6 employee onboarding mistakes to avoid blog header


6 Employee Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid

Creating an onboarding program that makes employees want to stick around for years can take time, patience, and a few trials and errors along the way to master. We’ll tell you some of the onboarding mistakes you need to avoid.

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Everyone knows the benefits of a solid employee onboarding program, and yet it’s easy to make common employee onboarding mistakes

But avoiding common onboarding challenges will lead to;

  • ✅ Lower turnover of team members 
  • ✅ More engaged employees
  • ✅ Increased productivity

Here’s a list of the top 6 onboarding challenges and, most importantly, how to avoid them.

6 essential employee onboarding mistakes and challenges to avoid

Mistake no 1. Don't wait until the first day to start onboarding

This might surprise you, but a solid onboarding process that retains top talent starts when the offer letter is accepted. 

This stage is called pre-onboarding (or preboarding) and is the period between your employee accepting the offer letter and starting their first day. Its purpose is to build on your new hire’s excitement and make their first days less stressful. 

But if you forgo the pre-onboarding stage, you risk employees feeling unsure about their decision and overwhelmed. Of course, we know new hires are sure to feel a little anxious when they first start. But your goal is to ensure they don’t start their new position feeling like a ball of nerves with tons of paperwork to fill out.  

To prevent this, create a pre-onboarding checklist that you can use to help your new hires feel valued and excited for their first official day. Here are some things you can send to make the process more streamlined: 

✅ A Welcome to the Company email 

✅ Documents for them to e-sign

✅ A swag package with company merch like a hoodie, mug, and pen

Employee handbook

“We use Whale ourselves to make sure we have a thorough onboarding program for each person. And it starts long before their first day. We start begin onboarding once the offer letter has been signed.
Gary Vanbutsele in a blue hoodie standing in front of a blue background raises 2.5 million.
Gary Vanbutesele
CEO & Co-founder, Whale

Mistake no 2. Unorganized onboarding process

Pre-onboarding isn’t the only stage that needs to be well-planned. The last thing new hires want to hear when they start their first day is, “We’re not sure what to do with you; we’ll find somewhere for you to go.” This can lead to their first impression of onboarding (and, in turn, your company) as being unorganized. It can also make them feel like they don’t belong.

That’s why you’ll need to create an employee onboarding checklist. This checklist will help you create a repeatable system you can use when you onboard new hires so you never feel like you’re winging it. 

And you can use a tool like Whale to put all your onboarding processes in one place and allow employees to access it when needed.

Image of the Whale Dashboard

Mistake no 3. Having a lackluster reception

Another common employee onboarding mistake is a lackluster reception. No, not the type of reception after you hear wedding bells ring. But the one new hires experience when they clock in for the first time. 

Did they have to ask around to find their desk? Did anyone greet them when they walked through the doors? Did anyone know they were starting today? 

This issue is magnified with remote employees, and there’s no one to help them navigate their new role virtually. And that’s not what you want your new hires to feel. 

You want them to feel welcomed and like you were prepared for their arrival. 

Some companies with in-person teams have welcome signs and banners to create a memorable reception for their employees. Other companies that onboard mostly remote employees send first-day Slack messages, including the entire department or company. 

You might also consider welcoming them to the team with a personalized gift.  

Your approach doesn’t have to be over-the-top if that’s not part of your company’s culture. But it does need to exist.

personalized welcome gift quote

Mistake no 4. Having an onboarding process that lasts one week

Just like onboarding doesn’t start on the first day, it also doesn’t end after the first week. And that’s what makes this a common onboarding mistake many companies make. They assume that if they limit onboarding to week one when there’s a ton of paperwork to fill out, their new hire can hit the ground running in week two. 

The truth is that most of the heavy load of onboarding happens in the weeks leading up to a new employee’s first day and the two weeks following it. However, that doesn’t mean it stops there! 

Thorough onboarding programs that retain new hires can last 90 days, up to a year. 

You’ll spend this time: 

  • ✅ Continuing to get them familiar with the company’s culture
  • ✅ Tying up loose ends
  • ✅ Offering training and development opportunities
  • ✅ Reviewing their performance
  • ✅ Providing and collecting feedback

So, even though your onboarding process likely won’t have as much as week one, it’s still a vital component of your overall program.  

employee onboarding mistake quote

Mistake no 5. Not giving new hires a chance to share feedback

An employee onboarding mistake that many companies make is not allowing their new employees to share their thoughts. Your new staff are goldmines for information that can help you better retain and onboard future hires. 

They can help you see:

  • Was your onboarding program detailed enough to prepare them for their new role? 
  • Were there any gaps in your onboarding process
  • Was your company’s culture accurately represented during onboarding?

Besides gathering this insight, asking for employee feedback will show them you value their opinion. And when employees see you value their opinions, it creates an environment where they can openly share their thoughts, making them more engaged. 🥳

A survey by Gallup found that 78% of participants who agreed that their managers were more approachable were more engaged in their role.

One way to collect this feedback is by scheduling one-on-one meetings with your new hires during week one. Another option is to send onboarding surveys to them once a month for the first three months and then quarterly until the first year mark. 

Mistake 6. Not setting clear expectations

Even if your new hire has ample experience in the role you hired them for, they don’t have experience at your company. And this is where many companies face issues. 

They assume their employees know exactly what’s expected from them — without explicitly stating it. Or they leave it to the job description to explain their role in the company’s ecosystem. 

In reality, employees thrive when they know what you expect from them. If you hired a sales rep, their previous role possibly only expected them to close deals. On the other hand, you might expect them to find and close deals and upsell existing customers. 

But if you don’t clarify this for your employees, you risk them not reaching their full potential in their role.

To create a positive onboarding experience, you must clearly explain and define your expectations for them. You’ll also need to hold regular performance evaluations to make sure their performance aligns with your expectations. 

Bottom line?

Your onboarding program is the beginning of a long, lasting relationship between your new hire and your company. And now that you know some common pitfalls to avoid, you’re one step closer to creating a process that can positively impact how employees interact with your company. 🤩

Need help documenting your onboarding process in one place so you always know you’re avoiding these mistakes for each employee you hire?

Read Everything you need to know about employee onboarding

Or just sign up for Whale’s forever-free plan today and test it out for yourself.

FAQs on onboarding mistakes

The biggest challenges on new employee onboarding include;

  • The lack of an onboarding process
  • Not proving human connection and support to new hires
  • Waiting until the first day to start onboarding
  • Not proving new hires with the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback
  • Hiring managers who are not involved in the onboarding process

Yes! You can head on over to our onboarding templates on Whale where you’ll find;

  • The complete onboarding checklist
  • An onboarding checklist for new hires
  • A 30-60-90 day onboarding process

Using employee onboarding software, like Whale, assists avoid onboarding mistakes by;

  • Having a systemized onboarding process
  • Providing a central resource for team members to access information needed
  • Automated employee onboarding workflows remove repetitive manual steps and frees up time for human connection


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