31 OCT, 2014

Onboarding for Retention

Manager Training New Employee

The worst job I ever had started exactly this way:

I arrived a few minutes before my start time of 9am and went to the security desk of the office building. I asked them to call the woman I was told would be responsible for me that day since my boss was out of town on business. She was not at her desk. (I later found out she was also on vacation that week.) I sat in the lobby for almost an hour as the security guard tried the desk of another person he happened to know worked at my company. Finally he reached her and I was taken upstairs and given a desk. I had no work to do or anyone to meet with since no one knew I was coming.

That should have been my cue to run out the door and never come back, but I didn’t, and I regretted it. Luckily I got out of there and into a wonderful job a few months later.

Don’t let this or anything like it happen to your new hires! Up to 20% of new hires leave within the first 45 days of employment. This is a lot of lost time, money, and effort during the recruiting process, not to mention more than a month’s worth of training and ramp-up time that will now be doubled as you have to repeat it.

Here are some tips to onboard employees with an eye towards retaining them:

Take care of the logistics. Make sure you have a desk or work station set up and cleaned, a phone, and a computer ready for the new hire upon arrival. Get them a badge, a parking pass, or anything else they need to access the building within the first few days so they are not dependent on anyone else to do basic things like walk in the front door.

Introduce them. Take them around and introduce them to the department as well as anyone else who sits nearby that they might interact with on a regular basis.

Socialize them. Take your team out for a lunch, or even better, a happy hour that can be an informal way for them to get to know your new hire and vice-versa.

Train them. Make sure you have an employee training schedule set up, with confirmed dates, times, and content to be covered by each trainer. Try to start in sales or marketing since those departments will be able to give a general overview of what your company does from the customer’s perspective. Many times operational employees start right in on what they do to make widget x and what tools they use to make it, but the new hire is left wondering why you make these widgets in the first place and who uses them.

Keep them busy. All too often new hires are left to their own devices for long stretches as they get up to speed, which makes the day drag on interminably. Give them a task that will help them learn your business, such as a quick competitor analysis that you go over with them. You can also give them a list of industry websites to review and ask that they bring you a few articles of interest to discuss.

Give them feedback. Once the new hire is up and running, it’s important to review their performance with them early on so they have clear expectations about their role. It’s a good idea to have a 90-day or even a 6-month check-in to let the new hire know what they have been doing well, and also what you’d like to have them work on in order to be successful by the time their annual review comes up.

Get their feedback. Ask them how the onboarding process has been and if they have any suggestions to improve upon it. Also, don’t forgot that longtime employees of companies often develop groupthink and can no longer be truly objective about their products and services. Use your new employee as an objective observer who can point out weaknesses or even strengths that you took for granted. If they are from your industry, ask for insights into how the competition stacks up and find ways to exploit your advantages and improve on your disadvantages. Not only will it help your company, but it will make the employee feel valued early on.

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