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A Comprehensive Onboarding Program Improves Retention

Want Great Employees to Stay? It Starts with Your Onboarding Program

By Mariah Collins, SHRM-CP on Jul 07, 2023
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Losing a great employee is one of the toughest things a business can experience. The performance of an entire department or function may rise (and fall) with that employee’s knowledge and expertise. Besides, you work hard to source the right candidates for roles, and hiring new employees is expensive and time-consuming. 

The competition for talent is fiercer than ever, which is why it’s no surprise that Google searches for “employee retention” rose exponentially post-COVID-19. It seems that all employers are looking for new and creative retention strategies. In doing so, they’re served well to go back to the very beginning of their employees’ tenure: your business' onboarding program.

In this post, we’ll explore how the onboarding program serves as an effective and creative retention tool—so that your hires can start adding value to your company sooner and staying with you longer. 

onboarding vs orientation

The Importance of a Comprehensive Onboarding Program (as Opposed to Orientation Alone)

As opposed to orientation, onboarding is a much longer-term process, and not every step of it must be structured. A comprehensive onboarding process allows for immersive interaction between an employee, their colleagues and their supervisors.

During this period, managers will come to understand their learning styles, goals, and skill sets. You can think of onboarding as the responsive, feedback-filled push-and-pull that occurs as an employee learns what is expected of them and how they can meet those expectations. 

While orientation may carry the reputation of a planned “welcome week,” onboarding is a slow ramp-up and encompasses background processes of learning and socialization that can take up to a year to finalize. When an employee completes orientation, they’ll know the basics of how to exist in the company and where to turn for help. When an employee completes onboarding, they’ve proven they understand their role and how to succeed in it. 

RELATED: Onboarding Sets Interns Up for Success >> 

Understanding the Link Between Onboarding & Retention 

According to the research and advisory firm Brandon Hall Group

“Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. Companies with weak onboarding programs lose the confidence of their candidates and are more likely to lose these individuals in the first year.” 

This data, collected as part of the group’s Talent Acquisition study, shows a clear link between onboarding and retention. The psychology behind the link, however, may be more nuanced. Several factors come into play in the relationship between comprehensive onboarding programs and retention, which should be kept in mind when designing or revamping your procedures: 

  • Work culture fit 

Comprehensive onboarding allows employees the ability to figure out how they best fit into your organization, align with its values, and identify with its culture. Forbes recently reported on a workplace study published in the Journal of Personnel Psychology, which outlines how “employees who fit well with their organization, coworkers and supervisor had greater job satisfaction, were more likely to remain with their organization and showed superior job performance.” 

  • Finding a pace in the role

    As discussed, onboarding is a slow ramp-up that concludes when and only when an employee becomes totally acclimated to their position. As opposed to orientation, it’s not just a week of training videos and introductions. While proper onboarding requires a bit more effort from supervisors, it will allow your new hires to identify and work through pain points, items of confusion, and even better, areas of particular skill or interest that will keep employees engaged with your organization longer. 
  • Coaching & mentorship

    Comprehensive onboarding programs allow employees to spend dedicated one-on-one time with their supervisors. Clear communication of goals, expectations and feedback is key to successful onboarding and long-term retention. 

If an employee doesn’t understand what’s expected of them, they’ll not only struggle to identify and meet those goals, but they’ll also begin to feel frustrated with your company itself, leading to attrition.

the value of onboarding technology

What to Consider When Crafting a Retention-Focused Onboarding Program

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re already onboarding your employees. If you don’t have defined strategies, your employees are likely learning on the fly. Take control of your onboarding processes with the following retention-minded tips: 

  • Set aside one-on-one time with employees who can help

    Your new employees need face time, and not just with their manager. Do you have someone within the new hire’s department, or even the broader organization, who can mentor the employee, even informally? If so, encourage them to connect with the new hire personally and set aside some time to introduce themselves, check in and see how they can be a resource as your new hire gets their bearings.

This connection may become the person the employee can turn to for help down the road, helping them sort through career issues that may otherwise steer them in the direction of another employer. 

  • Know that it’s never too early to define goals

    How will your new employee know what it takes to be successful in their role if it’s not defined for them early on? As a manager, it’s never too early to communicate exactly what you expect, including the qualities you’re excited to see them develop and the goals they will be able to achieve. 
  • Check in often as they get the lay of the land

    When new employees are getting acclimated to their role, their days can feel a bit unstructured, which can be incredibly frustrating and can breed unproductivity. Be sure to outline tasks they can focus on as they settle into a routine, and when the employee can expect check-ins on their progress. 

RELATED: A Simple Process Reveals Whether Employees Are the Right Culture Fit >>

Axcet HR Solutions: Your Partner for Employee Retention, Recruitment & More

At Axcet HR Solutions, we serve small businesses and lean organizations that are focused on growing and scaling their core business. Axcet is a full-service, certified professional employer organization (PEO) that develops comprehensive onboarding processes unique to your company, including customized leadership and development coaching, interpersonal skills training and more. 

For all things employee relations, recruitment, retention, compliance, and more, the human resources experts at Axcet HR Solutions have you covered. Onboarding and orientation are just the beginning of what we can help with at Axcet. To find out how we can help your small business, reach out to our experts today.

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