Developing a Learning Culture

5 Ways to Completely Botch the Onboarding Process

Onboarding can make or break an employee’s leadership trajectory in an organization. Do it right and you could be adding a creative, driven and efficient member to your team. Do it wrong and that employee could be scouring the want ads a few minutes after being assigned a computer.

Like the old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem (adapted for eLearning, natch) says “When onboarding is good, it’s very, very good. But when it’s bad, it’s horrid.” Knowing how to completely ruin a good onboarding process can make you acutely aware of what not to do when welcoming new employees to an organization.

  1. Focus on “How Not to Get Fired”

Truthfully, that’s where a new employee’s interest lies during the first few days in a new position: How to keep the job. But when onboarding only focuses on what not to do, it creates an employee who is nervous and reluctant to reach outside of the cubicle. Instead of becoming a productive member of the team, the new employee hangs back, focusing on rules and regulations instead of ideas and innovation.

Fix it: Policy and procedure is important, but frame it differently: How a new employee can excel in his job, rather than “not get fired.”

  1. Be Disorganized

“Uh, here’s your workstation. Someone will be around to show you what to do, I think.” It’s the definition of jumping from the frying pan into the fire: Without an organized onboarding process, new employees feel more like an afterthought than a valuable member of a team.

Fix it: Don’t leave new employees to flounder on their own. Their first few days should be an organized schedule of orientation, meeting the team and getting set up with first tasks.

  1. Use Boring Material

Powerpoint orientation, anyone? It’s a surefire way to have new employees disengage before they really even have a chance. Courses that focus on “how to” or stacks of written manuals are likely to go ignored and can be a total waste of a new hires time.

Fix it: Rethink onboarding materials: If the information is vital, it should be delivered in an engaging way. Onboarding materials can set the tone for a new employee’s entire experience with an organization, so create a lasting and accurate first impression. Interactive eLearning can go a long way here. Onboarding should be consistent with the overall brand and mission.

  1. Don’t Follow Up

To really botch the onboarding process, completely ignore the new hire once orientation is over. If you figure that a new employee should know everything after just one day of onboarding, you’re prematurely throwing her to the wolves. Don’t over-simplify the onboarding process, remembering that orientation isn’t only about how to do a specific job, but how to integrate and succeed with a company.

Fix it: Onboarding should scale over the first few months of new employment. In fact, some organizations have up to six months of onboarding for new hires. Even if you don’t have that timeline, make sure to check in with new hires regularly, allowing for questions and concerns in the first weeks and months.

  1. Discourage Input

New hires can be reluctant to speak up, especially if the onboarding process seems stringent and formal. Without avenues for input and collaboration, you could be missing out on the best part of a new employee: Creativity.

Fix it: Make sure new employees understand that feedback is welcome. Offer email addresses and other communication tools to keep the conversation going long after the employee manual is closed.

The onboarding process can be tricky, so make sure that each step is geared toward employee success. And although it doesn’t require the presence of a chief learning officer to keep things smooth. By simply focusing more on the employee’s place in an organization and less on the organization itself, any organization can create an onboarding protocol that is friendly, informative and collaborative.