Employee Onboarding & Offboarding: 7 Little Contested Myths Costing You Talent, Growth & Opportunities

From the true essence of onboarding to ineffectual Exit Surveys to measuring the impact of onboarding processes, this article reveals top 7 myths that have kept onboarding and off boarding in the Dark Ages

A friend of mine recently called me to complain about her boss.

She just doesn’t “get” how to please the man. Everything she does rubs him the wrong way.

Right from bringing steaming cups of Starbucks latte for her co-workers to her quirky sense of style, she can feel it in the pit of her stomach that she DOESN’T fit in.

She can feel it in the pit of her stomach that she DOESN’T fit in

She despises jargon. She likes to actually establish a semi-personal relationship with her colleagues.

And she is always ready to help her peers.

When she broke down mid-narrative, I asked,

But didn’t the onboarding give you an inkling of what it’s like to work for the company? Why did you waste so much time?”

Her tearful reply was,

Yes. The onboarding consisted of me being herded into a huge auditorium with the other new recruits, several rounds of paperwork and a thundering sermon about IT security protocols! It was over in a week and I stuck around hoping to figure things out.

Needless to say, after 2 years of reluctant service she is quitting.

And if I have picked something up from her rants, it is the fact that the offboarding will be just as cursory and officious! 

Sad but True:

So many companies just don’t dive deeper into the true purpose of onboarding.

In my opinion, there are three things that generally go wrong:

1. The meaning of onboarding isn’t clear to the people initiating it

2. Onboarding is confused with logistics

3. The importance of onboarding and the impact it has on employee productivity and perceptions is grossly underestimated

Onboarding is the most important phase of a recruit’s brush with a company or employer.

Organizations with a standardized and effective onboarding program boast a 50% higher new employee retention rate.

And poor onboarding is the biggest driver of churn in the first 45 days of employment.

Clubbed with the estimate that replacing a worker might cost up to 20% of the individual’s salary in direct expenses and 300% more due to negative organizational impact, it is imperative that companies pay a lot more attention to onboarding.

The Downside of Legacy Processes:

As long as businesses have relied on workers, they have structured processes to take care of their inclusion and their exclusion from teams.

The mere fact that onboarding and offboarding have been around for such a long time often lead to overlooking of requirements and expectations.

Imagine the Baby Boomers – they viewed their employment as a source of income.

“Work” was not a part of their “private life” and because of this unspoken dichotomy they were far less impacted by workplace tensions.

Onboarding was the bare minimum required to get workers up to speed on pending tasks and ensure legal compliance.

And it kind of worked.

But fast forward to 2017 and the Millennials are fast emerging as the largest generation of the workforce.

These opinionated individuals have global awareness and to them their employment is an intrinsic part of their identity.

They seek purpose from their work, want to forge deeper connections in the office and are fiercely independent.

Onboarding and off boarding have to be re-defined to reduce churn

If they do not feel “included” and don’t see growth opportunities, they are very likely to leave.

As a result onboarding and offboarding have to be re-defined to reduce churn and engage them.

Here are 7 myths that are costing businesses talent they can’t afford to lose and productivity they shouldn’t compromise with.

Myth 1️⃣ : Onboarding is Orientation

New hire orientation is the logistical aspect of welcoming an employee to the organization.

It encompasses background and security checks, protocol briefings, hierarchy introductions, the procurement of access cards, name tags and cubicles, the distribution of assets like laptops or mobile devices and everything else needed to ensure that the new worker has the tools and the legal clearance (compliance) to start tackling tasks.

Onboarding is a broader concept.

It should:

  • Set the right expectations about the position the recruit is fulfilling
  • Familiarize the candidate with the company culture, the etiquette and the dos and don’ts
  • Initiate rewarding interactions with colleagues through buddy programs so that the worker sees the challenges and perks associated with the designation first-hand
  • Open channels of communication between the new recruit and the senior managers through mentorship programs
  • Give the employee tangible goals to hit over the coming months

In short onboarding ensures that work conditions are conducive to high productivity and that the employee’s psychological, corporate, social and logistical needs are duly met.

Myth 2️⃣ : Onboarding Takes Time Away from Strategic Tasks

Onboarding involves paperwork and it is true that most managers may have to dedicate up to 2 working days every week to paperwork stemming from new recruits.

But the process is far from a hindrance.

Poorly onboarded employees are unproductive and since they don’t understand their job, they get disengaged fairly quickly.

A cumulative sum of $37 billion is spent every year in the US and UK alone to cope with unproductive workers who do not contribute value to the organization!

$37 billion is spent every year in the US and UK alone to cope with unproductive workers

Onboarding can significantly cut down this unnecessary expense.

Viewed from this perspective, “How to Effectively Onboard Employees?” should in fact be a part of the MOOC library of companies and the training shared with managers to dispel onboarding myths that lead to churn down the line.

