Solving Onboarding Challenges: Top 5 Strategies for Success

Understanding the Significance of Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of introducing a new hire to the organization, to their role, and to their job requirements. Onboarding helps new employees learn about the culture of their new workplace and the expectations of their position and their team. Good onboarding is vital to retaining and engaging employees, and this is true in HigherEd just as it is in all other types of organizations.

Once the hiring process is over and you welcome a new hire to your campusthere’s a lot at stake. Keeping your new hire motivated and excited to be there helps maximize productivity out of the gate, as well as promotes a positive experience overall. Many organizations face similar onboarding challenges. In a recent survey, “Gallup has found that new employees typically take around 12 months to reach their full performance potential within a role while only 12 percent of employees say their organization does a great job of onboarding.” 

So, what’s the root of the problem and how do colleges and universities ease onboarding woes on their campus?


Job candidate shaking hands after an interview.

The Five Onboarding Challenges in HigherEd

1. Information Overload  

A new hire is almost always nervous on their first day. They are overloaded with information from the moment they walk in the door. If you force them to drink from a firehouse the first day, your efforts will have little impact on training the new employee.  

Automation of processes allows for your new employee to filter through information at their own speed and eases the pressure of completing forms quickly and accurately. It also saves you time by allowing the process to be efficient and uniform. Digitization also makes onboarding much more engaging: no more spending your first 

2. Role Ambiguity  

An  Allied Workforce Mobility Survey found that only 58% of companies provide clear job titles and identify expectations for employees. Furthermore, only 39% establish milestones and set goals for new employees. If an employee understands their role and can step into their first week of work knowing how they can contribute to the team, everyone will save time and resources. Understanding a role increases the employees’ engagement, improves their overall performance and reduces turnover rates. 

With documented job descriptions and organized structures, onboarding a new employee into a new or existing role can be easy. Plus, when job duties are clearly laid out, onboarding can be specific to each role, rather than one-size-fits-all.

3. Unorganized Key Information and Documentation  

Paperwork is king when it comes to onboarding. This unavoidable part of the process can be even more of a burden if files are not easily accessed, organized, and ready for the new hire. Making sure that you have the proper information, documentation, and signatures is important. This allows for certainty when it comes to compliance and handling disputes. 

A digital solution can help manage needed forms and policy acknowledgments all in one place. The HigherEd Platform is one platform with multiple solutions that enable compliance and efficiency when it comes to new hire paperwork.  

4. Disjointed Culture Experience

Showcasing your company culture is just as important in the onboarding process as it is in the interview process. Culture is a driving force that keeps employees engaged and excited to show up to work each day so that they can perform at optimal levels. Your onboarding process should be an immersive experience that represents your college or university’s commitment to its employees. Help a new hire understand your mission, your beliefs, and how they will contribute to the greater mission on campus as soon as they join the team.  

5. Knowledge Gaps  

A new hire doesn’t know what they don’t know. The same goes for the committee or department that is working with HR for the hire. It’s important that everyone is communicating and on the same page. HR is more than just a transactional department it should also be utilized as a resource.

An automated and digital solution that works seamlessly between the application process to the onboarding process allows for everyone to be on the same page at all times. Don’t lose time on duplicate data entry, or lose track of what’s been completed and what’s to come: candidates flow from applicants to new hires to full employees without a hitch.

Image of hand holding pen above paper, employees solving complex onboarding challenges.

Digital solutions offer streamlined processes and solve onboarding challenges

Onboarding new employees is a complicated process requiring streamlined processes, a digitally enabled approach, and teamwork. The Employee Records module of the HigherEd Platform helps you make a great first impression with comprehensive onboarding processes designed to welcome new hires seamlessly.


PeopleAdmin’s integrated Employee Records (formerly Onboard and Records) enables higher education institutions to maintain compliance without the added stress of paper processes–freeing hiring managers and HR teams to focus on personalized communications and meaningful development-driven activities. 


With Employee Records, new employees are up to speed and ready to fill their roles quickly so they can spend more time advancing the institution’s mission. No more role ambiguity or information overload: instead, new hires get the knowledge they need specifically for their position.


With seamless integration into PeopleAdmin’s ATS and the HigherEd Platform, Employee Records gives your institution the resources and data it needs to be successful. This also creates that seamless flow of information your team needs to combat knowledge gaps and reduce missing documentation. One platform also ensures constant communication between HR and the hiring department.

PeopleAdmin’s Commitment to Solving Higher Education Onboarding Challenges

Onboarding is a key first step in the HigherEd employee lifecycle, one that impacts retention, new hire contribution, campus culture, employee engagement, and much more. When your team eliminates paperwork and focuses on impactful, effective, and personalized onboarding with a fully digitized process, you’ll make a difference on your campus. PeopleAdmin has the tools that empower your institution to create a modern hiring and onboarding process.

The HigherEd Cloud is one platform with multiple solutions that help your institution fulfill the mission of higher education. Our  open platform solutions empower more effective hiring, onboarding, position management, professional development, and retention through interoperability, efficiency, and innovation. Our Insights analytics dashboards provide data at your fingertips in real-time, with a platform that speaks to all areas of your institutionThe entire HigherEd Cloud out-of-box single sign-on, mobile access, and multiple portals for employees and administrators.

Need to double-check your onboarding process? Employee Records now features the CUPA-HR Onboarding Checklist

Want to learn how PeopleAdmin can help improve new-hire experience and solve onboarding challenges at your institution?

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Onboarding Challenges FAQ

Q: What are common onboarding challenges in organizations?

A: Some of the most common onboarding challenges include:

  • time-consuming paperwork and document, especially on day one
  • lack of engagement in campus culture
  • miscommunication or missed steps between departments
  • lack of personalization, so employees aren’t prepared for their specific role
  • inconsistant processes

Q: What role does technology play in addressing onboarding challenges?

A: Technology is key to tackling many of the onboarding challenges faced by HigherEd teams. A fully digitized onboarding process means that new hires can fill out required paperwork and documents on their own time, rather than on their first day of work. This frees up time for more engaging onboarding activities that help a new hire become part of the campus culture. A holistic platform (like PeopleAdmin’s) allows for cross-department communication so no onboarding steps get missed, and helps your team personalize onboarding to the specific job requirements of each new hire.

Q: Are there specific onboarding challenges in higher education institutions?

A: Yes! Higher education institutions face different onboarding challenges than other types of organizations. First, HigherEd HR teams often need to design unique onboarding experiences for the vastly different job functions present at most institutions (like full-time faculty, part-time faculty, staff, and even student workers). In addition, onboarding compliance is essential for HigherEd institutions, especially for institutions that depend on state or federal funding. Every state and institution may have their own standards and requirements, and it’s vital that your process adheres to those requirements.

Q: How can higher education institutions overcome employee onboarding challenges?

A: PeopleAdmin’s Employee Records supports colleges and universities with onboarding processes and helps tackle challenges unique to HigherEd. A modern, digitized onboarding process welcomes new hires, gets them up to speed quickly, and keeps them engaged, all while ensuring HR compliance. Seamless integration with Applicant Tracking System means applicant information carries over into the onboarding process, while digital form management extends throughout the employee lifecycle and ensures that everything is in one place, reducing data re-entry.

Q: What are the consequences of not addressing onboarding challenges effectively? 

A: If higherEd institutions don’t take steps to address the challenges of outdated onboarding processes, their hiring and retention will suffer. Good onboarding processes are proven to positively impact retention and employee engagement. In a HigherEd climate where retention is a top concern and hiring is still a challenge, HR teams need to do everything they can to get new hires up to speed quicker and retain the employees they already have.