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Training & Learning

3 Onboarding Tips to Boost New Employee Retention

It’s no secret that engaging onboarding and employee retention are connected. But amid the Great Resignation, the stakes for creating a successful onboarding experience have been raised.

When employees quit, productivity, profitability, and team morale all take a hit—and businesses across most industries are feeling the impact. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics national turnover rate has reached an all-time high since the bureau launched its job openings and turnover survey in 2000. Gartner estimates that 37.4 million U.S. employees will resign in 2022 alone, a 20% jump from the annual average before COVID-19. McKinsey also found that 40% of survey respondents across six countries were thinking of quitting their jobs in 2022.

To stem this tide of attrition, L&D professionals need to better align their onboarding process to meet the needs of new employees. As Gallup notes, new employees who had “exceptional onboarding experiences” are 2.6 times more likely to be happy with their workplace. On the flip side, Digitate found that employees are twice as likely to look for a new job after a bad onboarding experience.

In this article, we’ll go over three key actions that’ll improve your onboarding process and minimize the chances of employees leaving. These actions will ensure they feel welcomed, connected, and set up for long-term career success from the start.

1. Use preboarding to drive new employee excitement and engagement

If you’re only using preboarding to get new hires to fill out mandatory paperwork, you’re missing the mark. Preboarding should show employees that they made the right choice joining your company. Consider preboarding as your pregame tailgate party—you want employees to feel hyped up before the big game (i.e., the first day of employment).

Solidify your employee’s commitment to your organization with these preboarding activities:

Send a new hire care package. Who doesn’t like presents? Company merch, a Starbucks gift card, and a handwritten note from the new hire’s manager show the newbie they’re valued before they even set foot in the (virtual) door.

Share welcome videos. Whether you’re fully remote or in-person, it’s a smart idea to have the new employee’s key managers and leaders welcome them to the company and explain their own positions with short intro videos. This way, new hires can put faces to names early on, and knowing more about the higher-ups will likely help them feel more comfortable during their first meetings.

Highlight how your company lives its values. 60% of employees claim they “choose a place to work based on their beliefs and values,” according to Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer Report. Emphasize different elements of corporate social responsibility, such as sustainability or diversity initiatives, and explain how new hires can get involved.

Create an informal “get to know you” survey. Show that your company values new hires as people, not just as professionals, by asking to learn more about who they are outside of work. See what type of hobbies they have, who they share their space with, their dream travel destination, etc. Then the employee’s manager can incorporate some of those details in a first-day new employee welcome message. These fun facts also serve as great ice breakers to create early bonds with other co-workers.

Leverage social media. Make sure your employees know where they can engage with and follow the business online, and let them show off their company pride with branded social media headers for platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Last, create a public post welcoming the new hire to the organization, and they can then share it with their own network.

Be sure to download our preboarding checklist to make sure you cover all of your new employee orientation bases—including the not-as-fun paperwork.

preboarding checklist

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2. Facilitate early connections with other employees

Set up meetings and mentorships with co-workers, so new hires can create social bonds and reap the benefits of peer learning, which US respondents called the “most effective” training method in our 2022 Report on the State of Learning in the Flow of Work

Employees want more meaningful relationships with their peers—so much so that 53% of respondents in BetterUp’s 2022 Insights Report said they’d trade an average of 6% of their salary “to experience stronger ties with their colleagues.” This sense of connection at work has a direct influence on retention, with BetterUp noting that employees who reported “lower levels of belonging” had a staggering 313% “stronger intention to quit” and were 176% more likely to look for a new job.

On the other hand, when new employees feel included and connected to their colleagues, BetterUp found that they experience a 27% increase in job satisfaction and are 25% “more likely to recommend” their company to a friend. 

Consider scheduling a regular group meet-up with other new hires, assigning an onboarding buddy, and including a regular 1:1 meeting with their manager or another senior co-worker. These types of interactions help new hires to get to know other employees better while they learn all the ins and outs of their new role. That includes institutional knowledge that may not be captured in a standard training course.

Peer-to-peer connection is especially important for retaining remote workers. Buffer reported that “loneliness” is the second biggest challenge remote workers face. And with 58% of all remote workers expected to be 100% remote by 2026, now is the time to build a foundation of virtual peer learning into your onboarding process.

53% of respondents said they’d trade an average of 6% of their salary “to experience stronger ties with their colleagues.”

3. Offer personalized L&D paths and employee resources

New employees want to know how they can advance and grow at your company—and if they can’t get promoted or change paths, they’ll leave. McKinsey found that a “lack of career development and advancement potential” was one of the top reasons employees quit, and according to Gallup, nearly 50% of surveyed American workers said they’d change jobs for greater upskilling opportunities.

Show your new employees that you can help them reach their personal goals with onboarding that is tailored to their roles, learning styles, and career aspirations. As GoCo.io Director of Talent Acquisition Liz Everett says, that kind of personalized strategy will be your “greatest weapon against the Great Resignation.”

A helpful onboarding process works like a funnel, guiding newbies from the universal knowledge stage (covering employee benefits packages, wellness perks, etc.) to role-specific information. To provide resources that help new hires hit the ground running, survey current employees about their onboarding experience. Since they’re the ones actually doing the different jobs, they’ll be able to tell you what was (and wasn’t) valuable. This stronger alignment between onboarding and the day-to-day necessities of different roles will boost new hires’ confidence and set them up for success.

We also recommend adding two types of content to the role-specific portion: microlearning and success stories. These strategies will optimize learning and ensure new hires remain optimistic about their new role:

Microlearning modules. Onboarding can lead to information overload for new hires, and not all that knowledge is actually helpful. Gallup found that only 29% of surveyed respondents felt fully prepared to do their job after onboarding. That’s a recipe for stress, burnout, and even turnover. By implementing flexible microlearning, small learning segments that don’t exceed 10 minutes, you’ll foster more engagement and boost “knowledge retention by at least 50%.” Combine different microlearning mediums like gamified mini-courses, videos, and infographics to keep things interesting.

Employee success stories. Hearing about other employees’ successes instills confidence in new hires that they can achieve the same. Include short videos of current employees in your onboarding materials. Find people from across teams and ask them to speak about their professional journey with the company, especially if there are formal professional development opportunities like career shadowing and mentoring programs you can point to.

To keep new employees engaged, extend learning and development beyond the first 90 days

For true workplace satisfaction, new hires need opportunities to learn, grow, and thrive after they finish onboarding. Create a continuous learning culture with our six steps for learning in the flow of work, and check out how Harry’s Inc. uses self-directed and collaborative learning initiatives to strengthen learner engagement.