5 Most Common Onboarding Mistakes

Proactive Recruiting

Have you successfully completed hiring and newcomers are due to start? Then it’s high time to plan onboarding. It means the steps that will help a new employee to get to know a new place, team and work content. You should definitely take great pains with them.

According to Click Boarding, the employees who experienced positive onboarding are 69% more likely to stay with the employer for next three years.

The first three months are therefore not just a trial period, but also a crucial period during which both parties should see if cooperation makes sense. Onboarding shouldn’t be baptism of fire for a newcomer. The strategy “You’re in the water, so swim.” is rather detrimental in this case. A candidate who is stressed is unlikely to perform well.

Which five mistakes to avoid in order not to lose your newly discovered talent?

1) Inadequately prepared onboarding process

“Someone will take charge of them.” No, they won’t. Being or not being ready for the new employee is the advert for your company. The employee should know who to contact on the first day, who will be there to show them around and introduce them to the colleagues.  It can be an HR person, a senior employee or colleague who will play a “buddy” role and give them a helping hand if needed.

Of course, there should be a workplace, locker, entry cards or keys etc. ready for the employee.

Vlerick Business School survey shows that there’s still something we can improve. It points out that 57% of newcomers didn’t have a PC, phone, office supplies or even a desk on their first day at work.

And here’s something from my own experience – I’ve recently met with a candidate, during recruitment process, who left a company just a month after they joined in. Why? Three days after they started, the team leader showed up and asked: “Are you already here? A colleague will take charge of you.” The colleague appeared after a week and spent one hour with the newcomer. Then again, a week later. And that was the last time… You don’t want anybody to experience this situation.

Solution: Prepare a welcome letter or a packet for the newcomer where they’ll have all the necessary information not only about who to contact if needed, but also some tips on where to go out for a meal or about company benefits, they can take advantage of, etc.

Prepare a list of tasks for them that should be done during the first two days- from getting to know the colleagues to being acquainted with the important documents.

2) Overwhelmed by information

The newcomer is finally here so let’s get the best of it. It isn’t worth overwhelming the newcomer by tasks and information. They should have some time to get acquainted with the company and its culture, to go through the programs and applications used by the company and if they are a part of a running project, they should know its background and history. New information should be revealed gradually- even if, with good intentions, you go through all departments and the building and introduce them to dozens of faces, they’ll remember barely half of them on the second day.

Solution: To the newcomer, give information gradually. Instead of one day, organise meeting new colleagues during the week and create only small tasks that can be handled without any deeper knowledge. At first, introduce them to a close team. Allow them to be an observer during meetings in order to learn something about the agenda and company processes.

3) Exaggerated expectations

We expected more… Before saying this sentence, think about whether you’ve done everything to make the employee really work on what you expected from them.

According to Vlerick Business School survey, 66% of employees complained about the lack of information regarding certain tasks and what they were expected to do and achieve.

It’s naïve to think that a new employee will do the same amount of work in one week as a colleague leaving after seven years. Nobody’s going to break KPI records on the first few days. A three-month trial period is used to familiarise themselves with the work content. It’s time when you can see if you were able to clarify mutual expectations during the interview. And if you’ve made any mistakes.

Solution: Define the tasks for the first weeks. Discuss the goals for first weeks/ months. Set deadlines for feedback. There’s nothing worse than speculation…

4) Neglect of feedback

First weeks are challenging- visions on both sides clash with reality. Feedback is needed more than ever to get things on the right track. It’s crucial not only for clarifying mutual expectations, but also for smooth integration of the newcomer to the team. Moreover, feedback encourages open communication and sets the stage for a good working relationship.

Positive feedback will boost an employee’s self-esteem and support the involvement. Conversely, negative feedback can serve as a tool for progress.

Last but not least, remember that feedback should be mutual. Even the newcomer should have the opportunity to express their opinion and experience of how they perceive your approach. This way you can get valuable tips on how to improve onboarding or some settled principles in the company. When you’ve been working for the same company for several years, you often overlook a lot of things and new eyes can bring new solutions or at least a suggestion to the discussion.

Solution: Organise regular meetings with the newcomer. The first feedback can be after first week and then on a monthly basis. In the future, at least once a year.

5) Company slang- the newcomer killer

You might look more professional when using company slang but the terms may be incomprehensible to the new employee, especially in junior position. Moreover, it could be uncomfortable situation because they either constantly ask or pretend to understand. If you don’t clarify terminology, a number of misunderstandings can arise unnecessarily.

Solution: Prepare a manual for newcomers where the most commonly used words are explained. You can add more context or usage.


In short, if you don’t pay intensive attention to newcomers after joining, you can hardly expect them to get involved quickly. Complete opposite will happen. If you don’t want to spent a lot of time with them, think about why they were hired and what agenda they should focus on. It wouldn’t be the fist time that I’ve heard “the manager gave it up”. Assuming that the manager is overloaded, HR help is needed. If there was just “crowding-out” by the manager, it’s time to look for completely another person appropriate for this role.