Great onboarding: a secret weapon against attrition?

Dr Amanda McNamee
September 26, 2022
min read
Employee shaking hands

More than 1/4 of new hires leave a company within 6 weeks. More than 1/3 leave in the first 6 months. And of those who leave in the first year, half were thinking of leaving for 6 months or more. The impact of disengaged, one-foot-out-the-door employees on existing employees and clients is well known not to mention their reduced productivity levels and larger number of errors (Jaman et al, 2002). 

Retention is no longer an issue we can avoid or outsource blame on new starters with ideas like “they were a bad fit” or “they lacked the skills” . While some retention issues stem from culture and a lack of flexible working (i.e. Spotify has just increased retention by 6% through introducing flexible working) the reality is retention starts before new employees join your organisation. And there’s more to this process than getting all tech and equipment ready (and if remote making sure they arrive well in advance of day 1). As a hiring manager you have many responsibilities to ensure you are contributing positively to your new employees journey.  Your most important responsibility is onboarding, with our research finding that 25% of leavers say onboarding contributed to them going. 

As part of a large research study at Fika conducted in July 2022, we spoke to over 300 employees ranging from managers & leaders, to staff who joined an organisation post-pandemic and stayed and staff who joined post-pandemic and left within 12 months.  Bringing together our findings, we have identified 3 ways you can deliver a positive and supportive onboarding process and greatly reduce the chances of your new starter becoming another leaver statistic.

1. The long hello

Onboarding is not the same as orientation. It’s not a short process yet ⅔ of hiring managers we spoke to spent less than 1 week onboarding, and 79% of staff said they were onboarded for less than 1 week. A good onboarding experience takes at least 3 months and includes a strategic plan for communication and team connection, not just learning about processes and paperwork. Connection with team members makes your work more enjoyable and helps you work together more successfully. Yet, as few as 23% of employees had social or ice-breaker meetings with their new team in the first week. This dropped to 16% when we spoke to employees who had left their organisation within the first 12 months. 

2. The workplace connection

Three of the biggest challenges managers face when onboarding are Team bonding (33.7%),  Building healthy connections & relationships (29.6%) and Effective Communication (28.6%). Similarly more than 40% of workers said contact with team and managers and better communication would have improved their onboarding experience. 

Setting up and actively attending 1-2-1 meetings with staff will really help both employees and managers to meet expectations alongside removing barriers they are facing. Similarly planned catch ups with team members and encouraging open conversations about preferred communication styles will foster stronger team bonds. 

To build on this we asked 300 leaders and employees what ways can a company make a psychologically safe environment for new starters? Almost all responses were on the theme of honest and regular communication at both 1-2-1 with manager and team levels. In all work environments, but especially when working remotely, the importance of scheduling these conversations cannot be overlooked. Knowing that you have dedicated (not just ad-hoc) time to give and receive feedback alleviates stress and builds confidence to have more honest and challenging conversations.   

3.The Training Ground

Only 62% of hiring managers received training in how to onboard staff with as few as 30% receiving training in how to onboard remotely. And only half of those who received training were trained in supporting staff with both a systems induction and a people induction. We know that people-related issues are a key reason why people leave so a greater emphasis on the people side of onboarding must be included. 

The key to unlocking a great onboarding experience is to ensure the managers/leaders delivering it are not only trained in how to deliver it but also why they are delivering it. Knowing why a series of structured 1-2-1’s are important in building psychologically safety and good connection makes it easier to free up time to schedule and attend them. SImilarly, knowing that having a social or ice-breaker meeting with the team in the first week can positively impact retention is a stronger motivator for setting one up.

To be successful, onboarding needs to involve the hiring manager, the new starter and the team being joined. All 3 play vital roles where time, communication and training facilitate a  positive experience. 

At Fika we help your leaders, teams and new starters communicate effectively and build a great team culture where staff are happy to stay e.g. Fika’s Team Tool feature will help you better connect with colleagues in existing meetings.   Great onboarding helps your hiring managers avoid retention challenges. By combining positive communication and connection experiences alongside training for leaders and staff in skills such as confidence and focus, new employees are welcomed into a psychologically safe and engaging place to work. 

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Dr Amanda McNamee

Dr Amanda McNamee is a Senior Mental Fitness Scientist at Fika. Amanda is a chartered Behavioural Psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Amanda is passionate about developing Fika's scientific evidence base and rigorous evaluation process in both workplace and education settings. Before Fika, Amanda spent time at Ofsted as an Evaluation Lead and more than a decade in academia. Her primary research focused on positive and social psychology and their underpinnings in behavioural change.

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