7 New Hire Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid

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“The Great Resignation” has become a new buzzword every HR professional is familiar with. For employees, it’s an exciting time to reevaluate what they want from their careers and if their current job is fulfilling those goals. For employers, it’s a reminder that the competition for talent needs to remain one of their top priorities, especially when it comes to onboarding. For recruiters, it’s a lot more work.

As competition heats up for talent, organizations need to update their onboarding processes. They don’t want to invest all the resources to get the right person and then lose them. And first impressions matter. Take these statistics, for example: 

  • Gallup found that 88% of new hires think their employer did a poor job of onboarding them.
  • People who had a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to start searching for a new job in the immediate future. 

If your company doesn’t get onboarding right, it can be an exorbitant waste of time and resources. A study by Manulife revealed that employee turnover could cost up to 40% of their salary. On the other hand, if you get onboarding right, you stand to benefit:

  • Companies with a structured onboarding process that’s a positive experience for new hires are likely to retain 69% of them for three or more years. 
  • 77% of employees who went through a formal onboarding program achieved their first performance goals.

Onboarding is critical–plain and simple. But many companies are getting it wrong. This article will break down the 7 most common mistakes that are detrimental to your onboarding process. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be on track to attract the right people, set them up for success, and build winning teams.

7 onboarding mistakes to avoid

These 7 mistakes are both practical things we miss while bringing on new hires and mindsets that need changing. Think about your current onboarding process. Are any of these 7 onboarding mistakes cropping up?

Not properly preparing for the person’s first day

As we’ve seen, first impressions are crucial. If a new employee is left to their own devices on their first day with your organization or is given no direction for onboarding with your team, consider the message this conveys about your hiring practices. A new hire should not be met with confusion at 9 am on day 1. 

Instead, have a plan. Take care of the administrative work ahead of time and chart out their first day. As the person handling their onboarding, if you’re scrambling to get all your boxes checked, you’ll send a message of disorganization to the new hire. Make the menial tasks associated with onboarding as streamlined as possible. Removing friction will free up more time to connect them with others and get them acquainted with the culture. 

At Lever, for example, we include our onboarding strategy in job postings for candidates, so they’re aware before they apply how our onboarding works! Once a new hire is brought on to the team, our recruiters provide them with everything they need to get started on day one—making onboarding seamless and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Thinking of it as just filling out paperwork

In line with preparing for their first day, don’t look at onboarding as an administrative task. It’s much more than signing a new hire up for benefits, getting them added to payroll, providing them with the necessary tech, etc. It’s an opportunity to put the company’s best foot forward and inspire confidence in your new team member that they made the right decision in joining your team. 

Lesa Hammond, the CEO of Prof360 (who’s been the CHRO for three universities and has a PhD in transformative learning and leadership) shares that “most HR people and companies think of onboarding as giving the person all of the ‘new hire paperwork’, they don’t recognize it as integrating the person into the organization and its culture.”

We spoke with Erica Keswin, a workplace strategist and author of Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines into Workplace Magic and she shared a couple of examples of companies that go the extra mile to welcome new hires:

  • At Motley Fool, as soon as a new hire accepts the job, they are asked to fill out a questionnaire with questions like, what is your favorite food, drink, hobbies? On the first day, the new hire’s desk is covered with his or her favorite treats. Amid the hybrid revolution, many companies are now shipping these goodies to employees’ homes to feel love even before the first day. 
  • Connect new hires to someone inside the organization who can serve as an ambassador. At John Deere, employees receive a simple email before their first day of work from a buddy about what to wear, where to park, or what link to use to log on!

Not providing a proper introduction to the culture you’re building

A successful onboarding process will introduce the new hire to the culture of the organization. As Amy Hirsh Robinson, from the consulting firm The Interchange Group, says, “It offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.” 

A good example of a company introducing employees to their culture is Indeed. Their onboarding process–what they call Impact onboarding–groups new hires together as cohorts. 

They give these groups a business challenge and task them with ​​developing an idea, testing and tweaking it, and then presenting it to managers and colleagues–all within their first week. 

Indeed’s onboarding process is a great way to help employees learn about the company culture through the different perspectives of other new hires and their future managers and colleagues.

For this reason, it’s a critical onboarding error to miss the opportunity to introduce new hires to your culture. How can employees feel confident and be set up for success if they don’t learn from the get-go:

  • What your company values;
  • How you communicate as an organization;
  • How your teams think about the challenges and opportunities your company faces.