HR system software solutions also expedite onboarding considerably.

Suites can automate most of the processes, allowing recruits to self-pace the filling out of forms.

Information can be duplicated and passed on to the necessary departments without human intervention or errors like missing fields.

Educational material and instructions can be seamlessly shared with candidates, lessening overwhelm.

Even the matching of partners for buddy programs and the assignment of mentors based on the results of personality tests are not uncommon.

Myth 3️⃣ : Onboarding is HR’s Pet Project

Once organizations grasp the implications of onboarding and understand how the practice can boost the performance of the entire company, the tendency to dump onboarding on the shoulders of human resource management will quickly disappear.

Onboarding is a complex and nuanced undertaking. Just tick the items on the checklist:

☑ Cubicles

☑ Payment and tax forms

☑ Insurance

☑ Etiquette & culture

☑ Tags and identity management

☑ New employee announcement & ice breaking

☑ System trainings

And a lot more!

It is immediately evident that Payroll, IT, PR, HR, Utilities and even the C Suite are involved.

If the various departments agree on the objectives of onboarding and understand unequivocally the payoffs of properly facilitating the process, they will create fewer hassles for themselves and even improve the company’s bottom line.

Myth 4️⃣ : Onboarding Should Take About a Week

It takes a new recruit 8 months to hit full productivity.

Since the main purpose of onboarding is to ultimately impact worker satisfaction and output in a wholly positive way, it is very difficult to put a limit on the duration of the process.

As long as an employee isn’t capable of:

  • Defining his responsibilities accurately
  • Understanding company culture
  • Initiating conversations with managers and peers without hesitation
  • Completing a task from start to finish without experiencing negative stress

Onboarding hasn’t really hit its goal.

Tailored onboarding that is suited to the competence and aptitude of a worker is onboarding that produces results.

Myth 5️⃣ : Onboarding’s Impact is Intangible 

This is the favorite excuse of organizations that do not want to invest in their onboarding programs.

They deem it a soft process that can’t yield hard data for quantification and verification.

Onboarding is directly related to churn as well as worker engagement and satisfaction.

Onboarding is directly related to churn

Businesses can conduct experiments where they onboard a group of new recruits using their legacy processes and put another collective of candidates through tailored onboarding.

Differences in retention, worker output, worker engagement and commendable worker performance (gauged through bonuses and perks) for the employees over time should be able to tell a very clear story indeed.

A story that can convince the decision makers to open their eyes and acknowledge the impact of onboarding!

Myth 6️⃣ : Exit Surveys Can Tell You What’s Broken

Harvard Business Review has studied Exit Interviews and has come to the conclusion that they can’t really point businesses in the direction of “what’s broken” within their structure and practices.

This is because of two reasons:

  1. People are rarely candid when they are leaving a company. They are not ready to spare the “why” of quitting much thought and they want the references and are thus reluctant to express themselves in a forthright manner.
  2. Even if collecting the exit interview/survey data is a part of the offboarding process, the next steps aren’t standardized. The intelligence isn’t analysed for trends and patterns. The insights aren’t applied.

Because of these drawbacks the concept of Stay Interviews is gaining popularity.

The process of drawing out worker grievances, addressing them, gauging possibilities of voluntary quits and taking preemptive action to thwart churn can be largely concluded through HR software solutions without adding more to the crowded plate of managers.

Myth 7️⃣ : Offboarding is Scrubbing an Organization of an Employee’s Presence

Offboarding shouldn’t be tinged with regret and anger.

An organization is a living, breathing entity comprised of people who build it up with their hard work, dedication, personality and ethics.

It is impossible to scrub the contributions of an employee from a company – even if the worker is quitting.

The projects they have worked on and the value they have generated are now a part of the venture’s history.

Instead offboarding should focus on easing the transition and making it mutually beneficial.

Ex-employees can be added to the Alumni group.

They can be accorded a proper farewell.

They should be requested to participate in programs that transfer their corporate knowledge and experience to new recruits or their peers.

If an amicable relationship exists, even after the worker is gone, the individual might refer people who prove to be valuable assets to their erstwhile employers.

* * *

Businesses are starting to see onboarding and offboarding differently.

This is sure to shape into a boon for companies, especially in the face of aggressive talent hunting, mounting churn and greater shows of entrepreneurial spirit which call for independent ventures.

Traditional work places are all set to transform into flexible and distributed hubs of activity.

And onboarding and offboarding are also long due for an overhaul.


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Written By

Trina Moitra

Trina is a part of the CakeHR content team. She is a marketing funnel creator who has worked with 5 reputed HR SaaS startups and established ventures over the past several years. She has experience understanding how HR software should be sold and uses persuasion based strategies to generate results.