Common Pitfalls to Avoid

1) Onboarding is not training or orientation

Onboarding is currently undervalued and frequently misunderstood. Too many companies skip proper onboarding which not only helps employees understand what is required in their day-to-day jobs, but also helps them connect their jobs to the overall strategy of the organization. Orientation can actually be a part of the onboarding process, but onboarding goes far beyond the simple parameters of an orientation session. Onboarding, on the other hand, exists to serve the employee by helping them engage with the organization’s culture, connect with others who can help them succeed, and ease their adjustment into their new role.


2) Starting onboarding before the first day

On the surface, it sounds sensible that onboarding would start on the first day of employment. However, the truth is that the most effective onboarding programs start during the recruiting process. Ensure employees are not lured by more engaging experiences and feel valued even before they join the team. Pre-boarding is the process of making use of the time between when a candidate signs an offer letter and when they begin their first day at your company. You can capitalize on this time by sharing information about your office and policies, taking care of logistics like tax and legal paperwork, prepping new hires for what to expect once they begin, and maybe even surprising and delighting them. By putting together a list of FAQs and sharing them with new hires before their first day, you help ease their anxiety. Send paperwork in advance so they can complete in their own time, freeing up their first day for more meaningful tasks. Employees want to feel like they’re making a positive contribution to your company as soon as possible, and pre-boarding helps facilitate that by answering their questions and taking care of administrative tasks before they even set foot in the office.


Automated processes ensures key milestones are mapped out in advance. For example, Google’s just-in-time alert system ensures that a manager due to take on a new starter will receive a reminder email 24 hours beforehand, drawing their attention to five simple but pivotal tasks to the productivity of their new hire.

  • Discuss roles and responsibilities
  • Match the new hire with a ‘peer buddy’
  • Help the individual build a social network
  • Set up monthly onboarding check-ins for the first six months
  • Encourage open dialogue


There are many reasons why organizations should invest in effective preboarding, including:

  • Reducing no-shows
  • Building early engagement and excitement
  • Employer branding and referral
  • Improving early retention


In addition to the obvious goal of shortening the time to productivity, preboarding has an additional purpose - to minimize the possibility that currently employed candidates will rethink their decision to accept your offer. Innovative approaches include a letter from the CEO with a followup meeting once they commence employment, early access to the LinkedIn profiles of their new colleagues with an invitation for their team to connect with them, personalized videos and inviting them to share their needs/concerns.


3) Assuming a new hire can’t be productive from the start

Dumping excessive information on new hires will have them running for the hills due to cognitive overload. Divide the workload and spend time focusing on your company’s culture and how they can champion its values and how their role fits into overall strategy. If new employees immediately know “why” their work is important and their impact, they are more likely to be productive and focused. Consider forming a "new hire" affinity group, so that newbies can share problems, opportunities and experiences with each other. It is important to start contributing quickly. Early wins highlight the new leader’s ability to quickly assess and take initiative.