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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

5 Mistakes Bosses Make When Onboarding New Hires

boss training employee
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Baptism by fire. Sink or swim. To the wolves!

Call it what you want, but—generally speaking—this isn’t the most effective method to train a new employee. Really.

For one thing, it does little to build trust between you and this new person, much less inspire confidence in your company’s overall leadership strategy.

No one wants to feel hung out to dry from day one. And as the boss, you play a critical role in ensuring your new employees are set up for success. Failing to train them properly can cost your organization an immense amount of money. Not to mention the excruciating emotional cost to you and your team when there’s turnover.

With that in mind, here are five mistakes bosses most commonly make when bringing on a new team member:

1. Not Preparing Your Team for Their New Co-worker

No one likes to be surprised, and no one likes to be “forced” on other people either. The team you have working for you are as important as the new members you acquire, and tending to both makes the difference between a strong team and high turnover. So, it’s important both sides feel well-informed before the new hire’s first day.

Fix It

Keep your team in the loop during the hiring process. If possible, invite them to meet the final two candidates one-on-one, and be part of decision-making. This way, they’ll feel more ownership over the outcome.

Another useful tactic is a light but meaningful questionnaire. Ask questions that get to the heart of the new person’s personal interests, office pet peeves, and quirks. This makes them more relatable right off the back. Collect the same from your team and provide this information to the new team member—it’s only fair they know what they’re coming into, too.

2. Not Defining the Boss-Direct Report Dynamic

It’s almost impossible to fully trust someone you don’t know. In the same way you’re trusting a new hire with their responsibilities, they’re trusting you to lead them to success.

You’re a very important part of their career journey. What story do you want them to tell in the future? Do you want to be the terrible boss that taught them everything not to do, or the one who showed them good management was possible?

Fix It

Host a one-on-one “welcome to the company!” meeting at an offsite location (or, take them out to lunch on their first day). Design an environment where both of you are free to talk about what you need from the other in order to experience a successful working relationship.

This is a great opportunity to ask your new hire what worked and didn’t with past bosses, how they want to be managed, and how they don’t. This is also a great place for you to tell the new team member about the rest of the team and office culture, answer any looming questions, and discuss their career goals (and how you can help them reach them).

3. Not Setting Clear Expectations of Performance

You hired the new person to do a specific job based on their experience, so you assume they’ll automatically nail it from day one.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s critical that you clearly articulate what you expect from them and how their success will be measured. If you make it a guessing game, everyone fails.

Fix It

Schedule weekly check-ins with an agreed-upon agenda, including time for the new hire to ask questions about how best to navigate a new team and seek feedback on their work. Not only does this go a long way in establishing and maintaining a dynamic for the two of you, it makes it nearly impossible for someone to fail because they didn’t understand their role.

4. Not Acknowledging and Planning for a Learning Curve

Regardless of their past success, a new position and team presents an altogether new job. So, you can’t expect them to immediately get ramped up and work as fast on projects as you or your team does.

Fix It

Create a standard onboarding process for use with every new hire, including programming tailored specifically to their role (this worksheet can help!). Make sure they spend some alone time with each team member over the course of their first few weeks and are properly trained on all the aspects of the business before they’re required to go into “business as usual” mode.

5. Not Training Them on Company Etiquette

Getting used to a new company culture often breaks new employees more so than getting adjusted to their new role.

Soft skills, like understanding how decisions are made across departments, don’t come naturally to everyone. While new hires learn as much from doing as they do through observation, it’s important you bring them in on the company story, why it exists in the first place, and the reasons it does business the way it does.

Fix It

Part of the new onboarding process you design should also include a “how we work” section. This could include everything from official office hours to remote work rules. It could also factor in company traditions and unspoken office rules.

The point is to soften the employee manual and fill the new hire in on all of the nuances they won’t get from HR. They’ll learn plenty on their own, but at least point them in the right direction with the things you can obviously address outright.

All of these moments are your responsibility as the manager, and neglecting them will lead to failure for the new employee, or for you as their boss.

And just think how great it’ll feel to help a new employee grow into a star—all because of you!