Employee resignation rates have skyrocketed since 2020. And their costly goodbyes are encouraging plenty of organizations to rethink their onboarding and employee retention strategies.

According to Gartner, voluntary turnover rates were expected to increase by roughly 20% over pre-pandemic numbers by the end of 2022. That’s a sizable leap — especially when you consider that replacing one worker can be an expensive proposition. Gallup estimates that companies spend up to two times an employee’s salary to put someone new in the same seat.

In other words, it’s much easier and more profitable to retain rather than recruit. One of the key places to start retaining your employees is at the very beginning of their career journey: onboarding.

Onboarding and Employee Engagement

Onboarding can have a significant impact on retention for several reasons. First, it sets the tone for the new hire. Employees can learn a lot about your organization and its functions during onboarding. For example, if your onboarding is unstructured, chaotic or non-existent, new team members can probably assume your culture and workflows operate similarly. On the other hand, if you’ve thought about everything and have a well-designed onboarding process, your new employees’ perceptions of you and the company will be off to a great start.

Secondly, onboarding allows you to welcome new employees and invite them into your work family. According to a Pew Research survey, 57% of people who left a job in 2021 said it was because they felt a lack of respect. An engaging onboarding plan can allow workers to engage and connect with their colleagues and employers early on, diminishing their chances of feeling disrespected (therefore, more apt to resign early).

Finally, an effective onboarding experience should enable employees to see how they can and will contribute to the company. Consequently, they can visualize their role and imagine how their future could look with your company long term. Often, employees who can see success and belonging in their future career path will remain with an employer to bring their visions and goals to fruition.

These advantages to onboarding aren’t just hypothetical. BambooHR research reveals that a great onboarding experience can make workers 18 times more likely to commit to their companies. Similarly, research from AllenComm shows a correlation between good onboarding and reduced turnover. The benefits of successful onboarding are clear — so how can you ensure your onboarding strategies are effectively retaining employees?

Employee Onboarding Best Practices

The bottom line is if you overlook onboarding, you are doing so at the expense of your business’ financial, cultural and brand reputation. However, you can’t just take a “set it and forget it” approach to your onboarding program. Onboarding as an innovative employee retention strategy involves having metrics in place to track success. Let’s evaluate some best practices to using onboarding to increase employee retention.

  1. Use the first day to get them acquainted.

It’s unreasonable to expect a new worker to sit at a desk and start typing away or pick up the phone and make sales calls on day one. A better way to kick off onboarding is to ensure that the first day — or week — involves a comprehensive orientation.

During orientation, you should communicate the company’s workplace expectations, workflow and culture. Give new hires a tour, introduce them to a few co-workers and/or bring them along to shadow someone in the same role. Without a comprehensive welcome, you can risk having low new hire engagement, which can affect retention.

This is a crucial first step when training a new employee. Their first-day orientation should also be a time of excitement and productivity where your new employee finds a home in their new work environment.

  1. Track the progress of their training assignments and activities.

After getting oriented to the company, your new hire should receive a schedule for the first week with a mixture of self-learning, such as online tutorials for software and systems, or bite-sized tasks. This schedule should be structured and easy to follow. And it should prioritize your new employees’ needs and goals.

As your new hire makes it through their assigned training, be proactive about tracking their progress. Make a note of assignments or quizzes that were more difficult for them to complete and address all questions with as much clarity as possible. As you do this, you will have a better idea of how to support your new hire and how invested they are in your company. For instance, if they are forgetting assignments, rushing through them or not participating in group activities or events, this could be a sign your employee is not feeling connected to the organization.

  1. Ask every new employee to complete a performance evaluation after 1 month.

When your employee reaches 30 days on the job, ask them to complete a customized performance evaluation. The evaluation could concentrate on anything from performance to accomplishments and efficiency. At this point, the evaluation is more of a self-assessment that provides a good baseline for performance moving forward.

The performance evaluation isn’t just a way to measure the employee’s skills and capabilities. It can also give you insight on how engaged the new worker is. A lackluster self-assessment may indicate that an employee doesn’t feel tethered to your organization. Or it may be a sign that your team member doesn’t have the necessary tools to succeed. These are important things to know at this stage because they’re fixable, and the sooner you spot these warning signs, the easier they are to amend.

  1. Arrange weekly check-ins with a 360-degree review.

To build momentum and keep your employee on track, prioritize weekly one-on-one meetings. At the 30-day mark, start setting goals for the next 30 days with the employee’s input in mind. That way, you can routinely return to those plans to make updates and ensure they’re accurate and achievable. This is also a great time to address any concerns you may have and ask them how they are feeling in their new role.

By the time your employee has been with you for six months, set up a 360-degree review. Get input from the employee and the employee’s colleagues. The review results will give you an excellent indication of whether your worker is feeling like a vital part of the team.

Creating a welcoming environment, tracking assignments, sending self-evaluations and conducting scheduled check-ins can help you avoid potential issues that could cost you a loyal employee. Increasing employee retention can take some trial and error, but it’s worth the time. Lowering your employee churn can pay off handsomely from a fiscal and cultural perspective, and it all starts with making a good first impression. 

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