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Common misperceptions about onboarding

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Reframing the onboarding experience for enhanced employee engagement

Onboarding is one of the most important aspects of employee retention and integrating new hires within the broader company culture. Onboarding goes beyond only orientation and can include an entire onboarding program that helps new employees gain understanding, knowledge, and skills within your business operations and model.

How a new employee experiences their first week (and first year) has a direct impact on their long-term commitment to your business. A recent study found that a fifth of new recruits or new employees have left a company between the first week and the first two months of taking on their new role. Moreover, the decision to stay long-term is often made within the first six months of employment.

This article will support hiring managers and business leaders to reconsider their onboarding approach, especially in understanding common misperceptions about onboarding strategy. Onboarding myths can lead to poor experiences for employees, and thus impacting the overall effectiveness of human resources approaches.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is the process in which new hires are added and integrated into a new company for a specific job role or position. Onboarding has typically included a new-hire orientation with education around the organization’s history, values, mission, and vision. Activities with other new recruits are typically included in this process. Paperwork is also completed, ensuring that human resources has everything that they need for each employee. Instead of thinking of onboarding as a singular event, there has been a cultural shift to think of onboarding as a long-term process that ultimately instills employee loyalty and investment.

What are common misperceptions about onboarding?

New hire onboarding can be effective, streamlined, and impactful when done correctly. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to debunk myths of onboarding and introduce new team members to your company in a more helpful way. From the first day and beyond, employees in a new job should continue to want to learn and grow within your business model. Effective onboarding can set this in the right direction.

Myth 1: Onboarding is time-limited

Many companies design onboarding as an orientation period full of training, paperwork, and interactions with existing employees or co-workers. However, an effective onboarding strategy will promote onboarding as a process that extends beyond a single orientation period.

Instead of thinking of this learning process as time-bound, employees should be supported intensively throughout their first year (and beyond). Regular check-ins with employees can help ensure they are getting their questions answered and have a clear understanding of your company’s vision and operations, as well as their specific role on the team. Instead of providing all of the information about your company in a single packet of materials, consider providing a database or resource center for employees to refer back to throughout their employment experience. Training should begin at orientation, not end.

Myth 2: Onboarding is only for large corporations

Small businesses may be tempted to think that with smaller-scale operations, an investment in onboarding or orientation isn’t necessary. However, with the right technological tools and team-centric approach, onboarding can be implemented effectively at smaller businesses as well. Investing in onboarding is especially critical for smaller businesses so that retention rates can be maintained over time. Moreover, many roles at smaller businesses overlap or crossover, so tasks and processes should be clearly delineated.

Myth 3: All new team members should be trained the same way

The employee onboarding process should include foundational principles for all employees to learn about, however, each person has a unique role within the broader company structure.

As such, each new employee should have the opportunity to experience a more customized training program, which may include:

  • Connecting with the co-workers they will work with more closely
  • Engaging with employee onboarding software for trainings that are most relevant to their role
  • Meeting with different human resources managers to get a sense of all aspects of business operations

Training programs can be dynamic so that they are more impactful long-term.

Myth 4: The only indicator of success of onboarding is a high return on investment

Measuring the cost effectiveness of onboarding programs is difficult because the positive outcomes can be challenging to measure. For example, effective onboarding can result in increased employee engagement, completion of additional webinars, compliance with company policies (such as dress code), and an increased life cycle of their work over time. When employees are more confident in their ability to complete their tasks, business leaders can trust in their team’s ability to meet the bottom line.

Myth 5: Onboarding is only for new employees

Not only are new employees not always ready to dive into onboarding training right away, older employees can also benefit from company training at different points in their career Day one for new employees could include a softer introduction to the business, with technical training sprinkled throughout their orientation and ongoing onboarding process. A slower integration process will help build the employee’s first impression from their start date.

Myth 6: Onboarding programs should only be led by team members from human resources

Many companies delegate all onboarding processes and programs to human resources teams. A different approach would be to integrate the process within various teams at the company with the hope that new employees can engage in skill sets from across the different teams. The more people that new employees can meet and engage with, the more likely they will feel part of the team from the very beginning. Cross-training is a great way to equip new employees with internal resources that they will have available to them in their workflows.

Myth 7: Onboarding should not include social learning opportunities

Learning management systems do not only have to include webinars that require listening and test-taking for skill acquisition. Instead, you can infuse your training with opportunities for feedback, discussion, and exploration with other team members. Using a multi-faceted approach to learning will support employees that have different learning styles and who seek to build internal connections within their new workplace.

Taking onboarding to the next level

By overcoming onboarding myths and revolutionizing the processes you take with orienting and onboarding new employees, you open new doors for how employees engage with your organization. Reframing the onboarding experience as one that is dynamic, phased, non-linear, and ongoing doesn’t always require a large investment of resources. Instead, it requires a new strategic plan, with integration and input from team members across various parts of your organization.

Investing in the employee experience from the very beginning will help employees feel supported and valued from their first day and beyond. You will begin to see how new, fresh approaches debunk onboarding myths and create long-term relationships and commitments from your employees. 

Next steps

Are you ready to redesign and reframe your onboarding strategy at your organization? Are you ready to debunk common misconceptions about employee onboarding and introduce new approaches with new recruits?

Heartland is ready to help.

Heartland helps nearly 1,000,000 entrepreneurs make and move money, manage employees and engage customers with human-centered technology solutions that allow them to rise above the daily grind and lead their businesses into a brighter future. Learn more at heartland.us