplace for the first time, excited and unaware of what’s going to happen. Right when you walk in, you’ll be handed a set of keys, a visitor’s badge, a laptop and a stack of papers reaching up to your knees. You spend the entire day reading and signing papers and go home more perplexed than you were coming in. In the next following days, you will be shown around the office and be greeted by people whose names and faces you’ll instantly forget. You will sit down with an HR professional, who goes through the company’s practices in unclear, company-specific lingo, and after three to five days, you are on board and ready to excel in your position.

Does this sound realistic? Probably not, because it isn’t. Onboarding shouldn’t be rushed, as it will only cost the company time and money in the future. Onboarding is about more than papers which need to be signed and official statements which need to be read through, and onboarding shouldn’t be considered something to “get over with” once the work begins. New employees can well interact and work with their team while their official onboarding process is still incomplete. Instead of trying to squeeze all information to one or two exhausting days, have information spurts throughout the first days and weeks. Make sure the new employee is learning, instead of just listening, and give them material they can go through by themselves in peace and quiet. If you have an internal content hub, give your employee time to go through the content on their own, and give them time to immerse themselves in the methods of internal communication.

Read more about employee engagement here:

Employee Engagement: 8 Statistics You Need to Know

2. Only HR Should Be Involved in Employee Onboarding

Majority of employees prefer to be onboarded by their direct manager, supervisor or team leader. Employee onboarding should be less an HR-led look into HR policies and practices, and more a holistic oversight of the company culture, core values, and best practices. Therefore it makes sense to have several people take part in the onboarding process, preferably from their own areas of specialty - administration talking about administration, marketing team explaining the social media policy, and so forth.

Employees will assimilate into the workplace easier when team members take part in the onboarding process. Collaboration from the first days also helps the employees get to know the new team member and likewise, and the new employee can get a clear idea of the areas of specialty of each of their team members.

Another good way to improve onboarding is to appoint a workplace mentor (or “buddy”, however you want to call it), to the new employee. This mentor should not be a direct manager, and the more informal the relationship, the easier it is for the employee to asks questions and find out how things really work around the office.

Employee onboarding process

3. Employees Will Figure Things Out for Themselves

The new employee you have hired is a skilled, capable professional, so it is natural you want to assume they can and will figure things out for themselves. But this is not a good strategy if you want your employees to understand what is expected of them, take ownership of their work and become engaged members of the workforce.

In the first few days and weeks, employees are expected to digest large amounts of information. It is possible some of it gets lost in the process, so be sure to have the most important details accessible to the employees, and have a recap on the policies and practices around the one-month mark. By this time, employees have had enough time to settle in and by revisiting your policies, you can make sure they haven’t missed anything important. This is also an excellent occasion to ask for feedback on how the onboarding has gone so far, and gain valuable insight for future onboarding processes.

According to a study on employee onboarding, a fifth of those who have left a company soon after starting reported that having more effective training would have helped, and another fifth said they would have hoped for clearer guidelines to their responsibilities. As one of the biggest failures which lead to employees quitting a new job is unclear expectations, make sure your employees know what is expected of them from the beginning. Give them a clear schedule for the onboarding process and explain the way your performance metrics work. After the initial onboarding processes, make sure the new recruits are constantly aware of what their tasks are and how they link to the larger vision of the company. Starting a new job is very stressful, and having a clear set of expectations helps take some of the stress away.

Read More: 3 Reasons Why You Need Transparency for Employee Engagement

4. Employees Will Integrate After My Perfect SlideShow

Many companies stress in their onboarding-discourse that company values and company culture are the most important aspects to understand and internalize. However, there is a discrepancy in communicating an open organizational culture while doing this through an impersonal written manual rather than actually allowing the employee to see, feel, and sense what the workplace is like.

The slideshow ends the first, practical section of the onboarding. What comes next is the most important part. How does the employee fit into their team and the work culture? Are they able to bring their best practices in, while learning the best practices of the company? An employee onboarding should be integrating, not indoctrinating.

It is important to show from day one that the new employee is seen and heard and they are not expected to only indoctrinate to the organization, but to create an impact within it, from their own viewpoints. A new employee may be an intern or starting in a junior position, but they will still always bring valuable information, skill, and personality to the organization. Juggling between helping the employee adopt an organizational identity and leveraging the personality and skills of the newcomers is not an easy task, but it is the only way to ensure the employees are monetized to their full extent. Remember to communicate how you plan to put the employee’s individual skills to use within the organization, and how employees are expected to manage themselves and be successful within the organization.

Read More: Why Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture Is Key for Growth

5. Company Culture Will Be Learned From My Perfect SlideShow

Whoa, again with the slideshow! Nice try, but no. Remember that large part of information sharing and learning at work, in general, isn’t accrued from a formal company slideshow explaining how things work. Employees share knowledge both formally and informally, and especially informal knowledge sharing often takes place in-between “official” work, during lunch or coffee breaks and in general chit-chat. Gaining this information is vital to the success of employee onboarding. Informal conversations also help make bonds with employees, which improves employee retention.

One very important part of the employee onboarding process is integrating into the company culture, and this can’t be learned from a company handbook either. Rather it is a process of learning-by-doing, and paying attention to the ways in which people work. Employee onboarding is easier and more sticky when you have an open and functional knowledge sharing culture in place.

For more tips on improving workplace culture and knowledge sharing, please download our amazing slideshow below.

Free Guide - Organizational Knowledge Sharing 101: How to get Started