Critical Onboarding Errors to Avoid

January 28, 2016

Critical Onboarding Errors to Avoid

Can you imagine arriving for your first day of work, full of excitement and eager to dive into your new responsibilities, only to discover everyone has apparently forgotten you were coming?


Sounds like the premise of a TV sitcom, but sadly, that's exactly what happened to me several years ago. When I tell this story at conferences and networking events, people usually react not with amazement, but rather by simply shaking their heads. They've seen similar scenarios play out at their own organizations because new employee onboarding is a complex operation that requires actions on the part of multiple departments, not just HR. Too often, that requires sending and replying to a series of emails, updating spreadsheets, and making phone calls.

You can eliminate those mistakes and frustrations by adopting a service management model that both automates manual processes and provides the hiring manager with complete visibility over progress and delays to ensure the first part of the onboarding process is complete before an employee arrives for his or her first day.

Of course, I would have been happier if my onboarding process had at least begun on my first day, but instead the hiring manager didn't even know I was coming in, and was completely unprepared for my arrival. I had nowhere to sit, no computer to access, no orientation packet to peruse. Nothing. Three weeks later, the hiring manager finally had everything she needed from the other departments, including access to most systems, which seems to be where most onboarding fails. Finding a desk or office space and procuring new equipment is simple; it's the lack of access to systems that really impacts an employee's productivity.

Poor onboarding practices also affect employee morale and attrition rates. You probably won't be surprised when I tell you I only stayed six months because I quickly discovered that lack of organization flowed throughout the entire company and solidified my initial negative outlook. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

When a new employee starts, there's a long list of activities that need to get done. These involve multiple departments—such as HR, IT, facilities, and finance—but HR usually takes the lead and is responsible for its success. The activities are so varied—ranging from verifying employee data to installing computers and arranging for credit cards—that coordinating them manually is a huge effort.

While your HCM system may handle some aspects of onboarding, service management can handle this entire process for you. Starting with a simple request, it breaks the process down into individual activities—such as getting a workspace, credit card, security access and phone—and then distributes these to different departments for approval and action. It tracks the status of each activity and reminds people automatically if they're behind schedule. If an activity is stalled, it escalates this automatically so that you can sort out the problem. It can even eliminate some manual processes entirely—for example, it can create email accounts, and even update HR and finance systems automatically.

Service management has its roots in IT, which began using it to automate repetitive tasks such as creating email accounts and resetting passwords that took IT personnel away from more strategic projects. Implementing service management for employee onboarding can be the first step in making all HR processes more efficient and less frustrating for HR personnel and employees. You can automate payroll systems, and create a centralized portal that employees can use to initiate and manage common tasks such as picking health care options and submitting PTO requests.

Start small by focusing on one of HR's responsibilities, and make the new employee onboarding process the first step. If the hiring manager doesn't know a new employee is starting, and does not have real-time visibility into the status of the many tasks and processes on the hands of other business units, onboarding becomes just a game of throwing the dice and hoping everything comes together. That's not the way to do it. A company spends too much time and money on finding, vetting, and hiring the perfect candidate to let the onboarding process fail on Day 1.

The Authors: 

Jen Stroud is ServiceNow's HR evangelist, helping customers simplify and improve their HR services. Previously, she was the executive director of Human Capital Services at TeleTech. In that role, Jen led an enterprise HR transformation initiative for its more than 45,000 employees, transitioning the company from a decentralized HR support model to a shared services operating model.