Key Employee Onboarding Challenges |

Whether you’re new to the working world or have many years of experience in an industry - or several - one thing that has come to symbolize the difference to previous generations is the introduction of onboarding. 

It’s not as scary as it may sound but the onboarding process has been refined by the world’s most successful companies to bring on new employees and make them feel valued and understand the challenges and opportunities that the new business can present. 

As with anything that has been rolled out in recent years, there are many different kinds of employee onboarding challenges that organizations are having to deal with and in some cases, many issues are unknown until it's too late.

In this guide we are going to take a closer look at the onboarding process and why it is so important, furthermore, we will look into the top employee onboarding challenges and how a business can deal with them. 

Why is the onboarding process important?

Onboarding is the integration process used to ensure a smooth transition for employees into their roles and into the organization. However, from one organization to another, this may vary as the role of onboarding could also be a new strategy for current employees to become more familiar with working practices or part of a wider organizational training as well.

There is no official definition of onboarding however, that is why it is generally considered as a process of introducing a newly hired employee into an organization, but there is more to it than just that. Onboarding has become a critical recognition of management to see what their new employee is also like and how they respond to the working environment and job role. Studies have shown that 4% of employees quit after their first day, 50% after their first four months and that 40% of managers hired externally fail within the first 18 months of their job.

The onboarding process will typically cover some of the following areas:

  • Company policies

From dress code to how grievances are handled, this is a basic covering off that is usually found in company handbooks but part of the process regardless.

  • Terms and conditions of employment

Once again, legal requirements would dictate that everyone who joins what the terms and conditions of employment cover. Things such as start and end time of the working day, responsibilities in the office, a contract between the employer and the employee to uphold these rules etc. 

  • Duties and responsibilities

These are dependent on the role but a necessity nonetheless. What your role is, who you report to, what your day to day responsibilities are. This will be covered in your first exchanges after accepting the role and in your onboarding pack.

  • Reporting structure

Joining any business will require getting to know what the reporting structure is; from your line manager to senior management and even all the way to the CEO.

  • Location / where they work / desk location etc.

Where will you be doing your job? What section of the business and if you’re required to work from home or remote working available options? 

  • Introduction to colleagues

This will be focused on your immediate colleagues in your team or department. With a brief description of other key stakeholders in the business who you will be working with.

  • IT system introduction

Understanding how the IT system works, where you should store files and access to the system should all be in your onboarding documentation. 

The benefits to onboarding are company wide and it’s essential that organizations implement an onboarding process across all departments and in areas which require more people focused attention such as client facing roles or siloed work forces.

Benefits of the onboarding process

Establishes a positive employee experience from the start.
As for the reasons described above, creating a positive experience for any new employee from the start is going to boost employee morale and help the new starter settle down quicker. 

  • Higher employee engagement

Being able to explain what you want from the employee in the first few days and as such, setting expectations will help the employee understand their role, and what it is they can do to add to the business. In return this helps foster goodwill and boost engagement. 

  • Easier talent attraction

It is also important to understand the onboarding process helps engage and promote your brand to potential employees. It’s then easier to get better, more skilled workers to your business if the talked about experience is better. 

  • Business objectives are understood by new staff (and their role in attaining them)

The onboarding process can help new employees understand precisely what their role is and importantly how their role helps the business achieve its goals and objectives i.e. an account support manager will be regularly communicating with clients which would support an objective as “leading the way in customer satisfaction and support”. The onboarding process can strengthen this relationship in the new employee's mind from the very beginning. 

  • Supports staff retention and reduces churn

Losing workers is an expensive cost that a business doesn’t want to develop. Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82%. That’s why it is important to start onboarding as soon as a new hire has signed the contract.

  • Boosts productivity/Work quality is higher from those who understand policies, values etc. 

Making someone feel welcome from the get-go is important for many different reasons, but what if that person knew precisely what was expected of them, who to report to, what their workload looked like and who they could lean on to get through the work? It would make their work better, and facilitates better working practices around the organization.

  • Encourages an open, communicative working relationship

One of the biggest benefits to the onboarding process is the ability to create an open, communicative working relationship with other employees in the organization. This is done by integrating the teams in a much quicker method and helping new employees understand their role and who they can speak to get things expedited quicker. 

  • Accelerates time to proficiency

One of the benefits of boosted productivity is that it will take less time for the new starter to get proficient at their job. There is less time spent training in some of the areas where onboarding can really help make a difference.

  • Assimilates new staff into the company culture

Building a strong internal culture is important, that’s why any new starter needs to understand what the organizational culture looks like and if/how they fit into it. Onboarding helps starters understand the culture making them more comfortable and aware of how people behave, respond and deal with customers. Sharing information about the company’s mission, vision, and values early—and often—in the employee lifecycle helps build the momentum.

  • Helps identify training needs

One of the most important things about a new employee relationship is to understand how much training they may need, or what training they require to help get through the day-to-day processes. Things such as understanding timesheets or even doing their job needs to be understood quickly. Onboarding helps set expectations but also helps evaluate skills development requirements and addresses them in a cogent manner to help develop the new starter.


Top employee onboarding challenges

However, the onboarding process can present challenges, and these can quickly result in problems for both new starters and their employers. Getting an understanding of these challenges helps improve existing onboarding processes. 
Here are just some of the more common onboarding challenges and potential pitfalls for the process; 

Information overload on day #1

It’s completely normal for new starters to feel overwhelmed on their first day. The culture is unfamiliar, they may not know anyone and they are still not sure what to expect from the role, the company or what their duties are. It really is the adult version of the first day of school. 

