3 common onboarding mistakes — and how to avoid them

Through a well-structured program that establishes a timeline, clearly communicates expectations, provides channels to access resources and addresses cultural nuances, hiring teams can deliver a consistent onboarding process that sets employees up for success and longevity.

Despite workplace disruption during the pandemic highlighting the importance of effective onboarding, many HR organizations still struggle to deliver a positive experience to new hires, especially those in remote or hybrid roles. It’s a problem that carries significant weight – if employees don’t feel connected to their new company and adequately supported in their role, they’re likely to look for a job at a different organization. According to recent research, 80 percent of surveyed new hires who said they were undertrained during onboarding were ready to quit.

The investment in recruiting and hiring is high – now that you’ve found the right employees, you want to focus on how to retain that top talent. High turnover is costly and can leave businesses under-resourced and unable to execute their business strategy efficiently. Given the high stakes, talent professionals do not want to start out a step behind. To avoid that risk, at a minimum they should assess their onboarding process to make sure it delivers a quality experience for new hires while serving current business needs. Here’s a look at three common global onboarding mistakes that can leave new employees feeling unmotivated and disconnected from the organization’s mission and tips on how to proactively address them. 

  1. Inadequate onboarding program structure: Onboarding programs typically involve staff from multiple departments and can lack structure if there’s no clear timeline and comprehensive training plan. Lack of structure can confuse new employees and leave them unprepared to perform their roles efficiently. You can fix that with a structured onboarding process that maps out the new hire journey and defines training that prepares employees for success.

It’s best practice to identify milestones on the new hire journey at the 30-, 60- and 90-day marks to create a clear onboarding schedule. This plan should include training on the company’s culture and values, the organization’s expectations for all employees and training on individual role responsibilities. Training should be offered in various formats to accommodate learning preferences with a designated HR onboarding team to coordinate its implementation. 

  1. No clarity on how to access information and ask for help: Another problem many new hires experience in remote and hybrid environments is a lack of clarity about how to get the support and resources needed to do their jobs. Employees not knowing how to access critical information or confusion about how to reach out for help can lead to feelings of isolation, which can quickly evolve into dissatisfaction with the job. 

You can address this issue by sharing a communication and resource framework during the onboarding process. This framework should specify the proper channels new hires should use to access the information, resources and support they require. It’s also important to make sure managers check in with new hires regularly and hold one-on-one meetings. Having conversations about available communication tools and processes to get assistance can help new employees feel connected and supported – even for globally distributed workforces

  1. Failure to account for cultural differences: Workplace cultures vary widely; organizations should address cultural expectations during onboarding to avoid misunderstandings and promote inclusivity. Accounting for cultural differences is particularly critical for companies that hire globally for remote or hybrid workforces — when you address cultural issues upfront during onboarding, it helps new hires, colleagues and managers work more collaboratively. 

For example, workplace cultures in some societies can be more hierarchical than is typical in North America or Europe, so a new hire might be reluctant to suggest a change to a process unless asked directly. If managers are aware of that, they can regularly solicit employee feedback to get everyone’s suggestions. Cultural sensitivity training can also raise awareness about differences, as can asking employees from diverse backgrounds for their insights on areas for improvement.

Keep in mind that consistency is an essential component in effective onboarding. The goal is to create a process that ensures every new hire has a positive experience, no matter where they’re from and regardless of whether they work onsite, remotely or on a hybrid schedule. Some organizations are still using onboarding processes that were quickly adapted to remote work during the pandemic, and as a result, the system may not serve employees or the company well today.