Many employers think of employee onboarding as something that lasts for the first few days or weeks on the job. You roll out the welcome mat for new hires, introduce them around the office, brief them on your policies and benefit plans, give them some training, and leave them with a few projects to tackle. Your work is done, right? Not quite.
Acclimating new employees to your organization and transforming them into productive team members takes much more time and intention. Regardless of the skills or experience they bring to the table, understanding the intricacies of their new role and how they can best help your company succeed isn’t knowledge they can acquire by themselves in just a few days or weeks. Plus, today’s employees want to feel engaged and connected from day one—otherwise they might not stick around.
“The sooner they feel like a part of your organization, the more likely they are to stay,” says Michelle Thompson, vice president of human resources for XMI. ‘Without an onboarding process that helps them quickly feel connected to your company and their coworkers, you could lose them within the first six months.”
Approximately 17 percent of new hires quit their jobs in the first three months, while 30 percent leave after the first six months, studies show.
Helping New Hires Succeed in the First 90 Days
What steps can you take in the first 90 days to help fresh recruits feel fully acclimated and invested in your organization? Start with these strategies.
Provide the right resources. For most employees, the learning curve begins after the first week on the job. Make sure you have a training plan written out for new hires so they know exactly what to expect, along with some performance expectations set to give them goals to work toward. Ease them into working with new software, handling unfamiliar tasks and making contact with clients. Bring them up to speed quickly by providing training through different mediums, from online sessions to face-to-face coaching.
Give them a work buddy. Pair new employees up with a mentor on their team or in their department who can show them the ropes and answer any questions they might have about their role, responsibilities or the culture of your company. This person can loop them in on the norms in your workplace, from the typical agenda for Monday morning meetings to the dress code for casual Fridays. A work buddy can also show them around the office and make sure they are included on invites to company events, team happy hours and after-work gatherings.
Check in regularly. Resist the urge to hover over new employees, but review their work periodically, get updates from those working closely with them and provide thoughtful feedback as often as you can. Keep an open-door policy that encourages them to ask questions, share their concerns and communicate with you. Treat them to lunch or coffee once a week—even if it’s just in the office—so you can discuss how the experience is going for them. Find out where they are struggling and how you can help.
Employee Onboarding Benchmark: The 90-Day Check-in
In addition to the one-on-one meetings managers should already be having with new hires on a weekly or monthly basis, it’s a good idea to do a 90-day check-in to make sure everything is going smoothly and they are feeling comfortable and confident in their new roles.
Scheduling this at the 90-day mark “gives the company and the new employee time to get settled and ensures everyone is aligned to what this person should be doing and the employee knows what’s expected, too,” Thompson says.
Employers shouldn’t treat this like a performance review. Instead they should make sure employees have the skills and tools they need to do their jobs properly and take on bigger responsibilities, tasks and projects.
“You may think you have a successful onboarding program only to discover in the 90-day followup that they didn’t get all the training they needed or problems came up,” Thompson says. “This check-in ensures that you circle back and address any issues quickly instead of waiting six months when the employee is still irritated or decides to leave.”
Some topics to cover include making sure newbies understand your company’s short-term and long-term goals and how they are measured, as well as their benefits, the chain of command and how to best communicate their ideas and complaints. It’s also a great opportunity to discover how employees want to develop their own skills and grow their careers.
The 90-day check-in can provide other insights, too (such as whether an employee is the right fit for a position). But Thompson urges employers to use this meeting to focus “less on what employees are doing or aren’t doing right and more on making sure they are on the right path—and you are providing them with the tools to get there.”