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Why the Onboarding Experience Is Key for Retention
Gallup Blog

Why the Onboarding Experience Is Key for Retention

"Rock Stars Wanted" might not be the job-posting headline, but it's the underlining message companies communicate during the recruiting process.

Most companies want the best talent, and they do not shy away from making that perfectly clear. Slackers need not apply.

So they woo candidates with promises of unique cultures, perks and opportunities during the recruitment phase. And the company's employee value proposition (EVP) becomes a distraction meant to lure top talent and set the stage for what's to come if you're one of the fortunate few -- one of a kind -- who receives the coveted offer letter.


A company's EVP sets the stage and expectations for the rest of the new hire's employee experience.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to deliver on the promises they make during recruitment, resulting in a poor onboarding experience and a setback to the connection they initially established with the new star.

Gallup finds that only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. This failure gets in the way of the formation of an emotional bond between the new hire and the company -- a connection that can make or break retention.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employee turnover can be as much as 50% in the first 18 months of employment. Employees leaving the workforce can be expensive and put pressure on highly burdened resources as well as a company's financial bottom line.

SHRM estimates that it will cost a company six to nine months of an employee's salary to identify and onboard a replacement. Others in the field believe the cost to be much higher.

How to Avoid New Hire Turnover and Disengagement by Understanding the Journey

The decision to join a new organization is often accompanied by leaving another, and new hires are placing bets that their new role will be better than the last, fulfilling a need the previous employer was not. It is a decision that starts with rational considerations but is ultimately decided based on emotions.

Applying for a new job is a decision that people make after asking for opinions from friends, family and colleagues. It's a choice they make after searching online for ratings and reviews from current and past employees, and after listening to the company's promises during recruitment.

After making this decision, all future interactions people have with their new employer shape their perceptions of what it is like to be on the "inside" -- to be an integral member of the organization.

From an employee perspective, onboarding involves a series of firsts: first day on the job, first time meeting a manager and coworkers, first work projects and tasks, and first opportunities to share their talents with the organization.

Eager about their new role, enthusiastic about how they will contribute and anxious about how their colleagues will receive them, new hires head off to their new position with visions of what it will be like when they arrive.

This anticipation is accompanied by high levels of adrenaline as the excitement -- and nervousness -- builds for that first day, week and month.

With all of this in mind, companies should make sure new hires feel welcomed and immediately appreciated, quickly developing a sense of purpose and belonging.

From an employer perspective, onboarding is the best time to deliver on the EVP and other promises made during the job-seeking and candidacy stages.


Rock Star Employees Wanted but Not Truly Welcomed

The transition from candidate to employee should feel like a natural handoff that continues the momentum and fuels the excitement for the new job.

Deviating from the energy generated during the hiring phase to treating the phase of onboarding as a one-day -- or one-week -- event, or as an administrative process focused on paperwork, orientation manuals and supply cabinet shopping, puts an early strain on the employee-employer relationship.

Throwing new hires into work immediately without training or context, not socializing -- or even introducing -- them to the rest of the team, focusing on tactical work too early, or not meeting and receiving feedback from managers early and often are more the norm than the exception.

But this isn't how it should be. Companies should treat onboarding with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm equal to or greater than that of the new hire's. The time leading up to and extending beyond the first day on the job is all part of onboarding.

Don't lose the momentum you've gained during attraction and recruitment by failing to deliver during the onboarding process. Welcome new hires like they are the rock stars you diligently selected.

If you don't welcome new employees like rock stars, the experiential disappointment could start them off on an emotionally slippery slope, leading to low engagement and seeking out a new opportunity.

Learn more about how you can create emotional connections with your employees during hiring and onboarding:

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