Prepare to Fail: The Hallmarks of Ineffective Onboarding Programs

Ever hear the saying “If you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail”? Of course, you have. And chances are, you’ve experienced this at some point in your life.

Whether you’re going for a big interview, delivering an important presentation at work, or you’re planning to run a marathon, preparation is vital. In the majority of situations, it is the difference between us achieving our goals and failing miserably.

In the corporate world, onboarding is an activity which organizations engage in to prepare new employees to become part of their organization and equip them with the knowledge and skills to perform successfully in their jobs.

In this article, we will look at some of the key reasons why the onboarding process for new hires can fail to hit its target. We’ll also provide tips on what organizations can do to start improving the quality of the onboarding experience so that it has a greater impact on their success.

Onboarding Statistics

Despite different beliefs that exist about the value of onboarding, it has been and remains a very important part of the success of any organization.

A report from SHRM confirmed that 1 in every 25 of all employees leaves their jobs due to poor onboarding. This is alarming when we consider the cost of hiring new employees to replace those that leave.

The following are some key statistics relating to onboarding which give us an indication of how ineffective onboarding can have a negative impact on an organization in terms of cost, productivity and overall performance:

  • 25% of U.S. organizations lose new employees within a year, primarily due to bad onboarding.
  • Up to 20% of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment.
  • In the US and UK, a combined total of $37 Billion is spent annually to keep unproductive employees who do not understand their jobs.
  • Lost productivity due to new hire learning curves can cost from 1% to 2.5% of total business revenues.
  • Less than one-third of U.S. executives are satisfied with the onboarding process – calling it below average or poor and that it reduces the rate of staff retention.

3 Hallmarks of Bad Onboarding Programs

Identifying bad onboarding programs is quite easy. I most cases, they are missing key elements and fail to meet the needs of new hires.

Highlighted below are 3 characteristics of poor onboarding and some suggestions about how they can be improved:

1. No Plan, No Objectives

This is where the majority of onboarding programs that fail, fail! The first line of this article resonates quite a lot here. The issue is quite simple; you cannot expect an onboarding to be successful if you don’t develop a plan and clearly establish what you wish to achieve from it. Planning should enable you to determine what new hires will need to do their jobs effectively, what type of training will best fit in with the program to get your new hires ready for their roles and ultimately, how you can get the best return from your onboarding strategy.

2. It Moves Too Fast

There is nothing worse than being rushed through something without knowing what you’re doing, would you agree? It is frustrating when you want to learn but is given no real opportunity to do so. Many organizations are guilty of doing this in onboarding situations. They make the mistake of pushing new hires through the onboarding process quickly so they can begin work and start making a contribution. In doing this, they often fail to deliver a lot of the key information employees need to know. This can have a damaging effect on an employee’s confidence and their perception of the organization they have joined. Remember our earlier statistic about those who leave their job due to a poor onboarding experience? Consider this carefully. Ensure you’re onboarding program gives new hires sufficient time to absorb what they are learning and more importantly, give them time to ask questions and provide feedback.

3. Inadequate New Hire Training

The training you provide during onboarding is the most critical element of all. Inducting new hires into the organization, giving them information about the culture, values, mission, etc. are of course highly important, but ultimately, it is their training that prepares them to do the job. Poor choice of training methodology and lack of the right training content are two classic characteristics of ineffective onboarding. This is why planning is so important. Assessing your target audience’s needs, the type of role they have been hired for, determining their level of knowledge about the role and the organization and awareness of their existing capabilities and skills should be used to develop a training program that is personalized and utilizes the right method of delivery.

Learn about popular methods and technologies which are being used by companies globally to deliver better onboarding in our previous article on New Hire Training: Steps to a Successful Onboarding.

4. No Follow Up, Support or Performance Measurement

Every organization should view onboarding as an ongoing process throughout the first year of the new hire’s employment. It should never be a case of forgetting about them as soon as they’ve gone through their training but quite often, this is what happens. Organizations are too focused on the work and productivity in new hires and they neglect the fact that new hires need nurturing and support as those initial months can be quite daunting. Some of the most successful onboarding programs incorporate phased training over a prolonged period of time, where new hires are trained up as they adapt to their roles and their performance is consistently monitored. Support should be provided wherever required which will help new hires to develop skills more quickly and give them peace of mind that they have help and guidance from management which will boost morale, confidence and motivation.

These are just some of the more obvious and negative hallmarks of ineffective onboarding. Through careful planning, establishing objectives, choosing the right method of training, personalizing the onboarding experience and above all else, providing ongoing support to new hires in their first year on the job, you can avoid failure and set your organization on a path to success through onboarding.


Interactive Services develops customized onboarding training solutions for leading organizations. If you would like to discuss development of innovative onboarding, contact us today for a consultation. You can view our Compliance Training Options Here. 

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