Nearly a quarter of all new employees leave within a year. And up to 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment. In the war for talent, poor retention is as good as a dull spear.
So how do you stem the tide of early exits? Part of the answer lies in making sure you hire the right people in the first place. The other key, of course, is building, measuring, and continuously improving your onboarding program. A good onboarding program gets your new hires productive, faster. A great program helps turn new hires into loyal, longstanding employees.
Here are three ways to botch onboarding, along with examples of how to create a better new hire experience…
Mistake #1: Encourage new hires to focus solely on their own responsibilities.
On the surface, it may sound logical that new hires should have tunnel vision. It may seem like a faster route to productivity. But if you push them to keep their eyes on their own work, new employees will have a hard time getting a sense of context for their role and finding a sense of purpose for their efforts.
Instead, put thought into how to give new hires as much exposure to other parts of the business, as quickly as possible. Invite new employees to sit in on meetings in other departments. Have them observe client meetings or other types of customer interactions. The point is not for them to understand every detail of what they observe. Instead, early exposure to other parts of the business gives new hires access to a bigger picture. In the long run, understanding the greater business context will empower new hires to contribute more.
At Brightwing, for example, no matter what kind of position they’re in, every new hire observes a client meeting and a candidate meeting as part of their onboarding. Building relationships with our candidates and clients is at the heart of our business. It’s important that every single team member understands what that looks like, even if their daily tasks will never put them face-to-face with candidates or clients again.
Mistake #2: Forget the small wins. Ignore the milestones.
Who cares if a new hire just mastered a process? Or reached their first goal? It’s expected of them, so why make a fuss about it?
There are a few good reasons to make a big deal out of small wins, one of which is psychological: celebrating smaller successes is motivating. It helps people to feel valued and like they’re making progress. Another reason is practical: it brings the team together.
At Brightwing, every new hire gets a welcome bag that includes an onboarding “Passport.” You get a stamp for each milestone you achieve: attending your “Meet & Greet” luncheon, having lunch with your mentor, observing a client visit, beginning cross-training, and the list goes on.
At the point of your first-year anniversary, you’re asked to give a presentation at the company monthly meeting reflecting on your experience.
The first year is charted out in a fun and manageable way, so that new hires can feel rooted in the team and the culture quickly.
Mistake #3: Depend on a new hire’s manager to do all the heavy lifting.
The responsibility of ramping up a new hire rests squarely on the manager’s shoulders. It’s their job to support and develop the team, so involving others is unnecessary, right?
Wrong. Not only will that approach burn out your managers, but it will also be less effective for your new hires. Onboarding is best tackled as a broader team exercise.
For example, Microsoft recently implemented an “onboarding buddy” pilot program where they paired new hires with peers. They found that the buddy system helped provide context, accelerated speed to productivity, and improved new employee satisfaction.
At Brightwing, every new hire is paired with a mentor. The formal relationship lasts for 6 months, but many extend informally beyond that. Mentors and mentees meet once a week so that new employees can get a better understanding of Brightwing’s values and how we live them out. It’s also an opportunity to dive deeper into how the organization functions. We’ve seen that the deliberate relationship-building helps new employees feel more comfortable and confident, faster.