Therefore one of the biggest sins in the onboarding process is to bombard them with lots of detailed information, simply, it can be too much. Whilst it can be tempting to dump everything onto a new hire on day 1 - this approach can create a poor experience and possibly prompt someone to move on. (Nearly 4% of people leave the job on their first day!) 

One of the easiest solutions to this problem is to stagger the onboarding process and information exchange over multiple days / weeks. You can also do a lot of information exchange digitally rather than dragging people into meetings or sit downs. 

There are practical techniques such as online / intranet based information sources to alleviate pressure on new starters.

Failing to elicit feedback

One other area of the onboarding process that needs to be addressed is the lack of gathering feedback from new starters. After a month or so, this should be done as the process can be tweaked and developed to suit the organization and departmental needs. 

What worked and what didn’t? You’d be surprised to think that some of your better ideas may have caused confusion or anxiety rather than the outcome you were looking for. 

You can use multiple channels to submit new employee comments and observations such as online tools and submission boxes that go to HR only. 

Finally, when you’re asking a new starter for feedback, this helps to create great staff satisfaction as well. It shows that the employer cares about how that business is being run and that feedback is a welcome addition. 

Unclear expectations and goals

New hires will generally have a lack of clarity for their role, and it’s not uncommon. Around 50% of workers agree that they understand what’s required of them, which leaves 50% to wonder what it is they are meant to be doing - or worse - or they are being assessed from day 1!

The onboarding process is the right time to be explicitly clear regarding expectations and how they will be measured and assessed. It is down to HR and the manager to clearly highlight what the role is, what the duties expected are. This leaves no space for ambiguity in the role or the requirements. 

Lastly, there is an importance of communicating the overall company goals and how the new recruit will be contributing to these through the tasks they are undertaking.


Inaccurate job scope or description

As with unclear expectations, the lack of role clarity has been cited as a pervasive problem for new employees. If a new recruit finds the job they are in doesn’t align with the role they were expecting to fulfill - they will most likely leave.

Job descriptions are fluid in nature, just like the marketplace itself. However, it’s incumbent upon an employer to present an accurate list of expectations specific to the position relative to the required tasks and skill at the time it’s filled.

During the onboarding process they need to make it clear to new starters if there is flexibility in their role, how far this goes and what’s expected of them. Finally, they need to know who to talk to if they are unhappy or concerned with the specifics of their new position.

Cultural and generational differences

There is an importance of recognizing and respecting individual cultural differences during the onboarding process. For example someone who has been used to large businesses will face a different cultural landscape when moving to a smaller business and vise versa.

Of course, cultural differences can also be someone coming from a different country/working practices associated with that country as well.

Generational differences will also be something that can cause a bit of tension between new starters and existing employees. It is important to understand how an onboarding process that is good for one cultural or generational group may not be so good for another. 

Whether that is using technology fr the onboarding process or it is having more face to face conversations, different generations and cultural attitudes to the process need to be tailored.

Try and aim for inclusivity and prompt for feedback to improve the process.

Low investment in onboarding

Onboarding is becoming a strategic growth area. 

The need to hire, attract and retain the best talent with a high level of maturity, where HR’s focus is shifting from compliance to experience. 

The most successful companies today may not be in the future if they don’t focus on this critical HR task of recruitment and retention. At the end of the day, you want to remain the best in the field so spend the time adapting and developing strategies that reinforce that onboarding is an investment that can solve many of the people's challenges that come later in the employee journey.

Inconsistent onboarding from various managers

Onboarding activities are usually left to individual managers and while some may provide exemplary experiences - others may be cursory. It’s easier for HR to create a new and consistent onboarding process than to rely on managers, who often end up being none other than a headache for HR.  

Managers are busy and many are rarely trained to give new hires the positive employee onboarding experience they need especially to kick-start early employee engagement that in turn will drive a sustainable career with your company.

Lack of employee engagement

Engagement is a keyword in the professional world, and it’s a quality that has a far-reaching impact on new hires and those responsible for implementing the onboarding process. 

The problem with low engagement generally is that it leads to low productivity, HR and operations inconsistency, poor connection with peers, and challenging workplace relationships on the job. When it comes to onboarding, you need to engage your employees in the process as much as the manager needs to be invested. It takes time, but showing the new hires the importance of their role, the feedback loop and how their duties play a significant part in the success of the business helps to boost employee engagement. 

Nearly 70% of an employee’s experience is related to their direct manager, we can see why it’s important to recognize their role in this process, and that educating, coaching, and supporting managers is key to building positive and lasting relationships among team members. 


Onboarding is the integration process used to ensure a smooth transition for employees into their roles and into the organization.

Onboarding has become a critical recognition of management to see what their new employee is also like and how they respond to the working environment and job role. 

Onboarding is becoming a strategic growth area. The need to hire, attract and retain the best talent with a high level of maturity, where HR’s focus is shifting from compliance to experience.

Using tools such as the Thomas Recruitment Platform can help not only facilitate the onboarding process but further develop the requirement by managers and HR professionals to improve employee engagement, staff retention and clearly define the assessment processes required in employee training and development.