Bring Out Your Inner Onboarding Manager

Employee engagement isn’t just something companies should think about for longtime employees. It starts at the very beginning of the employee lifecycle.

Sure, companies mean well when trying to get new employees up to speed, but it turns out many are making incredibly costly mistakes with their onboarding processes.

No matter what role you have at your company, recognizing the common mistakes below and utilizing the research-backed tips and tactics provided here will help bring out your inner Onboarding Manager and provide valuable input moving forward.

Your goal should be to set new hires up for success. Be equipped, knowledgeable, and comfortable giving feedback — good or bad.

— Kim Dawson

Mistake #1: Not making onboarding a priority

Does employee onboarding consist of little more than a quick presentation and a packet of paperwork at your company? If you’re just “winging it” while hoping new hires will pick things up as they go, you’re creating an environment of uncertainty and not setting employees up for success. Research shows this is a costly mistake in three key areas:

Performance – Onboarding is a critical phase for clearing up ambiguity and helping employees understand their roles. One study estimated that businesses in the US and UK lose $37 billion each year due to employees not understanding their jobs. Other research found that effective onboarding improved performance by 11.5%.

Turnover – It might feel strange to link onboarding to turnover in the employee lifecycle, but a Department of Labor study revealed that 66% of new hires who take part in structured onboarding are likely to remain with the company for over three years. That’s incredible when you consider recent research from SHRM revealing half of all hourly workers and senior hires will fail within 18 months.

Engagement – Multiple reports in the Journal of Applied Science have shown that when done correctly, onboarding can boost factors related to employee engagement, such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and lowered stress.

DO’S and DON’TS: Our advice for taking onboarding seriously:

DO: Document specific goals and milestones for each position being onboarded. A small time commitment up front will set the employee (and company) up for success.

DON’T: Assume managers have an in-depth onboarding plan employees will absorb immediately. “People won’t remember half the stuff they’re given on the first day,” notes Kim Dawson, Director of Employee & Customer Experience at Kazoo. Understand this when getting serious about an onboarding plan.

Mistake #2: Ending onboarding after one week

Onboarding needs can come at teams fast, especially during periods of rapid growth. In one exhausting flourish of activity, many companies feel they’ve done all they can to get a new employee exposed to multiple departments and a couple quick overviews in their first week, leaving new employees and their teams to pick up the pieces after that.

Experienced Onboarding Managers will tell you the process starts before and ends long after an employee’s first week. SHRM notes that conventional thinking asks employers to evaluate the first 90 days.

Continual monitoring not only helps new employees, it constantly improves your onboarding program. Dr. John Sullivan suggests surveying they at 1, 6, and 12 months to monitor progress and gather feedback. Glassdoor uses similar efforts to discover what employees really want from onboarding to gain insights into their efforts, and L’Oreal famously has a two-year “L’Oreal Fit” integration program.

DO’S and DON’TS: Our advice for taking onboarding beyond the first week:

DO: Allow employees to hit the ground running by prepping before Day 1: Set up email, clear their desk, provide needed equipment, and sync with department leaders.

DON’T: Forget the agreed-upon job description when organizing onboarding. If you’re evaluating the employee’s onboarding based on goals that weren’t agreed on, both sides will be disappointed.

Mistake #3: Failure to communicate

One of the biggest things companies don’t realize is that onboarding is mutually beneficial. Instead of being a rigid process for new hires to complete, onboarding should be treated like a two-way channel of communication that leaves both the employee and company better.

When you train your new employees in the ethos of the company while simultaneously showing them how to do their job, everyone wins.

— Maren Hogan

Communicate with HR – Go beyond an overview of benefits. Throughout the onboarding process, is HR checking in with new hires to gather feedback and address questions or concerns? This is an easy way to solve problems early.

Communicate with leaders – Help managers or heads of departments set up milestone meetings during the onboarding process. These can be brief, lightweight checkins for both sides to deliver honest feedback and make sure the company isn’t reneging on promises made during hiring. If you can, make them a fun opportunity for facetime. Dr. John Sullivan recommends treating onboarding as a celebration, not an administrative task.

Communicate with insiders – Onboarding is an excellent opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration. Find “culture ambassadors” within the company who aren’t on a new hire’s team and get them involved in the process, even if it’s for a scheduled lunch. SHRM’s research points to “organizational insiders” as one of the most important aspects of learning about a company.

DO’S and DON’TS: Our advice for overcoming communication failures:

DO: Build feedback into the onboarding process. Whether it’s through recurring meetings or quick check-in lunches with HR and leadership, these require small amounts of time but deliver big impacts early on.

DON’T: Treat onboarding like a honeymoon. If expectations aren’t being met in an employee’s first few weeks, this is the time to find out why and address any miscommunications, not gloss over the issue (or worse, dismiss someone immediately).

Related: Need advice for delivering constructive feedback? Check out these resources!
Kazoo Constructive Feedback

We’re on board: Kazoo’s checklist for onboarding new employees

The Kazoo team doesn’t just dish out employee engagement advice; we take our research to heart and make it our own. If you’d like a blueprint for avoiding common onboarding mistakes, check out this checklist of items that guides our own process, and see if you recognize how each items helps address the common onboarding mistakes we’ve covered:

Before Day 1:

  • New hire is invited to lunch with the team as a “soft welcome.”
  • Gets a personal email explaining first-day needs and what to expect during onboarding.
  • HR coordinates with team leader to set first-week onboarding expectations.

Week 1:

  • New hire arrives with company email set up, desk and equipment needs taken care of.
  • Meet with HR to finalize paperwork, see the onboarding plan, and get a full background of the company and its products.
  • Sit with department heads to learn department responsibilities and where the employee’s role fits in.
  • Facetime with the CEO to learn the history of the company.
  • Team lunch in which new hires share a “shocking fact” about themselves.
  • HR asks a company insider (we call them “buddies”) to volunteer help with any questions or go to lunch.
  • Employee gets an assignment from HR: Find out more about the company’s values.
  • Get a tour of the facilities and building logistics.

Goals beyond Week 1:

  • HR meets with department leads to assess onboarding and adjust the process if needed.
  • Set up brief check-ins with managers or leadership.
  • Ensure employees get real-time feedback as needed (and know how to provide feedback themselves).
  • Milestone meetings to look at the onboarding process together and suggest improvements.


About Kazoo:
Kazoo is a SaaS HR technology platform that redefines the way companies engage with their employees. By providing tools to connect, reward, reveal, and report in real time, Kazoo can consolidate employee engagement initiatives into one, easy-to-use mobile platform for teams of all sizes. Since launching in 2012, Kazoo has delivered its flexible software to small enterprises and Fortune 500 brands across several industries. Visit for more information, or schedule a quick demo here anytime.