Each of your employees only gets to experience one first day on the job. Effective employee onboarding on day one (and through the weeks and months thereafter) can mean the difference between an employee who remains engaged for years to come or an empty desk after only a few months.
How Long Should Onboarding Last?
According to our employee onboarding survey of over 1000 employed US workers, 31 percent of people have left a job within the first six months, with 68 percent of those departing within three months. For many new employees, it seems the first three months at an organization are the most precarious.
And for good reason—during that time, new hires are trying to learn how to do their jobs well, how the organization operates, how they fit within their teams and the company culture, and more. It’s a lot to take in, and without help through onboarding programs, they can easily drown in information.
To keep your new hires from feeling overwhelmed and lost, it’s vital to continue the employee onboarding process beyond their first few days and into their first several months of employment. Doing so helps employees learn about job training, culture, policies, and benefits at their own pace, making it much easier for them to actually absorb the information.
Why Do New Hires Leave?
When new employees have a negative or difficult onboarding experience, they are much more likely to second-guess their decision to join an organization. They may even quit in the first few months, as mentioned above. According to our onboarding survey, the top three reasons employees left within the first six months of a new job were:
- They decided the work was something they didn’t want to do anymore. (28 percent)
- They felt their jobs were different from what they expected in the interview. (26 percent)
- They felt their boss was a jerk. (23 percent)
Setting the right expectations during the recruitment process can help keep new employees from feeling like they have been the victims of a bait-and-switch, mitigating a lot of potential confusion and disappointment. This starts with an accurate job description, effective interviews, and a great pre-boarding experience (offer letters, paperwork, initial introductions, etc.).
Additionally, new hires who left a job shortly after their first day listed a few other onboarding elements that could have made a difference in their decision:
- 23 percent of respondents said they wanted to “receive clear guidelines to what responsibilities were”
- 21 percent wanted “more effective training”
- 17 percent said “a friendly smile or helpful coworker would have made all the difference”
In short, employees coming into a new organization want two things—the opportunity to do their best work and a sense of personal connection with their teammates. These fall right in line with Gallup’s 12 elements of engagement, which include employees’ desires for clear expectations, a sense of contribution and job alignment, positive manager and peer relationships, and more.
How Can You Improve the Onboarding Experience?
The best employee onboarding programs are geared toward providing those elements of engagement to new hires from the get-go. First, set your new employee up for success by defining responsibilities, processes, and expectations for their job. Showing them a clear path forward will give them a way to channel their fresh excitement and enthusiasm that you’ve generated during the hiring process.
Our onboarding infographic shows what employees value the most during their first week on the job to help them become effective and productive quickly:
- On-the-job training (76 percent)
- Review of the company’s policies, such as dress code, time-off policy, etc. (73 percent)
- Review of administrative procedures, such as a touring the facility and setting up work station (59 percent)
- Assignment of an employee “buddy” or mentor (56 percent)
HR professionals also chimed in with what they believe to be the most important aspects of the onboarding process to update and improve:
- On-the-job training (41 percent)
- Mentor or buddy program (37 percent)
- Updated employee handbook (28 percent)
It seems, at the very least, that HR and new hires are on the same page when it comes to creating an exceptional onboarding experience. Better job and policy training can help employees feel comfortable in the company and effective in their roles much sooner, while a mentor or buddy program can provide the relationships and guidance that new hires need to feel fully committed to their organizations.
Refocusing your onboarding efforts on meeting new employees’ most basic needs for job clarity and personal connection will not only reduce new-hire turnover—it will also increase employee engagement. Through effective onboarding, you will be able to help new hires transition from excited recruits to engaged employees, and from their forward momentum, your entire organization will move ahead.