Why a good onboarding process is key to retention

A man in yellow painting a purple mural to showcase how onboarding must paint the best picture of your company

Employees usually decide whether they want to stay or leave their new job within the first 90 days. That’s why it’s crucial to make a great first impression: with a good onboarding process that provides the full picture.

From your company’s protocols to your workplace culture to everything in between, new employees have a lot of information to absorb when starting out in a new role. According to the Gallup Employee Engagement Statistics 2023 report around 6 in 10 employees are disengaged at work, which ultimately leads them to quit their roles. An efficient onboarding process can result in greater employee engagement resulting in increased levels of job satisfaction overall.

Changing jobs is a big change – no matter how excited a person might be about starting with your company. So, a well-considered onboarding process not only supports your new starter while they adjust to their role, but it paints a picture of what your company does, why it’s great and where they’ll fit in! Increasing retention rates in the long term. 

An effective onboarding process and why it’s important.

If your onboarding plan is successful, it helps integrate people smoothly into your team, company and culture – so they feel fully equipt to add value in their new role. It’s proven to increase commitment by up to 18x, and job satisfaction by up to 30x. 

It should also make clear what their role is as well as your company’s core culture and values, so they feel confident in who you are, what you do and where they fit in. Research and experience show this time and time again.

New hires are twice as likely to seek new opportunities “in the near future” after a poor onboarding experience.

Your company’s employee value proposition (EVP) is a key part of if the process, as well as attracting top talent. It sets the tone and expectations for your new employee’s experience.

86% of employers surveyed by Aptitude Research in 2022 believe that new hires decide whether to stay at a company in their first 90 days. Despite this, there’s a clear mismatch between what employers see and what employers do.

For People and HR heads:
Map out the company onboarding process steps clearly with your operations teams in one place for all new employees, so they’re confidently progressing through the steps at their own pace and so they can ask questions if anything is unclear. 

4 steps for a great onboarding process

1. Focus on your people to make new employees feel welcome

Onboarding is a critical period for making employees feel included: it sets the tone for their journey with your company and helps them envision themselves as part of that picture now and in the future. It’s easy to forget what it feels like to be the new starter, especially if you’ve been with the company for a while! You’ve accumulated so much knowledge and experience in the business, that it’s hard to see through their eyes.

For department heads:
Offer a warm welcome to your new team members and encourage your team to do the same: encourage your team to message them directly and set up a time to meet them properly and explain how the roles work together.

  • Work with departmental managers to structure onboarding that allows new employees to understand the bigger picture. Ensuring clear communication about this is crucial for everyone involved in the onboarding process.
  • Show not just where you are now, but where you are going! Share your roadmap for the future so they can set their own priorities and feel confident in how they can contribute to success.
  • Spend time to introduce new starters to the team. Meeting everyone will build a better understanding of each department and feel part of the team by building relationships. 

Spending time introducing new starters to fellow staff members and teams is so important! With clear communication, sharing the company’s future roadmap, and fostering relationships with the team you will help new employees feel welcomed and confident in their role within the organisation.

2. Drive an inclusive onboarding culture from day one

Your onboarding process should paint a complete picture of your company – and that means representing the different people that make up your workforce. Take the time in your process to emphasise the equality and diversity that exists in your workplace culture. And if you’re still working on diversity, explain the situation now and outline how you’re addressing it. if you are not there yet, it’s important to show you’re aware that you aren’t and that you’re implementing change.

  • Represent different groups that work for you in your marketing and onboarding materials.
  • Signpost your lived experience networks or support groups so diverse employees know they have a space to ask questions and raise concerns.
  • Allow for the qualities that make each of your people unique.

An inclusive and representative onboarding process welcomes new hires into your company’s culture, with the ultimate aim that they’re enabled and empowered to contribute themselves. It doesn’t mean adapting and assimilating to the status quo – the best cultures are ones that allow for their people to raise issues and be part of implementing change.

3. Provide avenues for feedback and discussion

Just like an artist receiving criticism on their masterpiece, feedback on your processes is trickier the closer you are to them! Someone coming in fresh from another company or even industry brings a wealth of new ideas, perspectives and ways of working! It might feel like criticism at the time, but this input is invaluable as you keep pace and adapt to changes in the market! 

For department heads:
Where possible, allocate a peer mentor to support with answering any questions or discussing any concerns during onboarding. This means the new starter has more options for support if you’re in meetings or unable to help right away.

  • Make sure there are informal check-ins for your new employees regularly throughout their first 90 days. 
  • Set up one-on-one meetings to help new hires integrate into the team to build bonds with the people they’ll be collaborating with. 
  • Welcome feedback in-person, but also consider multiple avenues for feedback, in person, surveys and check-ins for them to provide honest feedback.

Creating avenues for feedback is key to creating an effective onboarding experience for new employees so they can share their experiences and help improve your company’s onboarding programme for every new starter to come. 

4. Invest in career development

A key reason employees leave their jobs is a lack of promising career opportunities: from pay to upskilling to the company culture. As Gallup explores in depth, not having room to grow and progress has a significant impact on engagement, and ultimately, retention. That’s why it’s so important to paint a clear picture of what their future looks like if they stay committed and work for your company! 

  • Showcase straight away the training and development you have available – and how they can access it.
  • Highlight opportunities for cross-training and learning from employees already within the organisation, as another path of development.
  • Provide a way for new hires to showcase their ideas and ask their questions!

When new hires realise your company is willing to provide them with learning opportunities, they’ll feel more excited about their work, and as a result, will be more motivated and productive. This ultimately leads to higher levels of employee loyalty and increased retention rates.

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A man in yellow painting a purple mural to showcase how onboarding must paint the best picture of your company

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