Managing Director SilkRoad UK
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Onboarding: what not to do

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28th Jun 2013
Managing Director SilkRoad UK
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The importance of onboarding should never be underestimated. The practice of integrating a new employee successfully into an organisation has implications for every element of the business, from productivity to profitability. However, many organisations are guilty of committing fundamental onboarding mistakes which, while avoidable, are costly in terms of time, money and resources. Here are five of the most common:

Thinking onboarding begins on day one

All too often, workers turn up to their new office only to find they are not expected, no one knows their name and no equipment has been set up in preparation. This gives a very negative first impression of a company, and one that could leave a new employee questioning their decision.

For smooth onboarding, existing staff should be well prepared for their new colleague’s arrival and every aspect of an employee’s first few days and months should be planned in advance. They should be receiving welcome packs prior to day one, accounts and logins should have been created for them on all relevant platforms and a training timetable should be in place.

Too much paperwork

For many, the most time-consuming element of onboarding is form completion. It is a task that can take hours or even days: valuable time is lost by the new employee, the HR team and the company as a whole. Every hour an employee spends signing forms and reading handbooks is an hour which could be spent getting familiar with their new role. This administrative burden lengthens the time it takes for the new starter to reach full productivity.

Onboarding software can help overcome such obstacles. It negates the need for a costly paper system, offering simple and automatic solutions instead. Aside from being eco-friendly, onboarding software can cut down on the administrative costs of postage, storage, down-time (while documents are in transit) and, of course, labour.

No centralised system

Organisations that frequently bring new talent on board without a central system are at greater risk of human error when onboarding. The difficulty is that the larger an organisation, the harder it can be to limit this risk, especially if the company is undergoing an intense period of recruitment. There needs to be a centralised system in place and proper procedures to follow across the board: a haphazard approach to onboarding just won’t suffice.

Thinking it’s only up to the new employee to impress

You can’t go through the recruitment and onboarding process thinking that new employees are there to impress you, it is a two way street. It may be your decision as to whether or not they'll pass their probation, but they have to want to stay at the company in the first place, so it is equally important that you impress them. The employee has all of the same rights around termination and notice periods that the organisation has during the probationary period.

First impressions work both ways: most new staff members who are unhappy in their position will decide to move on within six months, yet those who are satisfied by an effective onboarding and engagement process are likely to stay at least 18 to 20 months before reassessing their role. It is usually only after this time that other factors such as opportunities for career progression, personality clashes with direct managers and benefit packages come into play.

Thinking onboarding finishes on day one

One of the most common mistakes companies make is assuming that once all the preparations have been made and the employee’s first day is over, that onboarding is complete. But it doesn’t stop there - in fact, the first day is just the beginning. It takes longer than a few days, weeks even, for an employee to gain a full understanding of procedures and systems and become 100 per cent integrated into the culture of a company.

When you think how much it costs a business every time it has to advertise, hire and onboard a new person, you quickly see that a substandard onboarding programme is not worth the gamble. The longer an employee takes to settle into their role, the more they will cost their employer: a recent IDC report stated that new employees who don’t understand their role cost US and UK companies approximately $37 billion every year. Avoid these common onboarding pitfalls, however, and your company will instead reap the benefits of a productive and happy workforce.

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