When Onboarding Feels Like Being Thrown Overboard: Rethinking the New Hire Experience


Have you ever gone through a formal onboarding program that consists solely of sitting at a desk and being asked to read a handbook? It’s an all-too-common experience that ultimately leads to being left on your own to either sink or swim. Maybe you luck out with a great hiring manager or supportive team to throw you a life vest. Maybe not.

In the (likely) case that you decided to leave that company, you probably had more than a few opinions for HR on how to change the new hire onboarding program. You probably spent some of your last days with the company thinking about the information and resources you needed but never received, the reasons you eventually decided to leave, and the possible changes that could have made you stay.

The likely reality, however, was that nobody asked for your opinion. The company was trapped in its own bureaucracy. Why would they change what they thought was working?

Mapping the Course Ahead

Most new hire processes are built on three distinct stages. The size of the company and the complexity of the role will determine how long each step lasts or, in many cases, if they are combined. These stages are:

Onboarding – The task driven process of getting the logistics of an employee set up: benefits, email addresses, computer, etc.

Orientation – A day, a week, a morning that hits the most important details the new employee needs to navigate the company, such as company history, culture, key players, do’s and don’ts, and brief overviews of how to find information within the company.

Training – Either a formal training program or on-the-job training provided by the hiring manager and/or a training professional.

When each stage is complete, HR can check a box. Check all three boxes, and the new hire can be considered “onboard.” At that point, it’s presumed that the employee is ready to hoist the proverbial sails and set course for success in their new position.

That, as we’ll soon see, is often not the case.

Getting Lost at Sea

For the new hire, these three steps are often not as distinct and straightforward as they seem. Each step triggers numerous questions, and everything begins to blur together as they’re left with more questions than answers. For example, if, during orientation, they’re confused about the company’s internal management structure, they may not know who to ask when a question comes up in training. Then it all snowballs from there.

These problems arise when HR fails to consider the “why” behind the onboarding process. It’s not to check a box and get employees enrolled in benefits. It’s to enable them to meet the company’s goals and make them productive as quickly as possible. Making them feel more comfortable and supported along the way is the byproduct that results from a successful onboarding process.

This failure can lead new employees to feel like they’re being left alone at sea without a compass. If their questions aren’t answered, if they’re thrown into their new role without the necessary information and training, it won’t be long before they start to disengage with their work or even start looking for new employment opportunities.

Finding Our Way Home

It’s time to rethink the way we conduct the new hire process. It shouldn’t be just a short moment in the tenure of a new employee. It should be an ongoing effort to integrate them into the company culture, get them on board with your mission, and connect them with the resources they need to succeed.

Fostering emotional, social, and intellectual engagement is the best deterrent against the job-hopping behavior that has become so prevalent in the modern workplace. Today’s employees, especially in among the Millennial generation, crave a sense of purpose, but only 32% of all U.S. employees (and 29% of Millennials) actually report feeling engaged at work. That’s why the new hire experience is so crucial.

With an eye toward “integration” rather than “onboarding,” you’ll make each employee feel supported, and signal to them that their success matters to you. They’ll see it as evidence that the organization looks beyond the “bottom line” to take care of the people who help them achieve their goals. That feeling of support, sense of purpose, and understanding of the part they play in the organization’s success is the difference between a new hire and valued employee.

Commit to your new initiative, and set up a program that lasts 6–9 months. Pair the new hire with a mentor through this timeframe, and have monthly check-ins with each of them. Prepare easy to digest information delivered on a timely basis that is pertinent to where they are in their employee lifecycle. It should touch on all aspects of the new hire experience.

Nurture your new hires, beyond the initial welcome. A period of integration, approached with a spirit of collaboration, can make a huge impact, not only on the individual employee, but on the organization as a whole.

Now, the questions we’re left with are, “How do we do this? How do we enact change within our corporate environment? How do we set up a program that allows for changes and refinements? How do we set up a metrics platform to track success?”

That’s what we’re going to tackle in our next blog. We’ll help you audit your current new hire experience and onboarding process. When we work with our clients to improve their new hire experience, we start by reviewing their current process from the employee perspective. Based on our findings, we then identify actionable steps they can take to better integrate new hires.

You can also always contact our experts here and get the help you need to make your new hire experience a fully integrated and empowering experience.Bottom of Form

Want more information? An insight on an existing challenge? An outside perspective on an internal issue? Contact the experts at S2E and we’ll help you get the results you’re looking for. After all, getting results is what we do best – 866-945-3370, Carol Carrillo.

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