Five Common Onboarding Issues and How to Avoid Them

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Starting a new job might be cause for nerves, but it shouldn’t induce headaches.

Organizations that understand this fact will ensure their onboarding process is smooth for the new employee and seamless for the HR staff.

Yet many organizations still struggle with onboarding. Their process is too slow, not efficient, or lacks the personal touch that puts new hires at ease.

In this article, we’ll look at five common onboarding issues that arise in broken systems. Then we’ll wrap things up with a solution that can help you avoid all these pitfalls.

#1: A Lack of Orientation

Onboarding serves two basic purposes:

  1. Gather and audit new employee information.
  2. Introduce your company’s mission, culture, and values to your new hire.

The first problem with an ineffective process is that too much of the information a new hire needs is communicated in a disjointed, tribal manner. For example, a supervisor in the marketing department might answer the same question differently than a manager from accounting. When this occurs, it’s difficult to create a unified experience.

Many new employees are hesitant to ask questions in the first place, and if they get different answers, it can totally shut them down to finding the answers they need.

In addition to orientation issues, onboarding often feels like a data dump.

Handing a new hire like a stack of paper and expecting them to learn and digest it on their own isn’t a warm welcome or an efficient use of time.

Organizations wouldn’t spend months and thousands of dollars attracting a client, then send them 800 pages of onboarding paperwork with the instructions, “Fill everything out, sign the legal document, and let us know if you have any questions.”

Why should employees be treated any different than clients?

#2: Colleagues Must Answer Questions

Many times, once a new hire is finally finished completing the paperwork, they go to work with substantial knowledge gaps and are unsure how to fill those gaps.

For example, when the employee is two months into work and wants to take a three-day vacation, they don’t remember (or worse, never learned) how to handle it.

Rather than bugging a supervisor (or get mixed message again), the employee might ask a colleague what the procedure is to request time off.

Now both employees are being pulled away from their job duties, and on a deeper level, the response to this inquiry leads to inconsistent processes among departments.

It might not seem like a big deal, but consistent knowledge gaps set companies up for cascading failure from both a resource and a personnel perspective.

#3: Knowledge Gaps Slow Things Down

When onboarding isn’t done well, there are knowledge gaps on the HR side too.

If a new hire’s paperwork goes to the wrong desk, for instance, HR might not know about that employee until pay day arrives and the new hire isn’t paid.

This situation—and many others like it—makes HR feels like a transactional department rather than a resource that helps your company and your employees.

If you think such a snafu is uncommon, think again.

My organization, Poplar Financial, works with companies to streamline their processes. I can’t tell you the number of times HR departments didn’t know someone was hired.

Or worse, sometimes HR is the only office to handle hiring, meaning they’re consistently overwhelmed and not always matching new hires to the right supervisor.

#4: Delays in Getting Insurance

Many HR processes are time sensitive, and delays and missing information can cause more than simply logistical issues. Consider this scenario:

An HR associate picks up a new employee’s information sheet and tries to enter the information into the retirement portal. The HR associate has the new hire’s hourly rate but does not know how many hours she worked or is expected to work.

In addition, the employee was hired for a part-time position, but the HR associate isn’t sure they work enough hours to be eligible for a 401(k).

He continues to input the data he has, leaving gaps along the way.

Now the HR associate must go out and gather the missing information. This back and forth delays the arrival of the new employee’s 401k.

Now the employee is upset because she doesn’t have retirmenet and hasn’t had it for two weeks. HR is stressed and rushing to make things right.

The scenario is time-consuming and sends a negative (usually unfair) message to the new employee: HR is a necessary evil that should be avoided if possible.

#5: Training Seen as Unimportant

Another common scenario is one in which an employee has been working for an organization for several weeks but, due to the workload over in HR, the company’s sexual harassment training was overlooked during onboarding.

HR knows they are supposed to send the employee through trainings on situations like these, but so much time has lapsed that an HR associate decides to simply ask the employee if she has any questions about the sexual harassment policy.

More often than not, the employee will not have questions, and it’s easy for the HR associate to move on and mark that box on the form as complete.

By now, the employee has the impression that these required trainings are unimportant, that “it’s just paperwork.” That this uninformative, boring paperwork is what HR does—an attitude that will come back to haunt HR and the employee in the end.

Solution: An Automated Onboarding System

Onboarding shouldn’t be a dreadful experience for you or the new employee.

Instead, it should be a way for you to welcome someone to your team and leave them feeling motivated and happy to be there. The process itself, as with every HR procedure, should be automated, repeatable, compliant, and scalable.

To accomplish this effectively, you should be involved before the employee actually comes on board, preferably via a recruiting platform through which you can manage the process more effectively. At the least, your HR department should be present from the time the employee receives the offer or welcome letter forward.

An automated HR system that deploys a smooth, seamless onboarding experience will help organizations of every size avoid the pitfalls that come with new hires.

About the author, Rhamy

Rhamy grew up watching and working with his mother and grandmother in the seniors insurance market. This familiarity with the struggles faced by people trying to navigate the incredibly complicated and heavily regulated healthcare market led him to start Poplar Financial while working on his degree at the University of Memphis. After completing his MBA and Bachelors in Finance and Economics, Rhamy guided Poplar Financial through the disruptive opportunity that is the Affordable Care Act. Since then Poplar Financial has received numerous awards from major insurance carriers, and has completed its fourth year in a row of doubling in size. Now his team focuses on the processes around human resources, and specializes in providing companies with between 20 and 1000 employees with the payroll, benefits, and HR needs.

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