Please don’t go: how your onboarding strategy may be affecting retention

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Please don’t go: how your onboarding strategy may be affecting retention

As in-house recruiters, we know that finding the right person for the job is only half the challenge. Success ultimately rests on each new hire integrating successfully into the organisation and going on to become a productive (and permanent) employee.

Onboarding was the theme of one of our FIRM member focus groups. For me, it’s a topic that doesn’t always receive as much attention as it deserves, especially with retaining recent joiners a growing issue for many companies.

Indeed, one member of the group revealed that 25% of her firm’s turnover involved new hires in their first 45 days on the job.

Is it time for a rethink? Here are some of my key take-aways from the event:

 1.Balancing consistency with individual needs

One of the biggest challenges is around consistency. How do you ensure employees with different skills and backgrounds receive the same great onboarding experience and start on a level playing field?

A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work. People have different needs – grads, for example, may lack specific soft skills, while overseas hires may need help adjusting to their new environment before they can feel settled. One of our attendees suggested having a new joiner handbook with information about flat rentals etc. Another recommended cultural training for expats on new assignments.

Testing and surveying can help in assessing individual needs and potential approaches, while some companies are bringing apps and other technology into the process.

  1. Corporate vs comfort

The needs of new joiners must also be weighed against those of the business. Many people view onboarding purely from a business perspective and don’t always take into account the psychology of the new starter and what their specific needs and wishes are.

There’s an argument to be made for getting fee earners out there billing clients as quickly as possible. However, fast-tracking new hires may deprive them of the essential skills they need to perform their role and stay the course. Ultimately they’re representing the company – so they need to know what they’re doing!

One solution could be pre-boarding: getting as much support to employees before they start so they can hit the ground running. One company sends out five questions to a newly recruited line managers team with questions such as ‘What do you know about person X? What would you like to know about Person X? What is our key priority right now? What are the biggest issue we are facing as a team right now?

The answers are then compiled and sent onto the new starter before they join. It’s a lovely way of giving the new Manager some insights even before day one.

  1. Out with the old…?

While your company may have a tried and tested way of doing things, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way.

Take buddy systems: they’re a great initiative but given that they depend entirely on the individuals chosen, they can be quite hit and miss, particularly if the buddy isn’t up to the task for whatever reason. Many organisations have gone the other way, with designated onboarding coordinators working alongside the hiring manager during the first 30 days of a new intake.

  1. Too few chiefs

New solutions come at a cost, however, and it can be difficult to get buy-in from senior managers who are quite far removed from the actual onboarding process.

It’s up to you to involve key stakeholders and to make a business case for getting the resources and support you need. Let them do the maths: how much does it cost to re-hire for a role whose occupant has left after the first month? If X people leave in their first month every year, how much does that cost us?

When it comes to onboarding it can be tempting to stick with the status quo, however you owe it to your employees (and your retention figures) to give the process the care and attention it deserves. Don’t be afraid to challenge things if they’re not working.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the FIRM, please contact


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