8 Biggest Employee Onboarding Challenges & How to Beat Them

Saurabh Wani
May 10, 2022
min read
September 19, 2023
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Employee onboarding is crucial to new-hire success. What are the biggest challenges and obstacles during the onboarding process, and how can managers and employees overcome them?
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Onboarding is crucial for the growth of every organization. But ongoing challenges can hinder that growth for your company and new employees.

The latest study results show that more than 28 percent of employees will leave a job after a poor onboarding experience. In recent years, companies have undergone massive upheaval. With that comes even more pressure to redefine our programs.

A solid onboarding program can boost the retention rate by 82 percent and employee productivity by 72 percent. A good onboarding experience takes time and commitment. The more you engage in your program, the more likely you are to see tangible results, like higher productivity and reduced turnover.

Onboarding is as much of an emotional process as it is a material one. If a new hire feels lost or overwhelmed, they might start looking elsewhere or take a while getting up to speed.

Onboarding challenges don’t necessarily mean you have a broken process. It’s an inherently tricky framework to define. However, most companies face similar trials. Knowing what you’re dealing with can help you tackle those issues and turn them into wins.

This article will run through the most common onboarding challenges and how your team can prepare for them.

The employee onboarding process

Onboarding includes the activities that integrate your new hire into a role. It often starts right after signing an offer letter, with a period called preboarding. Length varies, but the process should continue until the employee adjusts to their position and understands the company’s goals.

During this time, they should form bonds and develop intrinsic motivation to uplift those goals.

HR may lead onboarding, but they’re not alone. This process involves the participation of:

  • IT for hardware and software handoff along with technical issues.
  • Security for security clearance and fast-tracking the ID process.
  • Finance for managing and creating salary accounts, tax and other financial paperwork.
  • New hire’s department for training and ongoing support.
  • New hire’s team lead for guiding and allocating work is required.

These stakeholders need to understand their role and relationship with one another. An undefined process equals limited accountability that leaves the new hire to learn most things on their own.

Onboarding should uplift and strengthen your hires so they can eventually function as an independent and reliable member of your team.

Onboarding Challenges

Have you heard the phrase “a first impression is the best impression?  

Onboarding is the ultimate first impression. It sets the tone for the rest of your new hire’s career and can make the difference between a brand ambassador and a negative Glassdoor review.

Not everything is preventable, but you can come prepared. Check out these common concerns that boggle down the onboarding process and negatively impact the employee experience.

Too much paperwork

From contracts to benefits to resources — we know onboarding has a lot of paperwork. But when added to a growing list of steps to learn and people to meet, things can get overwhelming, fast.

Take away the hassle by sharing documentation during preboarding and using software to automate much of the process. For example, Scribe is a step-by-step guide generator that can instantly create SOPs for:

  • Job-specific processes.
  • Company-wide and departmental tools.
  • Benefits and other portals.

... and pretty much any digital process you can think of. Scribe simply follows your workflow and does the documentation for you, so that you never have to manually develop training or onboarding documentation again.

No role clarity

Unfortunately, it's very easy for new hires to lose themselves in the shuffle — winding up with little to no clarity on their role. This could quickly derail their ramp-up or lead to feelings of inadequacy.

It’s important to note that the employee isn’t to blame in this circumstance. They are likely to underperform without proper training. It’s up to their team, management and HR to allocate time for check-ins, workshops or other ways to bridge the knowledge gap.

Make sure to adequately document the job role and set clear expectations from day one.

Lead with empathy. If a new hire is struggling, see if you can find the root of the issue. Then, ensure their manager has the tools to clarify expectations and provide ongoing support.

Information overload

Often unintentional, but easily one of the biggest onboarding mistakes. You’ll overwhelm a new hire if you overload them on day one. So what should you do instead?

Like with paperwork, send out your new employee handbook and other educational documentation before that first day. That way, when they finally arrive (or log on), you can focus on orientation and familiarizing them with their team.

