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Executive Corner – Great Onboarding Reduces Retention Agony

Michael Clegg | 03/30/2022

Great Onboarding Will Reduce Retention Agony (Updated 3/28/2022)

Most companies are making key hires multiple times annually.  With historically low unemployment rates transitioning to “the great resignation”, the demand for retaining top talent has never been higher. A successful onboarding practice can get the process of retention started from the application to the anniversary date.  How many companies are paying attention to their onboarding practices?

What is onboarding? Most employers treat onboarding as an event versus the reality of it being a process. In fact, onboarding should be reviewed as often as a P&L statement is reviewed. If it was, the P&L would look significantly better. Onboarding should last over a period of months, NOT days.  The cost of nurturing employee relationships is high but the cost of not nurturing those employee relationships is higher. Glassdoor said in July 2021, that great onboarding practices increase retention by 86%. In February 2022, there were 11.3 million open jobs and only 6.3 million unemployed. 48 million workers quit in 2021. The stakes have NEVER been higher.

The overall goal for employers is to retain good employees and that begins, at the application process. Successfully onboarding new hires can lower the chances of losing great talent. Does onboarding affect turnover? Yes! According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, Technology Can Save Onboarding from Itself, about 17% of new hires walk away during the first 90 days on a new job, 22% within the first 45 days, and 33% within their first 6 months largely a result of a poor onboarding experience. Why is this important? Because turnover is much more expensive than companies realize. The cost of turnover is equal to ½ to two times the employee’s salary according to Gallup.

According to a Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) article, statistics compiled from Click Boarding, an onboarding software company, showed that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding. There are no second chances of making a first impression. The total experience does matter, and it leaves a lasting impression.

There is evidence that shows over 90% of employers agree that onboarding is very important in the hiring process, yet 1/3 of employees say they did not have a great experience. Onboarding is where the employee is at a crossroads of being engaged or disengaged. There is plenty of data that speaks to lack of engagement and employee performance and attrition.

So, what are some ways to ensure a good onboarding experience? Below are some key areas of focus to ensure that onboarding is hitting the major areas that matter to each employee:

  1. Engage prior to Day 1
  2. Company culture
  3. Healthcare, technology, benefits, and other company perks
  4. Set short term goals to achieve early wins
  5. Career development and provide structure in how to be successful in their role
  6. Formal introductions to other team members
  7. Assessment of employee and leader
  8. Formal mentorship program or a collaborative partner
  9. Scheduled 1×1 time with their direct report on a regular basis
  10. Frequent check-ins (stay interviews) and opportunities to receive feedback

Another important aspect of onboarding is related to the relationship between employees and the boss.  Simple assessments can be used to start the conversation as they get to know one another.  Often, the discussions are more in line with their personal lives, rather than their behaviors at work or certain preferences they may have.   As an example, if you have someone like me who tends to leave details out of the conversation due to having a sense of urgency just to get to the end result, versus an employee who is detail-oriented, some challenges could occur quickly in the relationship. If the differences are never addressed, it could cause some serious issues with retention.  Learning how to communicate with each other is a great way to add to have a successful onboarding experience.

While researching this topic, one of the more interesting points was that of “Social Onboarding,” which improves the engagement levels of new hires. Keep in mind; new hires can experience isolation due to being in a new environment with a bunch of strangers.  One way to avoid this issue is for new hires, in partnership with their managers, to identify new co-workers whose success they will help contribute to, or who will help contribute to their own success. Building social capital with teammates daily drives a sense of community. Being socially accepted is a key factor to newcomer success. One of the great questions that Gallup asks in its popular Q12 Survey is, “Do you have a best friend at work”. People that are connected to people at work stay connected to the company.

Viewing the entire process from an individual’s attitudes and values and using technology to further understand and create individual insights will allow the company to implement new strategies directly related to the individual new hire and increase the likelihood that they will stay.

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