10 Common On-Boarding Mistakes~

It is such a colossal waste of time and resources when a company invests in a search for their ideal candidate, interviews multiple top-notch candidates, extends the offer, and then fails to integrate the candidate correctly, thereby causing the candidate to resign.

On-Boarding is essentially extending a welcome mat to a new employee, and it is critical to do it correctly. Yet astoundingly, many companies fail to see the importance of assigning someone to ensure that a new employees’ first few weeks run smoothly, leaving them to flounder in what is already a stressful situation.

You would never think of having an automated system in place to welcome a valued guest into your home. However, we are seeing an increasing number of companies relying on automated systems, as well as out-sourced foreign companies responsible for welcoming new members to their team.  This predictably does not go well, and more times than not, results in a negative first impression which often times results in having the new hire leave in frustration.

Here are the 10 most common on-boarding fails that we have witnessed over the years.


  1. Having a new hire have access to internal systems so they can set up auto deposit payroll, parking passes, etc. ideally is done prior to the person actually starting. When companies use over-seas vendors to support their ATS and HRIS systems, and when there is a 12-hour time delay associated with asking for support, it causes unnecessary frustration. Yet all too common we hear of employees showing up to their first day of work, with absolutely nothing in place.
  2.  Mergers and Acquisitions. When 2 companies are joining forces, chances are they are currently running on different platforms. Integrating these systems and offering live, hands on training should be offered to the employees who are being asked to learn a new system on day one. Letting the group that is having to learn a new system flounder for answers is not a great way to integrate two fully functioning teams.
  3. Asset Management. Laptops and other devices provided should be pre-programed and ready to use day one. When items such as these are in short supply and the new employee has to hunt them down, it causes needless delays and unnecessary frustration.
  4. Every company should have a very clear and well structured orientation process set out for all new hires. When orientation is automated, they lose a golden opportunity to bring a new hire into the company fold. Especially if there are 2 companies acting as 1 on the outside and when the orientation is automated, it is a recipe for disaster. None of us enjoy trying to communicate with a robot, and having to navigate all the challenges that a new position involves with an automated service starts off what ideally will be a long-term partnership on the wrong foot.
  5. Benefits and payroll are two obviously critical factors that should be taken care of prior to having your employee start their first day, with all the required paperwork ready for them to complete. There is simply no excuse to require someone to hunt down how to get signed up for benefits, and it definitely should not be a mystery on how to get paid.    While benefits are generally managed by a third-party vendor and if their website is not accessible because the employee’s information has not been sent to that vendor, it creates frustration from the onset. And when payroll is set up in the HRIS system, if the employee does have not an activated ID it could take days to potentially weeks to get direct deposit enabled. These are unnecessary challenges that can be easily overcome with a little foresight on the part of the company. When employee information is drawn into the HRIS from the ATS, unless everything is running smoothly the chances of having it go haywire are high. If the location of the job in the HRIS  is different from the state the employee resides in, it can actually cause the employee to be taxed in 2 states!!
  6. When HR functions in large companies are vague and when no one is specifically assigned to assist in on-boarding, problems can be expected to arise. And when the orientation system is set up to be automated, the scenario is bound to result in a bad if not disastrous first impression.
  7. We have recently been hearing about dedicated chat lines set up to resolve HR issues, which is inherently problematic. Human Resources is one area that truly require a real live  human being, and attempting to automate tasks within the HR field are fraught with problems. Personally, we have never heard of a company automating HR functionality and have it prove to be anything other than disastrous. To compound the issue, these chat lines are typically manned by non-English speakers, and the result is that the requests that are not understood, are often simply ignored. Not to mention the fact that you cannot even utilize this option unless you have an active ID that is set up in …you guessed it, the system.
  8. Companies that offer telephonic support as opposed to chat lines are really positioning themselves no better in providing a positive on-boarding experience for new hires. Once again, the overriding issue seems to be the language barrier of the support people manning the telephone lines, who are not equipped to understand, let alone help resolve issues. The go-to answer seems to be that an infamous ‘ticket’ will be created, and the issue will be ‘escalated’. A new employee has enough to worry about and does not want to wait a day or perhaps a week for help, with no real assurance that anyone in a position to really help is truly working on the issue.
  9. When buddies are not assigned and a new hire is left to navigate their new workplace on their own, tension and frustrations mount. Research shows that the first 30 days in  a new  role is one of the most stressful things that someone can experience in their life, and when they feel like they are on floundering on their own, the chances of having them feel they made a bad decision and resign before they really get ramped up, are high.
  10. And finally, in organizations where there is no real system in place for on-boarding, we typically also see a lack of resources and best practices in place in other areas of the workplace, which results in managers that are under tremendous pressure to get their new hire up and running as quickly as possible.  Of course this is a catch-22 because you cannot expect a new hire to focus 100% on their new role when they are still trying to figure out how to get a family member with a chronic health condition on the new healthcare system, and when they are struggling to get the basics such as a parking pass or payroll set up, it is an unrealistic scenario destined to fail.

As always, we would love to hear your feedback on this very important topic. Please let us know if we missed any common missteps in on-boarding policies or the lack thereof, and most importantly, what companies can do to improve the acclimation experience for new members as they join their organization.

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, a leader in executive recruiting since 1999. Ann can be reached via e-mail at   or direct dial at 888-866-7276.

Wendy Lynn Figueroa is a 15 year veteran in corporate recruiting. Wendy welcomes correspondence directed to her LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendylynn-figueroa/.