How Your Onboarding Strategy Helps with Employee Retention

PRemployer on March 9, 2022


Employee turnover is an issue many businesses face, especially with the current job climate. Everyone seems to be short of the staff they need, which makes retaining existing staff vital. However, employee retention shouldn’t only come into consideration when worried about people leaving. Companies should plan to improve retention as soon as a new person is hired by implementing a solid onboarding strategy.

First impressions very much do matter, and it is entirely too easy to onboard an employee in a way that doesn’t make them feel attached to their work, or worse by instilling resentment. Improving your onboarding strategy can be key to securing retention.

However, in too many companies, onboarding is given little thought, making it a mess. It is poorly coordinated, does not involve all the key players it should, and can leave new employees flailing. In these cases, the new team member might start looking for something else right away and you may be replacing them within three to six months.

It's vital to do onboarding right, and here are some tips. 

Make a Lasting First Impression 

Keep in mind that the onboarding process is a new hire's first impression of your business. During recruitment, you are "selling" your company to them (and vice versa). The last thing you want to do is look good at that stage and then have everything collapse once onboarding starts. 

You need to make sure that your onboarding process makes you look organized and credible. New employees should be brought through the process smoothly with as few "bumps" as possible. That includes things as basic as making sure that they are sent all the forms they need without having to ask for any of them or that they know their benefits options. 

Consider everything you do from the new hire's perspective. Does it make you come over as if you know what you're doing? Are they getting all the information you need? Are you supporting them to learn their role properly? 

If a new team member feels as if they have been set up to fail, then they are very likely to promptly start shopping for their resume or keep their other interviewing options open. That means they may leave before they even get settled in their role. Helping employees succeed and making them feel supported facilitates their growth into their new role by making them feel they have resources to ask questions and learn from any mistakes. 

Try, however, not to give a falsely rosy impression, which can cause them to feel let down when they realize that things are not what they seemed. That too can make employees feel resentful when they learn things are not as they seem. Typically, it is best to be very honest about the job and its specific demands before you even sign a contract. 

Build an Onboarding Strategy 

Too many small businesses have a very ad hoc approach to onboarding. "Oh, I suppose we should..." 

Your onboarding system must be organized and strategic and, furthermore, must last longer than one to two weeks. Most employees are going to need help for at least several months. Also, it's very easy to stop onboarding before the end of the "honeymoon period," which leaves employees feeling deserted right when they need extra support. 

Sit down and go through not just what new hires need to know, but who they need to meet and what they should be able to do to hit the ground running. You should pull together resources that help them understand the organization and their role and help them get up to speed quickly. It's particularly important to ensure that they know where they fit and how their position supports your overall goals. Most people are more engaged and productive if they feel part of the company's mission. 

A professional employer organization (PEO) can help you put together these materials and come up with strategies based off of their prior experience with other clients. Compiling handbooks and resources is a large time investment for companies and can be too much to handle solely by themselves. Having an outside resource offer advice and handle necessary and mundane tasks, like payroll, can free time for your internal team to focus on the necessities of onboarding. 

While onboarding must have an official end date, it should still be part of your development program. Your onboarding should segue naturally into ongoing career development, helping your new staff grow further with the company and learn more as they become adept at their jobs. 

Onboarding Goals 

What are your goals when you onboard somebody? Early productivity is a good one, but it should not be at the expense of ensuring that employees have everything they need. Onboarding must be conducted using simple steps. Training is much tougher, but it helps to outline the process towards a directed goal. Consider training goals for 30, 60, and 90 days, checking in after each stage and offering guidance to help them. 

Streamline the Process with Electronic Onboarding 

Electonic onboarding digitizes the onboarding process, letting candidates fill out key forms online through a secure channel. It speeds up the process because it allows forms to be filled out remotely in advance, helping employers seamlessly bring on new hires with few bumps in the road.  

If ease of use weren’t impressive enough, electronic onboarding also lowers the risks of mistakes because candidates insert information directly themselves. Paper forms have more risk of mistake, as the information needs to be transferred to the computer system separately. It also stores sensitive information, such as social security numbers, more securely as it limits the amount of people who can access them. 

Immerse New Hires in Your Culture 

Make sure that you include the goal of helping them understand your company culture. Ideally, recruitment should cover part of this to make sure that the candidate is truly a good fit. But even if they are a fit, they almost certainly came from somewhere that did things just a little bit differently. Immersing them in your culture helps them learn about your company and feel like a better part of the team. You can help new hires acclimate better to their roles and meet the people they get along with best. 

Get the Entire Team on the Same Page 

Make sure that you go through goals with everyone involved in onboarding, including HR, managers and supervisors, and senior employees who might volunteer to mentor new hires. One issue HR often faces is that managers see onboarding as entirely something HR does and not their own role in it. Sell it to managers by talking about making sure that new team members are productive. Let them be subject matter experts.  

Doing so will make your team more connected by establishing that all employees help each other. It will also make your organization seem more cohesive with any new staff. You need to know exactly what first impression you want to leave, or there is a risk you will send incorrect messages. 

Keep Open Communication 

Feedback and open communication are particularly vital. You want to offer guidance while new staff is learning their role, as these habits and routines you set will establish what they do going forward. Providing clear, constructive feedback that touches on what they do well while showing where they can improve, supports new staff, and helps them feel better about their role.

Furthermore, make sure that new hires know that you want to hear their thoughts about the onboarding process so that it can be continuously improved. It's often the new-hire going through the process who will spot the hole you missed, whether it's a key piece of information that "everybody knows," their manager not being on board, or everyone thinking somebody else talked to them about something. 

Set Your Company (And New Hires) Up for Lasting Success 

Good onboarding is a key part of employee retention. Done well, it helps instill loyalty from the start, encourages employees to gain an understanding of the company, and encourages engagement. Done poorly, it causes employees to leave quickly (sometimes very quickly) and increases turnover and related costs. 


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