Onboarding New Hires Is the Key to Retention

October 6, 2020

by Lori Kleiman

Employees often state that they start looking for a new position the first week on the job. Why? Because they arrive at a new organization filled with hope and excitement and end up spending the first day filling out paperwork. The rest of that first week is often spent watching other people work while trying to learn what they are supposed to be doing. While there’s no getting around the initial compliance obligations, nothing is more important to successful retention than onboarding of your new hire.

Onboarding New Hires Vs. Orientation

Research has shown that the personal connection to coworkers and managers is the number one driver of employee engagement. Fostering these connections should happen right from the start. To do that, focus onboarding new hires rather than simply having them go through orientation. Orientation conjures up an image of sitting in a room listening to people talk, filling out papers, and watching videos. Onboarding, on the other hand, is a larger process that involves bringing the new employee fully into the company and helping them assimilate into the culture. Onboarding takes longer than the typical one-week orientation. The process can take up to 90 days or longer with periodic check-ins, guidance, and training.

The 4 Ps of Onboarding to Boost Retention

For a new hire to really feel a part of the organization, there are a few critical components that must be part of your process for onboarding new hires.

New hire paperwork is always going to be required of each employee, but by sending it to the employee before their first day, you free up time in the office to make them feel at home. Many payroll systems allow you to send a link to the employee so they can complete everything at their leisure.

Policies and Benefits.
Unless benefits start right away, there’s little need to overwhelm the employee with this information in their first week. Provide the employee with the employee handbook and a benefit overview, then go over benefits and policies a few at a time over the coming weeks. This gives you a great opportunity to periodically check in with employees to see how things are going.

Personal Connections.
Over the course of interviews with the new employee, you’ve likely gotten to know a little bit about them. Think about who in your organization might be someone they’d connect well with and then ask that person to be a “buddy” to your new hire. The buddy can greet them on their first day and have lunch with the new team member. Look for other ways to foster connections such as internal projects and committees the employee can get involved in to help introduce them to a larger portion of your workgroup. Don’t forget to ask them if they’ve met anyone they feel comfortable with and if they feel like they have a voice in their new team to gauge their integration into the organization.

To really feel comfortable, employees must understand both the formal and informal processes of the organization and their department. Don’t hand them a manual and expect them to get it. Give them real work to do and team them up with an expert. Walk them through the first few projects. This will help the new team member learn the ins and outs in a safe environment. Having productive work to do early on will connect them to the team and mission of the group.

Understanding the 4 Ps of onboarding can help you create a formal program for your organization. Think of this as a marathon – having a 90-day program with planned check-in points with both HR and management will ensure your best chance of successful retention of top talent. For more information about onboarding and countless other human resources topics, check out HR Hacks. Updated for 2020, HR Hacks provides all the tips, tools and templates you need to tackle every aspect of HR without reinventing the wheel.

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Lori Kleiman has more than 30 years of experience as a Human Resources consultant and entrepreneur running human resources departments of all sizes. Through keynote speeches, dynamic workshops, how-to books, and other programs, she transforms the way Human Resources professionals work and the impact they make at the company level. Lori is the Managing Director at HR Topics.