Top 6 Challenges to Overcome When Onboarding New Employees

Founder, robot with feelings. From planet Aiur.

To help you out in times of turbulent workforce changes, we explore some common employee onboarding challenges modern companies face when welcoming new team members.

Employee onboarding is one of the key components of a successful business. It prepares new hires for the challenges of their job, assimilates them into their new team, and sets them up for success even after their official training is over.

With so many roles and functions, it’s no wonder that this complex process comes with its own set of challenges you will need to overcome.

Not just to induct new recruits into your company, but to keep your organization’s overall performance high and employee turnover low.

Keep reading to find out more about the most common challenges managers and HR experts face when welcoming new employees to the company, as well as some solutions that are bound to transform newbies into high achievers.

Rising Employee Expectations

At the start of 2022, companies are finding themselves in the midst of a talent crisis. In fact, so many employees are leaving their jobs that many are calling this new era “The Great Resignation” or “The Big Quit”.

“The Great Resignation” or “The Big Quit”
Source: JOLTS

As you can see in the figure above, resignation rates first plummeted when the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared, only to rise soon after, reaching record levels by April 2021.

Today’s job market offers more opportunities than ever before, meaning workers are able to quit their jobs in pursuit of better employment, confident that they will find it soon after.

Today’s job market offers more opportunities than ever before

The numbers indicated above paint a very clear picture.

Today’s workers have no problem leaving their current positions if they are not completely satisfied, meaning companies need to meet and exceed their expectations from the very first day.

So how can you give your top talent what they want right away?

Well, there are many ways but it’s a good idea to start with the following elements:

  • Acclimation
  • Engagement
  • Recognition

Fast and seamless acclimation simply means assimilating your new hire into the company culture and work processes as quickly as possible.

So, as soon as your new employee steps foot in the office, make sure their workstation is prepared with everything they need to start succeeding.

Reserve some time to introduce them to their new colleagues, superiors, and key members of the teams that make up your organization.

Equally important is the element of engagement.

New employees need to feel like their talent is being put to good use from day one.

Top companies are aware of the key role engagement plays in retention. Look at Facebook, for example.

New engineers at the company are onboarded through a unique program called the Engineering Bootcamp.

Photo with a Facebook engineer
Source: Business Insider

During the onboarding process, engineers are immediately given access to Facebook’s entire code base and put on assignments supervised by mentors who check their work before it’s rolled out to Facebook’s 1 billion users.

That way, the engineers are allowed to make major contributions right away, which is a great way to feel fully engaged from the very beginning.

Finally, employee recognition is crucial for retention.

Studies show that a large percentage of employees leave their posts because they feel their hard work isn’t appreciated.

Employees leave their posts because they feel their hard work isn’t appreciated

Keep in mind that employees expect to be recognized for their hard work. So try not to miss opportunities to praise them and provide positive feedback.

To go the extra mile, you can even apply a small rewards program to connect achievements to real-life rewards.

If you meet these expectations, you’ll overcome one of today’s biggest onboarding challenges, securing higher retention rates which will pave the way for business growth and success, even in these uncertain times.

Little to No Pre-boarding

As we explained in the previous section, employee turnover is a huge challenge for modern-day businesses.

And while most companies focus on retaining the employees that are already a part of their organization, very few seem to realize that employee turnover can happen even before the new employee starts working.

What we mean by this is that the new hire may already churn in the waiting period between offer acceptance and the first day at your company.

That is a challenging time for both parties in the hiring process, and you need to find ways to engage the candidate and keep them excited about starting their new job.

Providing support during this pre-boarding period is a good way to ensure the candidate doesn’t change their mind and doesn’t accept an offer from one of your competitors.

But what kind of support can you offer, and how much can you put on the candidate’s plate if they’re technically not working for you yet?

Well, a good place to start is to get some paperwork out of the way and provide engaging materials for the new employee so they can start learning about their new workplace.

Hiring with Pre-Boarding

That way, you’re not only keeping the lines of communication open in this low-touch period, you’re also breaking up the onboarding process into smaller units.

You’re ensuring that the new employee isn’t overwhelmed during the first few weeks at work.

Therefore, a great pre-boarding practice is to send the employee some important documents, such as contracts, payroll information, and insurance paperwork, so they can look it over and sign it at their own pace.

After that, you can provide them with some useful reading that will shine light on how things are done at your company.

This can include your employee onboarding handbook, company policy, and samples or guides for your products.

''How we work'' section in Archbee

Finally, surprising the new employee with some awesome company swag will go a long way to cement their decision to come work for you.

It will keep them excited as they count down the days leading up to the beginning of their new job.

Welcome pack from PepsiCo
Source: Swagworx

Have a look at a great example from PepsiCo above.

Their new employees receive a branded backpack, portable charger, and headphones, among other things, to make them feel like a part of the team as soon as they accept an offer from the company.

