Editor's Insights: The Do's and Don'ts of Onboarding New Hires

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You’ve gone through the rounds of interviews, background checks, research and reference calls, and finally filled that vacant position with the elusive "perfect fit." But don’t relax yet-- your job isn’t over. Nearly twenty percent of turnover happens within the first 90 days of employment. True, sometimes even though they passed the test doesn’t mean a candidate is right for the job. But there are instances where an otherwise good candidate might leave the right position for the wrong reasons, such as improper or incomplete onboarding.

The first 90 days of a new employee’s job are critical to retention, employee engagement, performance and many other factors. We’ve interviewed a panel of experts on the do’s and don’ts of onboarding for you to consider when you take a look at your own procedures—which may just require some revamping.

1. Don’t rush the hiring process. Alan A. Malinchak, CEO Eclat Transitions LLC

There is a pre-on-boarding issue… the need to hire people who are professional, passionate, and are a cultural fit with your organization.

Sometimes hiring managers just fill a vacancy with a body, and that individual is not as engaged once employed, or a few months later and their performance is not up to what they thought it would be when they were hired.

Talent is expensive – hiring someone for their credentials without an indication if they fit into the culture of the organization, is more costly than hiring someone with the same credentials and the cultural fit – who will engage, and retention is not an issue.

I would rather invest and grow the talent within an organization then pay a premium to someone who may not stay that long. So for me, the top mistake is not hiring the right person. HR needs to work with the Talent Management staff to not only identify the competencies needed for the role they are hiring to, but to ensure the new hire is a fit with their organizational culture.

2. Do provide a custom onboarding experience. Michael Camp, MPA, Director, Walmart U.S. People

I believe the biggest mistakes made during the on boarding process for new hires can come in the following two areas.

The first "DO" is to assign a "peer mentor" or "sponsor" to help the new person assimilate to their new role and environment. This is especially important when the company has a rich history and culture which is expected of all employees. "When we have a mentor to help us navigate new waters, we have significantly increased our chances for successfully reaching our destinations."

The second "DO" is to be open to the previous cultures, traditions, etc. of new employees …we don’t have to make everyone assimilate to "our" way right away.

When we focus so much on making the new person adapt to our cultures, traditions, etc, we fail to learn about the traditions and cultures they are accustomed to, which could cause the new employee to not feel welcomed and eventually leave the company. For example, if a new member of your team is a veteran of the military and they are used to a set of traditions when it comes to how they receive appreciation, what type of rewards they’re accustomed to (i.e. Military Challenge Coins), promotions, etc… we should take the time to figure out what it is they are used to and see if the two cultures can assimilate together.

Even when two very different people come together in marriage, each person has their own set of traditions and customs, we tend to blend the two cultures into a new one which is representative of both.

It doesn’t mean the original customs or traditions go away, we just become open and inclusive of all members.

3. Do make it "all about them." Dawn Boyer, Ph.D., D. Boyer Consulting

Schedule a luncheon, introduce them to everyone in the building - regardless of whether they may work with or around the department or; perform a full orientation session (schedule meetings with each department or manager for one hour at a time), have them sit with IT to get all their tech tools in place for hitting the ground running. One story I read was that a new hire was given an empty office and the employee manual to read and was left alone for several hours on the first day; he walked out and across the street to the competition and was immediately hired - at a lower salary, but they paid attention to him and made him the center of attention from day one.)

Follow up within one day, then one week, then one month, and 90 days for interviews on what went wrong, what went right, what more the company can do to make the new hire happy and content.

Ensure the new hire knows what they can do to get more compensation - free tuition, matching 401(k) plan funding, new hire referral program for bonuses, etc. The more money an employee is given the opportunity to earn, and the faster it's paid to them, the happier they will be and more likely to refer other qualified job candidates.

4. Don’t forget to check social media.

Professor Eric Y.H. Tsui, researcher and practitioner in Knowledge Management Technologies, Cloud-based Knowledge Services & Blended Learning, warns against"not checking the social profile of a potential employee, but also overly relying on social media put out by the potential employee. Face to face interviews can never be fully substituted."

According to Dawn Boyer, you DO want to include a caveat with every offer letter of employment that a background check will be performed (based on level of inquiry required by industry), including Social Media, and the offer will be rescinded in writing if anything of dubious nature or that would reflect poorly on the hiring company's reputation (The Dear Abby letter where a new employee was fired day one because a worker at the company found the new hire posing in a bikini as part of her modeling job for a local department store was an HR nightmare.)

5. Do plan ahead for your new hire. Kevin A. Sheridan, Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, Chief Engagement Officer

In my experience, the single greatest errors made with onboarding new employees are:

  • The Manager not there to welcome the new team member and make introductions
  • The employee is given employee lots of paperwork and manuals to read (yawn)
  • They are forced to watch a boring and dated Corporate Video
  • Their computer isn’t set up and voicemail does not work
  • No one is scheduled to train them
  • The employees work area is not clean and contains previous incumbents’ unwanted belongings or gum wrappers

6. Do immerse them in your culture from Day One. Vijay Rao, Leader of People Operations, Facebook

  • "Noobs" should be productive on Day One - Have equipment, desk, and all essentials ready to go to ensure the Noob is productive on day one. They shouldn't have to struggle to figure out how to log in/access intranets, etc. This should be part of their onboarding.
  • Set the right expectations - Ensure you have communicated what you need from the Noob on day one (I.e. Required docs, paperwork, etc.) in advance.
  • Keep them engaged - Recognize people that are not paying attention and get them engaged. Call them out.
  • Emphasize the culture - Make sure you focus on what it means to work for the company and what the Noob's role is to ensure they acclimate and evolve the culture.
  • Make it fun - it's not about boring policies and things that you should know from a handbook. It's about the things you didn't know about the company. Tell stories - this ties to culture as well.

In conclusion, it’s important to realize that your onboarding strategy might need revisiting and constant reworking, depending on the individual. "Onboarding is a key driver behind retention. And it’s often a sleeper in terms of understanding its importance in setting a strong foundation," according to Scott Esposito, Managing Director of Horton International, a global executive search firm. "You may have a standard process for this activity, but be flexible enough to incorporate specific needs into the assimilation strategy – one size does not fit all."