Insight |

When onboarding new employees goes wrong (and what to do instead)


When onboarding new employees goes wrong (and what to do instead)

Insight |

When onboarding new employees goes wrong (and what to do instead)


As the Great Resignation/Attraction/Realignment rolls on, and job candidates are reconsidering their happiness, responsibilities, and value in their roles now more than ever, it’s critical to get onboarding right for your new employees.

Effective onboarding can mean the difference between establishing an engaged and high-performing team versus facing attrition, disengaged and uncommitted staff as well as unnecessary costs to your business.

So, what does an ineffective onboarding experience look like? Put it this way: have you ever started a new job feeling less than confident about what’s expected of you or unsure about how you’re supposed to succeed in the role? If so, you’ve probably had issues with your organization’s onboarding process. Now, consider whether or not this might be how your employees are feeling when they join your company.

A lackluster onboarding process (and/or making critical mistakes when onboarding) can have major impacts; not only on your employees but the business as a whole. In this post, we’ll take a look at the negative impacts of poor onboarding for organizations, and we’ll give you some strategies for mitigating them to help you and your employees succeed from the get-go.

What happens when onboarding goes wrong?

Whether you’re nonboarding, overboarding, or frankenboarding, if your onboarding for new employees goes wrong, here’s how it will likely affect your business:

1. Employee engagement levels go down

There’s an intrinsic relationship between onboarding and employee engagement: Essentially, to help your employees thrive in their role, they must be set up for success from the outset. When they’re not, you can bet their engagement and commitment to achieving goals and KPIs will start to diminish. 62% of companies with effective onboarding programs have a 54% increase in employee engagement, according to TechJury.

2. Business performance suffers

One of the key prerequisites to business performance is employee engagement. With disengaged team members, you can expect personal KPIs to be missed and, by extension, overall business goals to become out of reach for teams. According to Prialto, well onboarded employees are 38% more effective at their jobs. So it goes without saying that if your employees aren’t set up with the right equipment and tools, processes and documentation, as well as feel empowered and motivated to take on the tasks to fulfill their role from Day One, the tone will be poorly set for their ongoing performance.

3. Staff turnover rates go up

The risk of employee turnover and attrition rates are higher in the absence of effective onboarding. Why? Because a negative onboarding experience doubles the chances of an employee seeking another opportunity. Meanwhile, a great onboarding experience ensures 69% of employees stick with a company for three years according to Business News Daily. So, you can all but wave goodbye to long-term employee loyalty and commitment if your onboarding experience is far from on point; the chances are that the employee is already looking for a new job.

4. Your bottom line is impacted

Do you know how much it costs to effectively onboard a new employee? The cost of employee turnover could far outweigh this. Including initial training and development costs for new employees that would need to be spent again should they leave, a reduction in your attrition rate can equate to real savings. So, it literally pays to think about the experience a new starter has between signing their employment contract and reaching the end of their probation period.

RELATED: The 3 least effective onboarding techniques (and how to avoid them)

Dos and don’ts for onboarding new employees

So, how do you get ahead of these issues and make sure your staff onboarding strategy is working? Here’s a quick list of what not to do (and what to do instead) when it comes to that all-important process of inducting new team members:

  • DON’T be vague on what you expect from your new starters When 60% of companies are reportedly not setting any goals or milestones for new hires according to Harvard Business Review, we’re leaving far too many employees who want to start off strong not able to clearly define what they’re working towards.
  • DO set clear expectations through goal setting and tracking This might involve defining one-month, three-month and six-month goals and OKRs as well as encouraging your employees to set their own additional goals. Ask them: What do you want to get out of your first few months at our company? How can you contribute to the business’s success?
  • DON’T hand over their laptop and then ghost them Communication is key when it comes to the first few months of employment (and beyond). It’s super important (particularly when onboarding new employees remotely) that you don’t just check all the “paperwork” and “process” boxes, but to keep communication flowing.
  • DO set up regular check-ins and feedback opportunities so you can address any issues early on → Establishing a continuous feedback system complete with regular check-ins is likely the easiest and most effective way to ensure you’re highly connected and understand your new starter’s needs within the first few critical months of employment. 

Building and/or maintaining a distributed workforce? Get our free remote onboarding checklist to give new starters in any location a warm welcome.

Employee Wellness Survey and Analytics | HR Automation | intelliHR
  • DON’T overwhelm your new employees (and yourself) with a mountain of paperwork and processes → Did you know that the average new hire is expected to complete 54 activities during their onboarding process and 58% of organizations say that their onboarding program is focused on processes and paperwork? While important, this level of administrative work can become a heavy burden on both new starters and your own task load.
  • DO use employee onboarding software to streamline the process and speed up time to performance → More than 40% of the HR managers surveyed who don’t capture onboarding information electronically spend three hours or more per employee manually collecting and processing the data, while 16% spend five or more hours, according to Business News Daily. There’s an easy fix: use employee onboarding software which includes automated workflows to do the heavy lifting with leave tasks, stakeholder notifications, and paperwork centralized and easily accessible within a software platform (and gain insightful people data and real-time analytics on your new employees).Automatic Onboarding Workflows and Checklist | HR Automation | intelliHR
  • DON’T leave a bad first (cultural and social) impression →  According to 2020 onboarding statistics, 92% of new hires reportedly feel productive and important during their first month, after both cultural and operational onboarding. So, it goes without saying that social and cultural-led activities and sentiment should make up a large part of your onboarding process.
  • DO provide ample opportunities for social interaction and culture-building from the get-go → Develop that all-important sense of belonging, build trust, and allow your new hires to soak up the company culture (hint: the first day is the most important here) by welcoming them with a social activity, a shout-out on Slack, assigning them a buddy, and providing access to (fun) digital tools.
  • DON’T simply set and forget your onboarding strategy → We’re not suggesting constantly changing up your techniques for onboarding new employees (which could do more harm than good, not to mention, take up too much time), but if things aren’t working, it literally pays to review, change, and optimize your process and/or tools to ensure every new starter is getting the most out of their first few months of employment.
  • DO use data and feedback from new employees to continuously improve your onboarding → Use tangible insights from initial performance reviews, check-ins, and continuous feedback activities to inform whether your onboarding process and techniques actually work. Are your new employees prepared, engaged, and happy in their new job? Do they understand the expectations of their role and are they performing accordingly? The data will tell you, making it easy to take these learnings and make the necessary changes to your onboarding process before your next round of hiring.
Employee Performance Reports and Trends

Want a full list of tangible actions for optimizing your onboarding? Grab our free new employee onboarding checklist.


Effective onboarding processes bring your new staff up to speed more quickly so they can hit the ground running to start making a positive impact on their own individual and team goals as well as the business’s overall success. Meanwhile, when onboarding new employees goes wrong, the ramifications can affect every aspect of your company in a negative way. It’s well worth the time and energy to get your employee onboarding process right; feel free to keep the above dos and don’ts list handy to review as you bring on new employees, this year and beyond.


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