Is Your Onboarding Experience Driving New Hires Away?

What differentiates companies that deliver great onboarding experiences from those that don’t?


New hires have to run through a gamut of forms, checks, screenings, emailing, training, credentialing, employee guidelines — yet too many HR professionals think about onboarding as the process that gets seats in the office filled. Without considering what makes a great onboarding experience great from the candidate perspective, you may be losing high-quality hires without realizing why.

What’s a sign that your onboarding needs an upgrade?

When your onboarding is truly out of date and causing issues, you won’t have to look very hard for a sign — new hires will tell you.

But even if it hasn’t gotten to that point, there’s a few things you can look out for.

The onboarding experience sets your new hire’s expectations for the entire employee-employer relationship. If it sets poor expectations, you’ll start to see more new hires leaving your company sooner than anticipated.

According to the Society for Human Resource management, nearly one-third of new hires quit within six months. What’s more, new hires that went through a structured onboarding were 58 percent more likely to stay with their company three years later and demonstrated 50 percent more productivity as new hires.

Keep an eye on your best-fit candidates, too — if you notice that some of the people you think would be perfect for your organization are turning elsewhere in the middle of or right after onboarding, it’s time to think deeply about what goes into a great new hire experience.

Great onboarding experiences aren’t born; they’re made

Nobody comes right out of the gate with the perfect onboarding process. Many companies don’t give too much thought to how the process unfolds from the perspective of a new hire and simply tackle issues as they occur.

Consider, for instance, a company hiring for a remote worker role — they’re familiar with the requirements of their home state, but they might not have considered whether their remote worker comes from a different state with different requirements. Or perhaps a healthcare provider agrees to hire a nurse with all the necessary credentials but fails to notice that key credentials are set to expire a week after their start date. Or they haven’t thought about how frustrating it is for their candidates to log onto a dozen different portals just to upload their info.

Every onboarding process is different, but there are common stumbling blocks that you can avoid to ensure that your new hires have a seamless experience. Here’s what you have to look out for.

1. Unclear requirements

If you’re commonly hearing the refrain from your candidates or new hires that they weren’t aware of a particular requirement (even if you’re sure you mentioned it to them), it could be a sign that your onboarding process needs an element of clarity.

Setting up a central source of information that shows new hires the next steps in the onboarding process can help. Rather than mentally keeping track of requirements and communicating them as they come up, a better practice is to set up a system that clearly shows what has been completed and what still needs to be done.

A lack of clarity over each next step has far-ranging impacts. It draws the onboarding process out, taking up both HR administration’s as well as the candidates’ time. When getting a new hire into their role as fast as possible is a priority, this ambiguity can be a killer.

2. Antagonistic design

Modern employees are used to things just working: Their shopping is done online at the click of a button, their banking is mobile and easily accessible, and if onboarding to their job doesn’t just work in the way that nearly every other system in their life does, it sends a bad sign.

Relying on snail mail or faxed documents is a classic example of an antagonistic onboarding experience. Not only is this cumbersome and slow, but once physical paperwork is filled out, it can be even more cumbersome to fix any mistakes.

Beyond having to fill out paperwork, many candidate portals are not mobile friendly. Smartphone usage is becoming an increasingly common means of accessing the web — being forced to access a computer and not being able to fill out requirements on the go can be a surprising and unpleasant experience from the candidate’s perspective.

Once you begin viewing this process through the candidate’s eyes, small but impactful ways to improve their experience will start to show up. Just remember to make onboarding as easy and user-friendly to the candidate as possible.

3. Poor communication

One of the fastest ways to sink an otherwise great onboarding experience is through poor communication, both in terms of what you say and what medium you say it through.

When candidates encounter an opaque item on a government form, they should have a quick means of reaching out to the HR professional in charge of their onboarding to clarify what they need. What’s more, it should be possible to communicate through the medium that the candidate feels the most comfortable using, whether that’s email, text messaging or a phone call.

Part of what makes for a good system of communication in the onboarding process is record-keeping. Regardless of how you communicate information to the candidate, there should be a shared system that keeps track of those conversations so everyone can see what has and has not been discussed. Not only does this avoid the issue of unclear requirements as mentioned above, it also comes in handy should there be a staffing audit in the future.

Addressing these issues is a great first step toward mastering the onboarding experience. Onboarding is a nuanced process with multiple moving parts, and trying to perfect it can seem like a daunting task. Hopefully these tips make improving it a little less intimidating!