By Chris Miles

At one point or another, we’ve all been the new person at work. Acclimating to an unfamiliar building and culture can be a disorienting experience, giving us that “first day of school syndrome.” That’s why we put onboarding processes in place.

But onboarding doesn’t always go so smoothly. It can feel routine when it should be lively; needless when it is actually essential. If the ultimate goal of onboarding is to cultivate successful employees, there are several things your HR team should take into account when planning to bring on new hires.

Knowing what not to do, of course, is just as important as finding the right solutions. By all means, avoid these four things when you’re onboarding new employees to your company.

1. Don’t Make Orientation Boring

New staff need to absorb a great deal of information in the first few weeks of employment. How you provide that information can make all the difference in how much they understand and retain as they settle into their roles.

While endless presentations or other forms of “information dumps” might seem like the easiest way for your HR department to transfer knowledge, it’s rarely effective. That’s not just because our attention spans are limited in those settings (remember three hour college lectures?). The issue has more to do with multiple concerns vying for a new hire’s attention.

New employees may be more concerned with having dressed appropriately for the first day of work, or navigating a new traffic pattern in rush hour. Many new hires don’t sleep much before day one in anticipation of the many unknowns they’ll face when they walk in the door. That said, your plan of inundating them with company information may not go over as well as you’d like.

Instead, think about how you can make the orientation process interactive. If new hires are coming to you with previous work experience, it might make sense to have them reflect on it as they learn the way your company does things. They’ll feel more comfortable being asked for useful knowledge they can bring to the table.

Make sure you also take multiple learning styles into account. Just watching a video or listening to someone speak may only help a fraction of new hires. Vary your information delivery methods and allot plenty of time for new employees to ask questions.

2. Don’t Over-Schedule

Many businesses decide to pack orientation into the first few days of hiring. The logic makes sense: before employees can be effective, they need to be introduced to the company. True, but they also need to spend some time with their team members and settle into their new role. The trick is to not make those days feel so overwhelming.

Consider holding orientation sessions and activities throughout the first week or two of onboarding. Involve as many internal stakeholders as you can so that the onboarding experience doesn’t feel isolating or exclusionary. See what can be broken down into smaller onboarding sessions and spread them out over time. As new hires become more acclimated to your company, they’ll not only value these experiences— they’ll add value to them.

3. Don’t Leave Out Company Culture

New employee onboarding is often concerned with the “big ideas” like your company’s vision, mission, and SOPs. But your veteran employees understand that there are many unspoken rules and practices that comprise your culture. These are the aspects of your business that new hires will never ask about because they’re not readily apparent in the first few weeks.

Why should the onboarding process ignore some of those finer, more nuanced aspects of company culture? Discussion items could be as simple as:

  • When individuals or different teams take lunch
  • Where some of the most productive public spaces in the office exist
  • Whether employees host happy hours or social gatherings outside of work
  • What internal clubs or activities exist within the company and how to join them

Make sure those veteran employees sit in on some onboarding exercises. They’ll know what information new hires might need to know that they wouldn’t otherwise think to ask about.

4. Don’t Hide New Employees

If your small business has more than a dozen employees, plenty of them will be wondering “who’s the new person?” New hires rarely blend in. While it takes time to meet everyone else in the company, there are ways you can make this process easier.

Post announcements about new employees wherever they’re appropriate. You might find that emails get ignored easily. If your business has an internal chat or social channel of communication, that’s probably the best place to feature your new hires. And you can go further: let them write a short bio of themselves. That way, you can ensure they’re being introduced in a way that’s comfortable for them.


New employees bring a lot of energy to your company. If you can harness their enthusiasm well during your onboarding process, you’ll see how that positivity ripples throughout the rest of your business. It’s in your best interest, then, to avoid making them feel like the “new kid at school.”

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos