Employee Retention: It All Starts with Onboarding

New employees bring with them energy and innovative ideas.

And they’d better. Because they’re darned expensive.

Engaging new employees requires an investment of both time and money. Advertising for and interviewing candidates is costly. As is training new hires and helping them grow into highly productive members of your team.

And that presumes you can even find qualified individuals. With the current low unemployment rate (3.6%, as of May 2019), when an employee leaves, 60% of employers spend more than 12 weeks looking for a replacement.

So when you do find that diamond in the rough, the last thing you want is for him or her to be one of the 50% of new hires who leave their position within the first 18 months.

Your onboarding program can help. Onboarding, or “organizational socialization,” is the means by which new employees acquire the necessary skills and behavior to become the qualified workers that every employer hopes to find—and keep.

But it’s more than that. Onboarding, if done right, is the new employee’s first experience with your company’s core values and culture. It’s your first chance to make him or her feel appreciated. And if your company attracted the new hire through an Employee Value Proposition, this is your first opportunity to deliver on it. The onboarding process sets the tone for all that is to follow.

But too often, it’s not made a priority. As Dana Bice, Managing Director for Found Advisors, put it,

How we plan and prepare for new employees is key to our very own success. Nevertheless, we often let it fall by the wayside. As a result, we may lose valuable employees. Our turnover rate skyrockets and employee engagement plummets.

Losing employees brings with it more than just the financial hit of trying to replace them. As Bice mentions, the loss can affect morale. Exiting employees can take key clients with them. And, from a real estate perspective, the empty spaces left behind can skew the remaining office space.

Onboarding experiences can and should be as unique as the companies designing them. They can be formal—providing new hires with a fixed sequence of activities—or informal—in which new employees learn about their jobs with a less explicit organizational plan. Regardless, there are certain best practices for making the onboarding experience a positive one:

(1) DO make new hires feel welcome. Show that you’re pleased to see them, take them to lunch, and/or leave a small gift at their workspace.

(2) DO use onboarding to inspire new hires and introduce them to the company core values and culture.

(3) DON’T ignore the onboarding process. Throwing your new employees right into the workday without introducing them to the people with whom they’ll be working makes the transition hard on everyone, as does expecting the new hires to just learn as they go, without proper training.

(4) DON’T make the onboarding experience an everlasting parade of employee handbooks and paperwork. Obviously, legal and policy documents will need to be signed, and handbooks distributed, but break up the day by introducing the new employees to their supervisors and coworkers, and providing a tour of the office.

According to a Gallup poll, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. Do yourself a favor: put yourself in that top 12%. It’ll boost everything from employee morale to your company bottom line.

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What do you remember about your most recent onboarding experience? Would you say your company did a “great job”?

Written by: Kim Pierson
for Coeo Space

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