Onboarding Angelina DiCaro

3 Common Onboarding Mistakes—and How to Prevent Them

By Acara HR Administrator Angelina DiCaro

Is onboarding really that important? Your employees seem to think so—and you should, too.

According to these onboarding stats compiled by Sapling, “Only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.” Those are some rough numbers. Even worse, though, is the negative impact they can have on employee retention.

If research suggests that a good onboarding experience is essential to retaining employees, what are you doing to make it happen at your workplace? If the answer is “not enough,” here are some onboarding mistakes you could be making and how to overcome them.


Onboarding Mistake #1: You’re unprepared.

It doesn’t matter if your new hire is fresh out of college or entering the twilight of their career—starting a new job at a new workplace with new people can be a jarring experience. It’s a vulnerable position to be in—which is why your onboarding approach really needs to emphasize the human element of Human Resources.

Remember: your goal here is to help your new hire acclimate, engage, and retain.

To do so, make your new hires feel at home. Create welcoming materials that sound more like conversations than directions. Stop overloading them with info. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. Consider having these materials ready to roll on Day One:

Announcement email to staff

  • Name and title of new employee
  • Brief description of new employee’s role
  • Fun fact about new employee
  • Photo of new employee
  • Invitations to connect on LinkedIn (with friendly message)

Welcome letter (or video) to new hire

  • Warm and friendly tone
  • Brief description of company and departments
  • Signed from CEO

Onboarding schedule

  • Names and titles of co-workers to meet
  • Brief description of co-worker’s role
  • Fun fact about co-worker
  • Photo of co-worker

“A Day in the Life” example of the position

  • A quick look at the day to day
  • Summary outline of tasks, events, and expectations

Necessary materials and supplies

  • Clean and accessible workspace
  • Tech: laptop, desktop, tablet, etc. ready to go
  • Tech-related instructions, such as login info
  • Welcome letter
  • Company swag?

Related: HR Guide to Onboarding


Onboarding Mistake #2: Goals and expectations are unclear.

Let’s be real—the daily grind of going to work can be tough. Waking up in the morning? Brutal. Dealing with traffic? Terrible. But hey, we’re grateful to have jobs, aren’t we? And who doesn’t remember the thrill of starting a new opportunity? It can be exhilarating! Unless… you have no idea what to do.

Does your new hire know absolutely everything about what your company does and how you do it? Of course not. But they probably wish they did—and it’s your job to help them. Also, consider this: it takes an average of six months for a new hire to feel entirely prepared for their position. That means you need to set clear and achievable expectations early, often, and throughout the entire employee experience.

What’s the best way to establish goals and expectations right off the bat? Transparency.

Yes, you probably discussed goals and expectations with your new hire during the hiring or interview process. But now’s the time to make it crystal clear. Here’s how to do it:

  • Spell out *accurate* goals and expectations in an onboarding box or a package
  • Consistently check in on employee progress
  • Point out how the employee will help the department and organization as a whole
  • Outline hypothetical circumstances and ideal solutions
  • Deliver and adhere to a formal schedule
  • Create first-hand opportunities to learn, build relationships, and network
  • Provide insights on company etiquette


Onboarding Mistake #3: You say too much too quickly.

As BizRun points out in this onboarding article, “You don’t want to inundate a new hire with too much information that she can never hope to retain.” It sounds like obvious advice, but many employers still fall into the trap of overloading new hires with just too much stuff.

How can you avoid this all-too-familiar pitfall? Be patient.

The easiest way to explain how to be patient during the onboarding process is to say, “Do this” and “Don’t do this.” Here goes:


Do not greet new hires with a stack of paperwork to read and sign

Do offer a checklist of items to read and sign over the next couple of weeks


Do not single out your employee among a large group of people

Do give your employee natural opportunities to meet and greet in smaller groups


Do not isolate your new employee

Do facilitate opportunities for them to naturally explore their work environment


There’s a reason workers say that “onboarding is often more painful than a bad date.” To develop and sustain a long and wonderful relationship, guarantee “love at first sight” with these onboarding tips!


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