Finding (and keeping) great employees is consistently listed as a top concern of business owners. In fact, a recent study indicates anywhere between 10-25% of new employees jump ship within their first six months on the job. That’s a frustrating and expensive prospect on both sides of the coin, and one which could be greatly reduced with a change to some of the most common employee onboarding mistakes made by companies trying to integrate a new team member. Below are three of the worst barriers to successful onboarding—and some suggestions to combat them.
Problem #1: The Expectation Gap
According to executives interviewed, the top reason new employees leave is that their role wasn’t what they expected when they got hired. Many employees quickly discover that the daily tasks they’re asked to complete don’t tend to match what’s on their job descriptions and fall under the all too overused caveat of “other tasks as assigned.” Employees who find themselves consistently performing unexpected tasks find it difficult to link those tasks to the overall mission of the organization and discontent finds easy purchase in that soil. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest issues to rectify—and it can (and should) be fixed long before an employee’s first day.
Dealing with the expectation gap is easily avoided by communicating a realistic job preview from the moment the job advertisement is posted. If you are aware that the job overview contains elements which may exist in a job description but are never used in practice, then they shouldn’t be included in an ad. If you have a position which sees a lot of turnover which doesn’t have to do with the nature of the job (for example, being a “feeder” job or a stepping stone by design to allow movement to other roles in the organization), then it may be time to review the job profile to see where there is a gap between expectation and reality. The best place to reinforce the picture of what day-to-day life will be like in the role is during the interview. This provides ample information for the candidate to consider the true nature of the job before accepting, allows the opportunity to ask questions and provides the added value of being able to view their body language for clues as to what they truly feel.
Problem #2: A Lack of Preparation
How many times has a new employee shown up for their first day while someone, somewhere, is scrambling to set up computer access, provide access to work areas, create an email address or telephone extension—in some cases, even finding an empty desk to work at? When an employer is unprepared for a new hire, it sends the signal loud and clear that the employee is not a valued addition to the team and makes it incredibly difficult to integrate into the culture.
People are only able to work at their best when they are given the right tools. A simple checklist which can be accessed by any team member responsible for setting up the new hire is a great way to complete tasks before the first day and eliminate confusion over who is responsible for what. (At SalesUp! We use Trello, which is perfect for this type of task.) If setting up a workstation requires the purchase of new equipment, involving the employee over any requirements for specific equipment (such as left/right-handed implements, or any accommodations which may not have surfaced to this point) will make the employee feel invested from the get-go, and that investment pays off when it comes time for employees to decide whether they are going to stick with a job.
Problem #3: Overwhelm and Abandonment
Starting a new job is incredibly overwhelming. From navigating office hallways to matching faces and names to interacting with customers and filling out reams of paperwork, it’s a challenging time which can result in natural second-thoughts from employees if they don’t feel they have the support to be useful members of the organization.
To be clear, alone-time is good—even essential to let employees settle into their space—but leaving them with hoards of policy manuals and no one to help answer their questions is not. To combat this, ensure that new employees have a mentor to help them through the challenging early weeks, and tap into existing employee strengths to match them with the right people. Have someone who is an extrovert and great at ice-breaking? Have them handle team introductions. Has someone in the organization performed the employee’s role? Consider a short mentorship, or at the least have them check-in and see how things are going during the first critical weeks. Of course, this doesn’t negate the value of having manager support, but peer-mentorships can go a long way to solidifying the sense of belonging that is critical to cultural development. They don’t call onboarding “organizational socialization” for nothing…
The Take Home
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Have a formalized process (and if you don’t, make one). It can be difficult to allot resources to creating processes when you aren’t in a hiring position, but adequate foresight can eliminate so many onboarding issues before the scramble of having to find a new employee.
If you need ideas on how to best handle an onboarding solution that is customized to your organization, contact us – we’d love to help.
Best of all – if you have any tips or best practices, let us know in the comments below!