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Why New-Hire Onboarding Fails and How You Can Make It a Success

June 23, 2024

employee onboarding

New-hire onboarding efforts fails because too many onboarding processes are flawed. Training, clear responsibilities, and useable technology are key.

Here is a thought that should keep you up at night. More than a quarter of your new hires are going to quit within the first 90 days. That is not just a waste of time and money, although it is. Much worse, it reflects badly on your new-hire onboarding systems, the organization as a whole, and those who did the hiring. Basically, this statistic says you blew it. Sinking 72% of your shots in a season of basketball would be historic, and no one in baseball hits even 40% — but in business, you better be a lot closer to 100% if you want to be considered a success.

Throughout the interview process, the best candidates emerge, and eventually, one is hired. On paper and in person, the candidate ticks most if not all the boxes, and maybe even brings more to the table than you anticipated. Your new-hire onboarding system is utilized yet again. So, what’s causing over a quarter of candidates to last less than three months?

A Dedicated New-Hire Onboarding Program Is Key

The main, if not sole, culprit is a failed onboarding process. ServiceNow did a study and found:

About 80% of workers experienced some issues when starting a new job. One-third reported they received no necessary training, while 28% were unsure of their responsibilities and goals. Around a quarter of respondents reported they received no clear onboarding, while roughly the same amount admitted to IT issues. Nearly 20% believed they were not fully onboarded after three months on the job.

employee engagement is vital for new-hire onboardingOK, 80% experiencing issues is not a big deal – the new hire is getting used to new employee communications systems, receiving some training and development, and is learning your employee engagement expectations. An “issue” is not worth quitting a new job over if it is handled properly. It is then just a learning experience, and maybe, it’s better that it happened than not.

As for the 25% with IT issues, that is much better, I would wager that 30 years ago when the personal computer was a terrifying thing to many office workers. Yeah, sometimes the email account isn’t set up right, or your computer has an outdated program. Sometimes, you are asked to use Apple when you are Microsoft proficient. But most of the time, IT issues are not going to make someone quit – unless they’re IT personnel (that’s a different matter altogether).

However, a third of employees not getting the necessary training and development? As my father would say when teenage me did something typically of teenagers, “Are you #%!@&$ kidding me?”

Not knowing your responsibilities and goals? The manager and HR team didn’t do their jobs.

A quarter got no clear onboarding? Let me repeat – the manager and HR team didn’t do their jobs.

When 20% of your people don’t think they are fully on-boarded after three months, I need to ask whether that is before or after 28% quit in the first 90 days? It’s a mess either way.

Enough of the dead horse beating. New-hire onboarding must be taken seriously and done right if you want to keep talented workers in the building.

To Onboard, You Must Communicate

As usual, it comes down to employee communications, and that has to start BEFORE the new guy/gal’s first day. The job description means a great deal. If it isn’t detailed and accurate, expectations on both sides are not going to be met – they may not even be the same. The entire recruitment process should be dedicated to getting both the employer and employee on the same page.

In the window of time between the acceptance of the employment offer and the first day in the new job, a mini-communications campaign is in order. The current staff members who will interact with the new hire should be alerted to the fact, and as appropriate, they should be prepared to assist in relevant aspects of the onboarding process.

On the first day, there is the inevitable orientation program. Try to keep it short. I remember working for a rather large firm on Wall Street publishing a weekly newsletter. I expected to meet with my manager on Monday, my first day. I spent Monday and Tuesday filling in forms and sitting through presentations from HR. Perhaps there was a genuine need to do it that way, but I didn’t see it as anything but a waste of at least a day. Needless to say, when my manager and I met in the elevator on Wednesday morning, we both felt like we had to make up for lost time because we had a Friday deadline. Someone didn’t understand the nature of the job and made it harder for me to do mine.

New-Hire Onboarding After Day One

After the first day, build training and development time into the daily or weekly schedules as needed. If employees are having to train for their new position in their off hours, expect it to be ineffective. If it isn’t important enough to do during normal business hours, few will consider it important at all, and it’s hard to blame them.

Remember, having someone to ask questions of is vital; 58% of new hires want a walkthrough of key processes, and the person showing them should be someone of whom they can ask questions. For those of you who remember elementary school, there was always a kid who arrived in the middle of the year for whatever reasons. The teacher assigned another kid to be the newbie’s “buddy” to show him or her how things are done – where to line up for lunch, how to hang up the coat in the cubby. Grownups are not that different.

As the first day fades into the past, keep communicating. All those responsibilities and goals and expectations that were in the job description become the talking points of weekly, fortnightly, monthly or even impromptu feedback sessions. Remember, some people won’t ask for help due to ego or an introverted nature – no news is not good news.

Finally, refine your approach. Every time an employee leaves, there is an exit interview. There ought to be one when an employee stays. After three or six months, as appropriate, sit down and find out what worked and what didn’t by asking the now-veteran employee about the onboarding process.

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