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Onboarding: When the Work of Employee Retention Begins

hiring retention Jan 05, 2022

Employee retention starts with hiring the “right” people, so you put forth energy, time and resources to make that happen. Once you’ve made that new hire, then real retention work starts. If you want them to stay then you need to onboard them well. This includes all your foundational processes AND acquainting them with the people and the culture of your organization. So, as we start off this new year, it's a great time to talk about how to start off that new employee right. 

How Does Onboarding Increase Your Retention Potential? 

Initiating a quality onboarding process eliminates chances that you will lose the talented employee you just worked so hard to hire. The lack of clear and quality onboarding has some staggering statistics behind it. “Organizations that have an excellent onboarding process experience an increased 52% retention rate of new hires.” In addition to giving your new hire the tools they need to succeed, an intentional onboarding process creates touchpoints for managers to keep a pulse on how things are going to notice any early warning signs of retention risk and address them.

What Should I Include in an Onboarding Process?

As a small to midsize nonprofit, you probably don’t have an HR department that can create and manage your process. It’s on you – so keep it so simple that any leader in your organization could facilitate the process by following a few easy steps. 

Let’s get practical and design your onboarding process with four simple categories using the acronym CROP: Culture, Roles, Orientation, People. Think of it as planting the seeds that grow loyalty and engagement within your team. 

“Plant” your CROP in any order that works for your organization. Even think of it as circular. Start communicating “culture” in the interview process, so that on day one you can move them through some of those orientation details quickly to access office, phone and email. Then you might wrap around to some culture conversations before moving back to orientation things like benefits or policies. It’s not about sequence, it’s more like a cyclical process (CROP circles, if you will) that wraps round and round the four categories until it’s all covered.

How Long Should Onboarding Continue?

I hired a new team member, but forgot to put in the order for their computer. It took a week for my new team member to have the tools they needed to do the job. Epic fail! The point being, onboarding starts the day they say “yes” to the job, not their first day on the job if you want to welcome people to the team better than I did. The answer to how long is … however long it takes for your organization to keep circling the CROP til it’s all covered.

Research indicates that 26% of organizations have onboarding programs that last about a week, with 21% at about a month and 11% extending it to about 3 months. Certainly the longer programs are frontloaded, but the longevity does indicate a higher chance of retention as 30% of new employees begin searching for a new job within six months. Keeping some touchpoints in place minimizes your risk of losing talented workers.

How Can You Sustain an Onboarding Program When There is So Much To Do?

Be on your guard for the biggest barrier to sustaining an intentional onboarding experience: manager bandwidth. Try a couple of these things to increase chances of sustainability: 

  • Create a brief checklist for managers to follow so it’s easy for anyone to do
  • Clearly assign employee’s responsibility and manager’s responsibility
  • Involve others to participate so the full weight isn’t on the manager (see table below)
  • Keep it simple, but if you have a lot of steps, try creating a priority system (i.e. green  - most important, yellow-valuable, red-okay to delay)

Another tip is to include your new hire in making their onboarding experience excellent by encouraging their involvement and responsibility. If you are a new hire heading into a new role, then check out these three essentials to onboarding and set the stage for your success.

Next Steps

What was a great onboarding experience for you? What onboarding activity set you up for success on a new job? Comment below and let’s build this template for the onboarding experience out even further. 

If you’ve got questions about onboarding or any topic on leading a team, then I’ve started something just for you. Lead Your Leaders; A Podcast To Get the Team You’ve Always Wanted. Questions are submitted by leaders and listeners just like you and me or one of my guests are sharing answers to YOUR questions in 15-20 minute episodes to give you a quick tip to boost your leadership. First episode launches on January 11th. Check the trailer out on your favorite podcast platform: Apple, Google, Spotify and then subscribe or follow to keep up with the common questions leaders like you are asking.

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