Remember, onboarding can start even before the new hire comes in on their first day.

Supplementing the onboarding process with pre-boarding is a great way to overcome the challenging period between offer acceptance and the first day at work.

Too Much Information on the First Day

Another challenge posed by employee onboarding is how to induct a new employee without overwhelming them when they join your team.

This is quite a dilemma. On the one hand, you want your new employee to start contributing as soon as possible.

But on the other hand, overloading them with information will only result in missteps and mistakes, not to mention a stressful first day your employee will not remember fondly.

The science regarding our memory and capacity to learn is clear. We’re able to retain less than twenty percent of the information we absorb after just a couple of days.

The Forgetting Curve
Source: Petra Mayer Consulting

In other words, if your onboarding process is nothing more than an information-intensive training session that lasts no more than a day, your new employees will become overwhelmed very quickly.

As a result, they will retain very little of the knowledge you transferred after their first week at work.

And if you’re looking for a shortcut or a productivity hack that will allow you to teach your new hires everything they need to know in just one day, we’re here to tell you that there really isn’t one.

That’s right, the only way to ensure your employees absorb the knowledge you pass on is to stretch out the onboarding period and present the information in increments.

That way, your new recruits will have the time and mental capacity to really absorb your training, apply it in multiple settings and situations, and start to feel confident in their new role.

But it’s not just about in-person training and knowledge transfer.

For best results, it’s also a good idea to build a library of knowledge, containing company documents and a list of frequently asked questions that your employees can consult whenever they’re facing a dilemma or are unsure how to proceed.

This might seem like a lot of work, but with documentation software, such as Archbee, you can create a how-to guide or procedure manual for every work process at your company and share it with your team.

That empowers them to learn and revise at their own pace, from anywhere in the world and at any time of day.

Search function in Archbee

Quality documentation software is easily searchable and neatly organized so that everything an employee can need is at their fingertips in just a few clicks.

Isn’t that so much better than just unloading all of the information in just one day? We definitely think so.

We’ll talk more about the power of documentation software later in this article.

For now, however, let’s just say that it’s a wonderful tool that can help your employees revise what you’re trying to teach them whenever they need to, ensuring they’ll never feel overwhelmed during onboarding.

Lack of Clarity on the Role

Orientation and work-related training constitute a large, but relatively straightforward part of the onboarding process.

The real challenge is connecting the employee’s new role to the company mission and providing clarity on how their work helps your entire team accomplish the organization’s business goals.

Clarity about their new role is something your employees really crave in order to fulfill their duties with a sense of pride and meaning.

Mission of the company makes employees feel their job is important

The best advice we can give you is to get personal with your new hires.

Concepts like the company mission or purpose and your values and highest principles are best communicated in direct, honest conversation.

Of course, for this to work, the first prerequisite is a clearly defined and articulated company mission and set of values.

This is something every manager, mentor, and supervisor needs to know by heart and understand thoroughly.

With this step completed, your next move is to sit down with every new employee and have a real conversation about their role and how it connects to the company’s higher purpose.

You can go even further than that by including training specifically related to your company mission in the onboarding process.

An example of a company that does this extremely well is Zappos, the online shoe retailer. This company’s primary goal is to offer the best possible care and support for their customers.

The company’s founder, Tony Hsieh, has famously said that Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.

Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes
Source: Freshworks

And this mission statement is essential to the onboarding process as well.

New employees, no matter what department they will be working in, need to complete a training session with the Customer Loyalty Team, where they interact with customers and learn about their needs and how they can best serve them.

That way, each new employee can see firsthand how their new role, be it an engineer, salesperson, or manager, can contribute to providing exceptional care for their customers and propel the company forward.

So, as you can see, providing clarity on each new employee’s role is definitely achievable.

The most important thing is to have open and honest conversations about what your company stands for and provide hands-on training on how your company goals can be achieved.

Disorganized Information and Documentation

Let’s stay on the topic of clarity for a little while longer. It’s not uncommon for new employees to face conflicting information and instructions during their training period.

As you can imagine, this can cause a lot of confusion and leave the new employees feeling frustrated and even disappointed in the company they chose to advance their careers in.

In fact, this kind of chaos constitutes a valid reason for them to leave a company soon after joining it.

And that can come at an immense cost for the business.

Employee turnover can be costly

That’s why a disorganized and messy onboarding flow, particularly when it comes to information and documentation, is another big challenge companies need to deal with in order to boast an effective onboarding process.

Unlike some of the other challenges of onboarding we’ve already discussed, which really need a human touch to be resolved, this is one problem that can be fixed with modern technology.

Not so long ago, companies kept their important documents and information sources (in short, the knowledge vital for their functioning) scattered in various folders, shared on internal servers or even individual workstations.

The information needed to be requested and sent by email or, perish the thought, printed out on demand.

