A significant minority of new employees don’t make it through their first 90 days on the job. The exact numbers vary — a survey described in Inc magazine says 28%, while another reported by Psychology Today goes with 33% — but it’s clear that attrition isn’t just an issue for veteran employees.
And it’s a serious issue. It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to hire and train a new employee. If and when they don’t work out, that’s money and time lost forever — an investment made with little to no return.
Effective employee onboarding can’t completely solve the problem. Sometimes, a poor fit is a poor fit, and no amount of training or mentorship can make it otherwise.
Effective onboarding absolutely can increase the chances that a new employee will “take” to their new work environment, however. It can also improve employee productivity and performance during those crucial early months, as the employee works to grow into their new role and the employer assesses their long-term potential.
With all that said, let’s examine eight ways employers large and small can improve their employee onboarding processes and make the experience better — and more profitable — for everyone involved.
As soon as the ink is dry on the accepted offer letter, provide the new employee with access to your company’s internal knowledge base. This should include permissions for the company intranet if that’s where the knowledge base is housed.
Don’t have a knowledge base? Start yours up as soon as possible. It should include questions and detailed answers covering company culture, employee policies, and internal processes. Some of this information will duplicate your employee handbook, but you can’t expect new hires to read that cover to cover.
Grant the new employee access to the company self-serve HR portal, email system, workplace chat system, project management software, and any other systems they’ll need to use on a regular basis. Access to the HR portal is especially important during the interval between the accepted offer and the first day on the job, as we’ll see.
Your new hires should not have to fill out a single “housekeeping” form after their official start date. That’s one of the strongest takeaways from SHRM’s guide to employee onboarding and a sensible policy for any efficient onboarding process. Use the pre-start period, even if it’s just a long weekend, to set up the new employee with direct deposit, tax reporting, benefits, policies and procedures acknowledgment, and so on.
4. Provide a Clear Upfront Overview of the Onboarding Program (And Early Expectations for the Employee)
“No surprises” might as well be your onboarding program’s motto. Start off on the right foot by providing a clear overview of what the program will cover and when. Use a weekly or even daily calendar view to communicate this information, noting scheduled check-ins and meetings wherever relevant.
If you’re going to be clear about what your new hire should expect from your company, it’s only fair to communicate what you expect from them as well. Before their official start date, they should have a clear view of the onboarding and role-related milestones they’ll be expected to hit, and when, through the scheduled end of the onboarding program.
5. Clarify the New Employee’s Role and Responsibilities at a Team Meeting on Day One (And Give Them a Warm Welcome)
A thoughtful welcome message is a nice touch, one you shouldn’t overlook. But a truly effective welcome requires much more than that.
Start with a scheduled, mandatory team meeting that serves as an official “hello” for your new hire. Use this meeting to introduce the new hire and each member of the team and to clarify each person’s role and responsibilities.
This process is as much for the benefit of your veterans as the new hire. By clearly explaining where the new hire will fit into the existing team structure, you’ll answer many questions up front and relax members who feel uneasy or even threatened by the addition.
Every new hire needs an “insider” mentor. This is typically a veteran employee in the same department or vertical as the new hire — someone in whom the new hire might see themselves five or ten years down the road.
If you’re hiring multiple people at once, pair them up in a lateral “buddy” system. As time goes on, they’ll be able to answer many questions on their own and compare notes about their respective roles.
Finally, schedule regular check-ins with the new hire’s direct manager. Start with one-week intervals, then move to lower frequencies (one per month and eventually one per quarter or “as-needed”) as the employee gets more comfortable. And schedule at least one meeting with the new hire’s “big boss” — their boss’s boss or boss’s boss’s boss, generally — at some point during their first six months on the job.
Outside of seasonal work and lower-wage customer service settings, it’s not customary to expect a newly hired employee to leave after just a few weeks on the job.
Yet, if you believe the data, that’s exactly what happens in as many as one in three new-hire scenarios.
That’s unacceptable. Fortunately, it’s also preventable. Perhaps not in every instance but certainly often enough to make a difference.
An effective onboarding process is a crucial piece of post-hire attrition prevention. This process should include:
- Creating a comprehensive onboarding knowledge base and getting new hires access to it right away
- Getting new hire paperwork out of the way before their official start date
- Clarifying the scope of the onboarding process and onboarding expectations for the employee at the very beginning
- Clarifying the employee’s role within their team and bending over backward to help them integrate
- Assigning mentors and “buddies” (where possible) for every new hire
- Scheduling regular check-ins with the new hire’s direct manager during and after the formal onboarding process (and at least one meeting with a “big boss” too)
Look — no process is perfect. You’re still going to lose employees in the first weeks or months of service.
But an effective onboarding process will reduce that churn. In the long run, that’ll save you money and stress and make your company stronger too.