6 Tips to Improve Onboarding and Retain Employees

December 7, 2022・7 mins read
6 Tips to Improve Onboarding and Retain Employees

Despite economic uncertainties, according to a US Pulse Survey, 88% of executives are seeing higher rates of turnover than normal and 65% of the workforce is actively looking for a new job. Some of the motivating factors behind seeking alternative employment include better benefits, higher compensation and better alignment with company culture. Employers actively compete to retain highly qualified employees within the organization, but there are some pillars of retention that should be considered.

One important pillar is a robust onboarding experience. Onboarding is the employee’s first impression of the organization and provides a glimpse into their future with your company. In fact, employees who reported having “exceptional” onboarding experiences are 2.6 times as likely to be satisfied with their workplace, which reduces the risk of turnover. So, how do you create an exceptional onboarding experience that retains employees? Here are a few tips.

The Importance of Strategic Onboarding

Onboarding refers to the period of time a new employee is brought into your organization, shown their responsibilities and educated on your company mission and goals. This is when employees become acclimated to their roles and find their place within your company. Onboarding, which can last anywhere from a few weeks up to 12 months, should not be confused with orientation, which is completed on the first days of employment.

The onboarding experience presents the perfect opportunity to make new hires feel welcome and connected. Whether it’s during training and introductions or through ongoing and proactive support, small actions add up. Although some organizations simply play a video or have new hires read an employee handbook, making the effort to create a memorable experience is well worth the investment. When you focus on creating a positive onboarding experience, it sets new employees up for success in their new role.

Ways to Improve Your Employee Onboarding Experience

The onboarding experience that incoming employees have can make or break their loyalty to your organization. Poor onboarding can result in negative first impressions and also decrease productivity and retention. Even if they don’t leave right away employees with a bad onboarding experience may be less likely to commit to your business’s long-term success. To help you get the most out of your hiring process from start to finish, consider some of the following strategies to improve onboarding.

1. Make a strong first impression.

A common complaint among new employees is information overload or a lack of specific performance objectives during the onboarding process. This can overwhelm and cause some new hires to freeze or quickly second guess their decision to join your company. You want to provide a good first impression that will make them feel confident in their employment decision versus other employment possibilities. Even if you need new hires to hit the ground running, don’t try to make them lace up their sneakers on the first day. This can create an experience that feels very demanding and causes a sense of unease. You want them to feel like they’re fully engaged with the company before you ask too much of them.

However, you did hire them to do a job, so try to find a middle ground. You can make a strong first impression before they even get to the office. One easy example of pre-boarding that can improve first impressions is sending a welcome email before their first day that the new hire can voluntarily review. This should provide some basic information on what to expect when they begin their first day and can also include videos, such as a brief, voluntary welcome video, that provide an overview of company culture ahead of time. Onboarding portals offer a virtual tour to help new employees acclimate before employment officially begins. Allowing the opportunity to voluntarily pre-board engages new hires and introduces them to their role and responsibilities, which can help set them up for success.

2. Foster meaningful relationships.

Once onboarding begins, try to help your new hires foster meaningful connections with their coworkers and managers. The human element of this process is often the most valuable, especially when people take extra effort to make new hires feel welcome, comfortable and included. It’s a good idea to provide your existing workforce flexibility to allow them to connect with a new employee.

3. Don’t rush the process.

An effective onboarding experience should be an ongoing process. While it’s tempting to give the new employee everything they’ll need to know about the company on the first day, it’s more constructive to introduce policies and procedures gradually. The concept of time-released onboarding helps employees feel like their company cares about them and their progress. It shows employees that they value quality over quantity and aren’t operating in a rushed environment. Breaking up information about company policies also helps reduce the likelihood that new employees miss something important because of information overload.

Onboarding doesn’t end after the first few days, weeks or even months. In fact, it can, and should continue throughout the first year. This will not only allow your employees to digest large pieces of information, but it opens the door for management to forge a lasting relationship with their employees. It also increases the likelihood that new hires develop a strong connection with the company’s culture.

4. Establish clear and measurable performance objectives.

Although you might think it’s better to wait to discuss how their performance will be measured, establishing clear objectives from the beginning can help improve the onboarding experience. This gives employees a strong understanding of what is expected so they can ask questions as needed during onboarding.

Employees need to understand what is required of them and how they will be evaluated. Performance objectives should be specific and measurable to assess progress and development. New hires tend to have a more positive onboarding experience when they understand how their work relates to the big picture of the organizational goals. Focusing on measurable performance objectives helps motivate employees to perform at a high level as quickly as possible to meet both short- and long-term goals. If they have any questions about when or how things are measured, provide them with thorough answers so that they feel heard and understood.

5. Use a mentorship approach.

Consider partnering a mentor with new hires. This person should be someone who will support and encourage them. Mentors should be in addition to supervisors and the two roles should be separate for the greatest impact.

Mentors help the new hire adjust to their environment and provide valuable on-the-job training. Although mentoring requires time and budget allocation, it’s an investment with positive financial returns and increased employee satisfaction. Mentoring benefits both the trainee and the mentor by fostering loyalty in the trainee, and empowering and building the mentor’s leadership skills. The company also benefits from having a new employee perform at a high level without the risk of too many responsibilities thrown at them too soon.

6. Incorporate blended training.

New hires benefit from a blended training approach with mixed modalities. A balance between one-on-one mentoring, instructor-led training and the use of video and web-based training provides new employees with a variety of ways to learn and understand training material. This is a good way to cater to people with varying learning styles and reduce the risk of a monotonous onboarding experience.

Web-based training allows employees to progress at their own rate and to benefit from micro learning strategies. Gamification, which applies game elements to an engaging learning activity in a training course, is another way to capture the new employee’s interest. It also provides immediate feedback and helps new employees be active learners in the onboarding process. This blended, layered approach improves employee retention of information far more effectively than the impersonal and unengaging onboarding processes of the past.

New employees feel more engaged and committed as mentors and instructors meet ongoing needs through a mixed modality of time-release style onboarding. As employees gain confidence and meet performance objectives, productivity and retention rates are more likely to increase.

Retaining employees in today’s competitive market may be challenging, but when you make the effort in the right places it can pay off. Onboarding is a great opportunity to start employees on the right foot. To help you create a stronger long-term employee experience, TriNet offers full-service HR solutions to SMBs across various industries.

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