New hires have a short 90-day window to adapt to your company culture. To do so, they need to learn about the company through those they’ll be working with. This leads us to our next point.

Not connecting them with their peers and potential mentors

A CNBC article on the Great Resignation states that “of the 26% of workers planning to leave their employers after the pandemic, 80% are doing so because they’re concerned about their career advancement.” Further, 72% of them are rethinking their skill sets because of the pandemic. 

These statistics show that your new hires are eager to learn new skills and advance their careers through development. 

One of the most important ways to provide employees with meaningful growth is by connecting them with their colleagues and mentors. 


Firstly, our workplaces require more collaboration than ever. And with most workplaces adopting remote-first or hybrid models, it’s more challenging for colleagues to connect. For that reason, new hires need onboarding buddies. Buddy programs give new hires someone they can relate to while adjusting to their role. Buddy programs either:

  • Group new hires together as pairs or small cohorts
  • Pair up experienced employees with new hires

Companies with strong onboarding buddy programs have better productivity levels, satisfaction, and employee retention. 

Secondly, mentors are critical to all employees’ growth and development, not just new hires. But pairing mentors with new employees specifically can improve their career trajectory, their engagement, and their success within your organization. The benefits of pairing new employees with mentors include:

  • Learning workplace culture faster
  • Introducing networking opportunities
  • Increasing visibility for future promotions
  • Gaining valuable knowledge-sharing opportunities

Mentorship can be seen as something that has to happen organically, but a formal mentoring program that ensures all new hires have access to mentoring opportunities separates the successful from the disengaging onboarding programs. If you’re starting an onboarding program, check out examples of ideas for your mentorship program.

Throwing them into the fire immediately

It’s tempting to give new employees–especially those with more experience–projects and responsibilities right away, however, doing so can set the stage for your new talent’s early departure.

Stefan Wissenbach, founder of Engagement Multiplier, an employee engagement software shares his thoughts on throwing new hires into the fire too quickly:

“Giving in to the temptation to set the new hire to task right away is likely to result in frustration and a terrible experience for them: on the one hand, they’re incredibly motivated to get off to a strong start and make an impact, but in reality, they’re not fully equipped to do their best work. Your talented newcomer may become rapidly frustrated, disheartened, fail to reach their potential, and even decide to leave the company.”

It’s an onboarding mistake to task new hires with challenging projects right out of the gate. Instead, give them confidence with lower hanging fruit. This will give them a chance to succeed before taking on more challenging tasks.

Not providing or consulting with them about onboarding goals

Whether or not new hires share them with you, they likely have long term career goals they’re working towards. It’d be a mistake not to tie their onboarding experience toward those goals. 

In doing so, you’ll increase their motivation by tying the work they’ll be doing every day to their personal goals. It’s a recipe to increase their engagement and provide them with more fulfillment at work. 

Additionally, give hew hires goals for their first 30, 60, and 90 days. This is a common practice for onboarding that provides clarity on what stage new hires are at and where they’re going.

Not checking in

The last onboarding mistake to be aware of is a simple one: checking in with your new hire. 

It’s a simple task to add to your calendar while onboarding new hires. At the end of their first day, make sure to follow up with them and ask them how they’re doing. It can be an email, a video call, or a coffee chat. It’ll signal to the new hire that you care about how they’re doing, and is also a great opportunity to give them space to ask questions and for you to get feedback on your onboarding process. Maybe there’s something you missed, or a small touch you didn’t realize was so impactful for new hires. 

During the onboarding process, make a note in your calendar to check in with them at the following times:

  • The end of their first day
  • The end of their first week
  • The end of their first month
  • After 3 months

It may seem overkill to check in this frequently, but it can make a big difference for new hires to know there are people around them that care about them joining the company successfully.

How To Set Up New Hires For Success

To set up your new hires for success, change your mindset around onboarding. Focus on the person and what you can do to help them succeed: 

  • Consult them on their goals, tie them back to the onboarding process;
  • Connect them with their peers and assign them mentors;
  • Provide opportunities for them to learn about the culture;
  • Check in with them periodically to remind them they’re supported.

Another way to ensure your onboarding process is successful is by hiring the right people and ensuring they have what they need to succeed in their role. Our recruiting guide to internal mobility teaches you everything you need to know about recruiting new talent that can grow with your organization—from day one and beyond. Get your free copy of our complete internal mobility guide below!