Five Common Mistakes Leaders Make When Onboarding New Hires

Mikaela Kiner
New Hire It’s exciting to grow a team. Adding employees can improve every aspect of your organization, from efficiency to morale. When you find the right person for the job, it’s a win-win you’ll celebrate for the life of their career with you.

Unfortunately, starting a new job can feel more like an initiation than a celebration for many new hires. It’s not intentional, but the beginning can be clunky if not handled well by those in charge.

Here are 5 mistakes commonly made by leaders:

1. They don’t welcome new hires from the get-go

Once they sign on the dotted line, there’s usually a span of time before the new hire begins work. During that gap many leaders forget to reach out, leaving the soon-to-be-employees in an agonizing limbo. New employees will have questions about what to expect and how their day-to-day life will change in their new role; many will have apprehension about fitting in with their new team.
Instead of remaining silent, consider sending a welcome note and gift that you know the new hire will like. How will you know about their tastes and preferences? When new hires accept the job, have them fill out a survey that asks basic questions about their hobbies and extracurricular activities. There are even Pinterest boards dedicated to new hire gifts to help spark inspiration.

2. They don’t make a plan

Before the leader made their new hire, they posted a job description of what qualities/skills they were looking for to fill the role. Unfortunately, sometimes the definition of a role ends there and when the new employee begins, they’re passed around to various team members to learn bits and pieces of the big picture that may or may not be relevant to their responsibilities.

This is easily solved by crafting a simple onboarding plan. Include everything from online access (logins and passwords) to lunch-and-learns with key people they’ll work with on projects, and the learning curve won’t feel so overwhelming. Communicating clear roles to everyone involved is also vital to onboarding success.

3. They put off the logistics

How many times have you started at a company and spent the first day or two simply filling out paperwork? It’s nerve-wracking to be excited about a new position only to get stuck feeling like you’re at the doctor’s office. It would be better for everyone to harness the new hire’s energy for the role by letting them dive into the job.

So many of the required forms (insurance, taxes, etc.) can be completed in advance, it makes more sense to get them out of the way before the employee begins. That also allows more time for the new hire to read through the material and familiarize themselves with company policies and perks. Just make sure they know the deadline for the return of the items is their first day on the job.

4. They forget the pain of the first week

Even in the best of situations, starting a new job can be awkward. From learning to use new tools and equipment, to finding your place in the lunchroom, the smallest of tasks can be daunting. For introverts, it’s often overwhelming. Leaders who neglect to acknowledge different styles are creating unnecessary anxiety all around.

The easiest way to lessen the worry is to appoint an orientation mentor or new hire buddy. Someone who is qualified to answer questions about everything from remote access to supply closets. Have that point person available and close-by the first week for anything that comes up. Often times managers and directors have packed calendars and are unable to serve as a guide—and that’s okay, as long as there’s someone there in their place. It’s also nice to plan out a week of welcome coffees and lunches to introduce the new hire to different departments and colleagues. Plus, they’ll learn about favorite neighborhood go-tos by default!

5. They neglect to check in at regular intervals

Often, leaders recognize that the new hire is a good fit and forget to see if the employee is confident in their work. This is a crucial mistake that can lead to long-term issues or in the worst of times, departures—all because of poor communication.

The best way to overcome this is to simply plan for scheduled check-ins at regular milestones. They can be monthly, weekly or even more often if warranted, but the employee should never lack feedback on performance long enough to wonder if they’re meeting expectations. Checking in at the 90 day mark is a good way to find out how things are going and whether there have been any surprises in the new job.
Really, great onboarding is achieved by careful and constant communication tailored to the needs of the new hire and the job they perform.

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Mikaela KinerMikaela is a native Seattleite who’s spent the last fifteen years in HR leadership roles at iconic Northwest companies including Microsoft, Amazon, PopCap Games and Redfin. She has an MS in HR Management with a certificate in Organizational Development and is an ICF credentialed coach. Mikaela delivers results by building trust and engaging her clients in creative problem solving. Clients appreciate her strategic thinking and hands on execution.