This meant that the documents often got lost and rewritten a couple of times, then found again to exist in multiple copies, with discrepancies between them.

In these circumstances, new employees had a very difficult time finding the information they needed and being absolutely sure that it was correct once they did.

Thankfully, those days are over for many modern-day companies who replaced this system with documentation software, such as our own product, Archbee.

Archbee Homepage

Modern documentation software allows you to build a knowledge base or an information library and publish it online, while providing access only to your employees.

It’s a way of keeping all of your company information, documentation, guides, handbooks, and codes in one place, guaranteeing it will never get lost or duplicated.

It’s almost like having an entire Wikipedia dedicated to your organization.

New recruits should definitely find value in this kind of software.

As soon as they get their login information, they instantly have access to every piece of information they need to carry out their first tasks.

That’s why Archbee is so often used for employee handbooks and onboarding guides.

Operational Onboarding Checklist

And with all the organizational features, such as our collections and document tree functions, they’ll have an easy time finding exactly what they’re looking for and come back to it whenever they need to.

In conclusion, if documentation and information disorganization are putting a chokehold on your onboarding process, see if documentation software can help you bring order to chaos.

You can try out Archbee for free right now.

Onboarding for Hard Skills Only

As we’ve argued before, many managers handle onboarding as a series of training sessions.

They seem to forget that their new employee will have to work alongside a team, make important decisions, and one day maybe even lead a team of their own.

The best onboarding experience, apart from enabling new hires to perform basic work tasks, should also cover some training on soft skills that will empower them to exceed expectations and advance their career.

The term “soft skills” can be a bit vague, so let’s enumerate some of them here. They include:

  • Leadership
  • Collaboration
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Time-management

Looking at this list, you probably already realize how important each skill is for almost every role at your company.

We’re inclined to agree with you, which is why it’s quite puzzling to see that less than half of US employers provide soft skill training as a part of their onboarding program.

Most employers don't offer soft skill training

It can be challenging to include soft skills training in your onboarding process, no doubt about that, but the benefits are definitely worth the effort.

Think of it as a long-term investment.

Soft skill training can make your new employees more confident in their everyday work, and it instills good habits from day one.

It also helps new employees course-correct, which mitigates a lot of preventable mistakes along the way.

Finally, by investing in soft skill development, you’re turning your employees into future leaders, helping them advance their careers at your company, which translates into higher overall productivity and lower turnover.

This is precisely why many top companies today offer education programs to their employees, which come in many forms.

For example, Seattle Genetics, the biotechnology company, offers scholarship reimbursement programs to employees who want to further develop their skills.

Seattle Genetics offers scholarship reimbursement programs to employees who want to further develop their skills
Source: LinkedIn

That’s how biologists and lab technicians can become business executives and promote their company’s mission in more ways than one.

Another example is Bonobos, the online upscale clothing retailer, which offers internal leadership courses to give employees at any level a chance to lead their teams to success.

Bonobos which offers internal leadership courses

The point is that your employees need to be introduced to much more than just the basics of their role.

They need to learn to work as a part of a team and make decisions that will guide your company on its way to business success. And that’s nigh impossible without enough attention given to soft skill development.


We hope this article has alerted you to some of the most common pitfalls modern companies face when onboarding new employees.

From meeting employee expectations to setting up an onboarding process that inspires, but doesn’t overwhelm, managers, team leaders, and executives definitely have their work cut out for them.

This shouldn’t discourage you, though.

As we’ve attempted to show you, every onboarding challenge has a solution that will not only keep you on track but also help you provide a memorable and engaging onboarding experience your new employees will remember for years to come.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the importance of employee onboarding?
Expand FAQ
Employee onboarding is key for a successful business as it prepares new hires for their job, assimilates them into the team, and sets them up for success even beyond their official training.
What is one of the challenges companies face due to rising employee expectations?
Expand Button
With the current job market offering more opportunities, many employees quit their jobs in pursuit of better employment. Companies now need to meet and exceed these high employee expectations from the very first day to retain them.
What role does recognising employee's efforts play in retention?
Expand Button
Employee recognition is crucial for retention. A large percentage of employees leave their posts because they feel their hard work isn’t appreciated. Recognizing employee achievements and providing positive feedback can help in keeping turnover low.
How can pre-boarding assist in employee retention?
Expand Button
Pre-boarding refers to interacting with the employee after offer acceptance and before their first day. This involves engaging the candidate with necessary paperwork and providing materials which help them learn about the new workplace. This support during pre-boarding ensures that the candidate remains excited and does not accept an offer from a competitor.
What is the potential issue with disseminating too much information on the first day of onboarding?
Expand Button
Overloading new employees with information on their first day can result in them retaining very little knowledge after their first week at work. The recommended approach is to stretch out the onboarding period and release information in stages, giving employees the time to absorb and apply the training.

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Onboarding New Hires