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Employee onboarding fails - How to avoid costly mistakes with your new hires

We are sure that you’ve heard horror employee onboarding stories from friends and colleagues. So, we decided enough is enough and got down to creating an employee onboarding checklist for companies to help them do better onboarding.

As they often say, one doesn’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It really is true, at least in the case of employee onboarding.

Well, think about it. Here’s a starry-eyed new employee, all ready to have a blazing day one, but they don’t even get their laptop, and worse, the IT folks have no clue that someone new is even joining.

Sounds bizarre? Not really!

It’s happened to a lot of folks. Truth, maybe, is stranger than fiction.

The above is a random one-off example. We are sure that you’ve heard horror onboarding stories from friends and colleagues. So, we decided enough is enough and got down to creating a checklist for companies to help them do better onboarding.

Let not your new employees ask these questions

To create this checklist, we’ve taken ample examples from Reddit to drive home the gravity of the situation and sometimes to just showcase the utter nonchalance of the people responsible for onboarding.

Exhibit 1 - Am I my onboarding manager? Also, what’s this GDFDV, ABC you just said?

I don’t really know if I’m doing things the right way or not. I’m kinda just figuring out what’s expected of me through experience and haven’t gotten any feedback, so I guess it’s working?

I’m so sick of the never ending buzzwords and acronyms that lack context or explanations. People just expect you to know these domain specific things and then act annoyed when you ask the appropriate questions.

What should have been done?

  • Ensure a streamlined product demo for all new hires irrespective of their role
  • Give enough and more context. Do not expect new hires to know your internal lingo
  • Appoint mentors. Could be either the manager or a senior in the team. A buddy/mentor works too

Exhibit 2 - Where’s my 30/60/90-day plan?

Even as a contractor, I have never experienced onboarding. I was dragged into a 3-hour long brainstorming meeting, and literally, I didn't have the WiFi password.

I'd say 50% of the people at that meeting were upset that I wasn't already a product expert and that I wasn't paying attention ....because I was trying to log in to my new email address.

What should have been done?

  • The manager has to be ready with an onboarding plan for the recruit
  • HR should prepare a ready reckoner for the new employee--wi-fi details, key persons for IT, salary, insurance, food coupons, etc
  • It should go into details like who to meet from other teams, who is going to be the buddy within the team, what are the goals, roles and responsibilities, what are the KPIs, weekly/daily/monthly 1-on1s, 30/60/90 day targets, etc
  • A folder with all the necessary company/product PPTs, videos, write-ups, competitor analysis, etc should be shared

Exhibit 3 (Part 1) - Where’s my machine and hey, what about my access?

I’m a week and a half into a new job in a large financial company and while the pay increase is great, the onboarding process has made me wonder if I made the right choice to leave my job.

When I arrived, there was no machine assigned to me, no access and when I did get access I had basically no permissions

What should have ideally been done?

  • Based on the working type (on-site, hybrid, remote), you need to prepare for the new hire in advance- laptop, access card, company goodies (if any)
  • Assign an office buddy (preferably a peer and not the manager)
  • Inform the concerned team(s)
  • Keep all necessary documentation ready

Exhibit 3 (Part 2) - Where’s my manager, and, wait..what about my team?

My manager has been on vacation. Should be back next week. I’ve already been assigned to pull data for a database that I was given a ten minute tutorial on and no documentation of any kind. I have been introduced to at least six different systems only one with documentation.

I don’t even know who is really on my team and what their jobs are hence I don’t really know who to ask anything.

Meanwhile I’m getting things sent to me as if I should know how they work and I’m thinking to myself, what is this? Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way?

What should have been done?

  • HR should ensure that the manager is available during onboarding
  • Based on whether the new hire will work on-site, hybrid or remote, the onboarding needs to be tailored
  • The new hire needs to meet/e-meet the entire team.
  • Buddy/mentor has to handhold the hire to ensure a smooth transition into the company
  • HR has to create an onboarding folder/kit for the new hire to access all information

Exhibit 4 - Should I ‘request’ for every little thing?

When I switched jobs to a big agency, the pay was doubled but I was questioning my every move for weeks. I had to put in IT requests for monitors, access to data, access to shared networks, a VPN, etc.

I thought “This is the life of big companies huh”. For some reason I stuck it out though.

What should have been done?

  • HR needs to inform the IT team so that all required accesses/tools are ready for the new hire according to the role
  • A mentor/buddy within the team will help ease the way into the ‘unknown’
  • HR teams need to showcase ‘nimbleness’ by embracing the human connection rather than depending on set processes that might box in new hires.

Onboarding is a big deal, not just for employees but also for your company

Source - bambooHR’s How to Make Employee Onboarding a Top Priority in 2023

And if you want to make sure that your onboarding process is failproof and your new hires don’t join the above Redditors, the following checklist is a good place to start.

Stages of employee onboarding process

Stage 1- Offer Letter

  • Send welcome note
  • Include forms they need to fill
  • Include a checklist of certificates/documents that they need to submit
  • Mention people the candidate can connect with for any clarification

Stage 2- Offer Acceptance

  • Agree on a mutual start date
  • Review submitted documents

Stage 3- Waiting period

  • Send across collaterals to read/watch
  • Send laptop and related paraphernalia
  • Send goodies
  • Make soft intros to manager
  • Make intros to buddy/mentor
  • Keep them engaged with various fun activities (know your team, know your product, etc)

Stage 4-Day 1

  • Orientation-Explain about the company, founders, culture codes, processes, salary deep-dive, benefits
  • Help set up IT assets
  • Connect with mentor/buddy/manager
  • Introduce team
  • Schedule a call with the leadership team, if necessary

Stage 5- 30/60/90/120 days plan

  • The manager must sit down with the new hire and explain the role and responsibilities in detail
  • The manager must come up with a 30/60/90/120 days plan along with the new hire
  • Track progress on a tool/excel
  • The manager must ensure the hire is integrated into the team and also with other teams wherever necessary
  • The manager must give feedback whenever possible and also be available for any handholding
  • HR to conduct 1-on-1s with manager on 30th, 60th, 90th, 120th day to give formal feedback to the new hire
  • HR to conduct regular surveys/calls to check the pulse of the new candidate

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