Top five onboarding problems and how to solve them

20th February 2020

Recruitment is complete and you have found the right candidate for a role and they then accept the position. So what could possibly go wrong from here?

Unfortunately, there’s plenty that can, and very often does, go wrong during this crucial phase of the hiring cycle – known as onboarding.

Employee onboarding should start the moment that a successful candidate has been chosen and covers all of the tasks that are needed to get the new hire started with an organisation.

The main focus is on getting contracts and offer letters signed but it includes a whole range of tasks such as welcome packs, policy guides and first-day preparations.

A recent survey by Webonboarding identified the main onboarding challenges identified by HR managers. Here’s a look at the top five and some ways you can tackle them:

1. Candidates Dropout

The longer it takes to complete the onboarding process, the higher the risks of people dropping out become. This can happen during onboarding or in the weeks and months after a new hire has started.

This is an issue because onboarding is a process that typically takes weeks complete, with hiring teams having to send out documents and wait for them to be signed and returned.

In today’s candidate-driven environment, people often have multiple employment options open to them. Frustrating delays are an incentive to explore other opportunities.


Onboarding times can be reduced by minimising any reliance on email and paper processes. Cloud-based tools and digital document signing has the power to cut times from weeks to days.

2. Poor Engagement

This refers to the kind of experience a person has during the onboarding process. Typically, it’s an anxious waiting period with little or no information from the employer about what’s happening.

Communications with the employer are liable to be minimal. The information they receive is likely to be a posted welcome pack containing an assortment of company documents.

After the elation of accepting a job, a lack of engagement can create second thoughts and doubts about the kind of organisation they are about to join.


Good communications are vital with candidates kept informed of exactly what’s happening and what tasks they need to do. A digital approach makes it easy to share information that goes beyond the limits of a welcome pack.

3. Non-starters/Nonboardees

This is when candidates will drop out of the process without informing the hiring team. Instead, the person will simply stop responding to communications – calls go unanswered, emails are not replied to.

It’s a growing problem and one which causes HR teams considerable headaches. Often the problem is only identified when a new starter doesn’t turn up for the first day in their role.

The longer it takes to identify a non-starter, the more problems it causes with the costs of finding a replacement and the disruption of roles remaining unfilled.


Tackling this is again down to good communications. Regular contacts and status updates help to keep people engaged and identify early any potential dropouts.

4. Incomplete paperwork

The Welcome Aboard study found that more than a third of new starters begin their roles before having completed all of their paperwork. From April 6th, 2020 the Good Work Plan legislation makes this a day one requirement for any contractual agreements.

This change to employment law removes the two-month period that employers have had to complete the task. As well as a potential £20,000 fine, any compliance breach opens up a whole range of legal issues.


Make sure that any contractual agreements are completed on or before a new starter’s first day. An effective onboarding checklist and process will keep track of each required task.

5. Poor management visibility

One of the fundamental management problems with employee onboarding is that it’s so hard to keep track of the process. Information tends to be scattered across emails, paper documents and spreadsheets.

It makes it prohibitively difficult for HR teams to monitor the status of each onboarding task or to track the overall performance. Without easy access to accurate and up to date information, problems and bottle-necks tend to remain hidden.


Create a streamlined process which enables easy access and tracking of information.

In summary, a focus on onboarding from the moment a role has been offered can help to improve a new hires experience and engaging with them sooner. Plus you can spot potential dropouts at an earlier point.