Keep an onboarding checklist handy to stretch out necessary steps over the course of the week. Make sure its specific to the role — for example, here's an SDR checklist for ramping up sales reps.

onboarding challenges

Unrealistic expectations

As we said earlier, without clarity, new employees will lose confidence and underperform. But sometimes, it’s not whether the expectations are clear; it’s whether they’re possible. Usually, teams have a backlog of projects waiting for the new hire. In turn, they might take on more than they should to prove themselves.

A monstrous workload is the quickest way to burn out. Managers should start by developing a 30-60-90-day plan with their employees. It’s vital that the new hire feels comfortable asking questions or making changes during this session.

The manager should then schedule check-ins at a regular cadence to monitor the status of each project, identify issues and work on solutions. Regular team meetings are another excellent way to unify plans and delineate roles.

Onboarding content access

It’s impossible to retain everything you learn in a day, let alone a month. Set up your new hire for success by giving them an onboarding guide This kit should outline their first week and give them a list of targets to hit.

For example, here's an onboarding guide we made using Scribe (step-by-step guides) and Scribe Pages. In this guide, we combined Scribes with video and other instructions to make sure the new hire has everything they need for a successful first week.

Make sure that all new hires have access to a central knowledge base. This tool should house the employee handbook, policies and essential how-tos that every team member should know.

Manual onboarding processes

Following the expansion into remote and hybrid work, we’ve digitized nearly the entire process. Still, many programs rely on manual and paper-based workflows and tools.

And let's be honest: no one has the time to copy/paste.

Most communication between hiring managers and candidates happens via email or phone. Once onboarding starts, it’s easy for both parties to lose track. In a remote environment, manual processes are either difficult or impossible. For in-person, they can be clunky and time-consuming.

Plus, most traditional workflows don’t convert data into usable information. You can use insights to strengthen your process and increase employee satisfaction by automating your onboarding. This means taking advantage of the onboarding tools that streamline and simplify your processes.

Managing the “new change”

New employees inevitably face transition after transition. They’ve entered a new environment with new expectations. They might even have moved to a new city for this position or might be adjusting to their first remote role.

Stabilize them through these changes, even if they aren’t related to workload. Mental health matters. Having a support system makes your new hire more likely to acclimate. Assign them an onboarding buddy or mentor.

A regular check-up will make the new employee feel cared for and valued. You should also provide them with opportunities to get to know their colleagues one-on-one.

Tech knowledge gap

Don’t make assumptions. Even if your new hire is familiar with a tool or platform, your company’s unique functions might have drastic differences. Take time to schedule training or use automated tools like Scribe for process documentation and instant step-by-step guides.

Here's one to help a new hire get started with Zendesk — and it only took Lauren from our team 34 seconds to make!

You can also create a knowledge base for onboarding software, project management tools, CRM and more!

Triumph over all onboarding challenges with easy automation

Low-quality onboarding could equal high turnover. The challenges we listed above are tough — but they're not impossible to beat.

Commit to your hires, and they will commit to you. According to McKinsey, the productivity of new hires increases with every year that they stay on the job.  But to retain new employees as valuable assets, you first need to build them up.

Sometimes you can’t predict or prevent a challenge from rising. That’s okay. What matters is that you’ve put in the effort to create a sustainable program, incorporated feedback and empowered your new employees.

In order to create a sustainable program there are two things to rely on:

  • Communication.
  • Automation.

When you communicate with your new hires, you let them know that you're invested in their success. But you only have the time to invest in those personal interactions if you take advantage the tools available to you.

Scribe cuts your time in half by doing the documentation for you. Create visual documents that show your new hires that you're serious about their success. Scribe's are just as easy to update as they are to make — so it's easier than ever to create, store and share countless onboarding documents, all personalized to each new hire.

Let's build up a better program, today. Get started with Scribe for free.

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