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Improve your onboarding to increase retention

Human Resources, LeadershipCopy link to article

As employers are doing their best to adapt to the new labour landscape, retention is a topic that is front of mind for many businesses. Retention strategies shouldn’t only be reactive, but ideally proactive, and incorporated in the onboarding process. In fact, according to Brandon Hall Group research, organizations with a solid onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. A good onboarding experience can be the make or break point for employees when they decide if they love the company early on, or whether it may not be a fit for them in the long run. First impressions mean everything!

Taking on a new job is exciting, but elements of joining a new team can be stressful. As a manager, your job is to make employees feel as welcome as possible and to equip them for success in their new role.

Your new employees are forming an impression of your company before they even walk through the door. Think about ways to engage them between the day they sign their job offer and their first day on the job (known as ‘pre-boarding’). This will set you apart from other employers and will make the employees feel connected when they show up for their first day.

Here are some suggestions you could employ when welcoming your new team member:


Send a welcome letter from a company leader (GM or Manager)
This should be personal and express your excitement for having them come on board. Let them know why they were chosen for the job and your confidence that they will be a great addition to the team. Ask them to provide you with any pertinent information you may need to know (clothing size for uniforms, vehicle info if you need to arrange parking, etc.), so everything is set up for their first day.

Send them a “What you need to know” sheet
Let them know what they can expect or need to know as they come to their first day of work. Examples of what to include:

  • Where to park
  • Directions to your office and any helpful traffic tips
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Instructions about food (i.e. do you provide coffee, snacks, dishes, are you equipped with fridge, microwave, etc.)
  • Key personnel/contact emails (especially their manager)
  • Summary of organization and what each department does
  • Where to get a badge, swipe card, or key if needed or where you will meet them when they arrive, start time on the first day and an agenda for their first few days


Set up entry Interviews
Ask them questions about what they need to be successful in their new role, how they learn best, how you can be a supportive manager or supervisor, how often they like to be checked in with, etc. Give them plenty of opportunities to ask you or other team members their questions.

Employ a Buddy System
Assign a team member to be their “buddy” for the first few months. Have them send a welcome email and introduce themselves to your new employee. Some ways they can engage your new team member is by meeting them on their first day, eating lunch with them a few times a week, answering any questions they may have, and helping them establish relationships with the team.

Give Them a Later Start Time
Allow the employee to start later than when you begin your regular workday. This gives you time to deal with your morning tasks so you are ready and attentive when they arrive.

Be Available All Day
Clear the decks for the first day (and most of the first week). Think ahead to what you might need to delegate or postpone in order to spend important and quality time with your new team member. There’s nothing worse than feeling abandoned when you arrive, ready to give your best. If you cannot clear your calendar, it’s your job to ensure the person is taken care of all day and ask other managers or co-workers to take on portions of the onboarding until you can rejoin.

Have a detailed training plan ready to go
Think in advance about what training the employee will need to undertake in the first 90 days. Create a schedule that shows them in advance where they are heading and what tasks they will be learning. This can be helpful for new team members to put into context how their training fits into the big picture.

Schedule 30-60-90 day probation meetings
Putting these meetings in your calendar from the start avoids those last-minute “oh no, probation is over in two days” moments. It’s also helpful to outline at each 30-day point, what tasks the employee should have accomplished, and specific goals for each one month period. This will give you and the employee a stronger sense of where they are at each check-in, and gives you the ability to have a clear idea of whether they will be a good fit for the role and your organization before the end of their probation.

Note: If you are onboarding remote employees, some of these things may not apply, however, generating excitement, connection and structure in their employee experience are still important.

Creative onboarding will set you apart in the marketplace and make you an employer of choice. People will be talking about you, which leads to attracting great talent, and keeping the talent you have. This is invaluable and necessary to stay competitive and relevant in the current tight labour market. Your ability to retain your employees will give you a competitive advantage, lead to higher productivity, create a super-engaged team, build a thriving culture and set your company on a trajectory to success.

For more information on onboarding and training, download our Onboarding Training Guide for Managers:

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