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Finders, Keepers

Category: Smartforce Dec 5, 2019

Finders, Keepers

Onboarding to Increase Retention

How do you convert an employee you found into an employee you can keep? It all starts with a comprehensive onboarding plan. And it includes a lot more than going through the employee manual on the first day.

“We want our employees to want to stay with us, and quality onboarding is a critical part of that,” shares Nate Price, Director of IT at Task Force Tips (TFT). TFT designs and manufactures thousands of water and foam delivery products to help firefighters’ risk less to do more. With more than 250 employees, TFT’s success depends on the skills, dedication and creativity of their employees, and the modern equipment used in every area of the company. According to Forbes, 20 percent of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment.  Among new hires, 31 percent left their jobs within the first six months, a BambooHR study found.

“We take new employees around to introduce them to all of the departments to get a brief rundown of what each one does,” said Price. “We have a robust training setup for entry-level employees who many times haven’t worked in a manufacturing environment like ours. Our president takes new employees out to lunch and they are put on the short list for a breakfast with other employees and the management team.”

The philosophy behind onboarding is that the new employee should feel part of a team and not isolated, their work is meaningful and not marginalized, and their voice is heard and converted to action. Here are some tips and templates from AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology – to enhance or invent your onboarding process.

Start before the first day

People who just landed a new job are excited! Harness that excitement.

  • Welcome them. Send a welcome email with a brief overview of your company’s mission and goals, as well as all the first day logistics.
  • Keep welcoming them. Put together a short welcome video.  This gives company executives the opportunity to “speak” directly with a new hire and helps build excitement. It can also serve as a chance to show new hires what you make (and let them show their family and friends).
  • Use a checklist. Create—and use—a clear checklist that includes action items for the first day, first week, etc. AMT uses a checklist similar to this sample for their onboarding process. LinkedIn has a full packet of templates, including a checklist
  • Build buzz. Encourage recent hires to post on social media about their great new gig. Provide your handles!


The big day

First impressions matter, and so do first days. Make the first day fun and informative, but make sure it is well organized.

  • Less is more. Don’t overwhelm the new employee with details and forms by dumping everything on them. Pull out only a few key items that need to be completed immediately, such as payroll forms.
  • Put it in a letter. Prepare a welcome letter from the president of the company and give it to all new employees. The letter should include information about your company culture and values. 
  • Make connections. Help new employees connect to the company by introducing him or her to the team and the boss.
  • Offer incentives. Small incentives—a $10 gift card, for example—can help motivate employees to complete all their required paperwork in a timely fashion.
  • Interruptions will happen. It’s life. Plan a backup to continue first-day actions. A peer or another manager is preferred.

All the other big days

The first day is easy. It’s one day. All the other days actually matter more. In particular, the first 90 days of employment are essential for retention efforts.

  • Invest time. Managers need to commit to regular one-on-ones with new employees. This could be a quick coffee break or a structured standing meeting, but it must happen. Employees need feedback, and they deserve the opportunity to ask questions or express concerns face-to-face.
  • Set them up to succeed. Provide a short-term goal that is easily achievable. An early success will give a new employee a sense of accomplishment and belonging.
  • Teach them your language. Simple tools like an acronym cheat sheet or a dictionary of key terms are a great way to make new employees feel included.
  • Define what’s good—not just good enough. Give the employee clear definitions of their responsibilities, goals, and authority. This may be particularly important for more experienced employees. A recent article in the Harvard Business Journal noted, “New hires with deep areas of expertise can become insecure when they suddenly feel like beginners.” Make sure employees know how to use their expertise at your company.
  • Use Mentoring. Mentoring programs can foster connections between new employees and seasoned workers. Mike Griffith, the President of Major Tool and Machine explained that his company’s mentoring program is a key part of their broad-based employee attraction and retention efforts.
    “Our mentoring program rewards our mentors through additional compensation and is designed to accelerate the skills of the mentee,” said Griffith, “so they can begin working independently on some of the more complex machines and projects, while also accelerating their earning potential.”
  • Go Digital. Digital tools can help employees get—and stay—connected to the company. Digital tools could include online checklists, digitized paperwork, or features to chat with Human Resources or managers, such as Deloitte’s ConnectMe software. Smaller companies could develop a similar concept using their existing intranet.


Ongoing Onboarding

The onboarding process should last for at least a year. Focusing on onboarding for the long-term will help companies not only retain employees but also engage them.

As Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter point out in The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, an employee’s connection to a company is closely related to their success and the company’s culture. “Engagement is a result of a sharp alignment between individual success and organizational success,” according to Grant and Notter. “The structures, processes, behaviors, and approaches that make up your workplace culture have a huge impact on that alignment.”

Ultimately, you have to set employees up to succeed if you want them to be engaged and to stick around. After all, you don’t just want workers who don’t want to leave; you want workers who want to stay. And if you keep on onboarding, employees might even recommend their friends—generating more workers who will want to stay.

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