Onboarding New Employees

Dear, Anita,

We’ve had a lot of turnover in our company lately, a few in my own department (I manage IT). We try to get quality candidates who can hit the ground running. But it seems that there are always some fires to put out, so we tend to throw people in the deep end and hope they can swim. Many are sinking instead. I really don’t have time to keep training new people who turn around and leave. What can we do to improve our retention?

SONY DSCDear, Concerned Captain,

Voluntary turnover (or quits, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them) was on the rise in 2014 for private industries. With a tighter labor market (where there are more jobs than qualified workers), dissatisfied employees are more likely to jump ship. So let’s talk about how to get employees to stay at your company, or at least in your department.

Proper onboarding is important because turnover is costly – in time, recruiting costs, productivity loss, and morale. Onboarding is more than just filling out the HR forms and attending an orientation meeting. It’s the process of organizational socialization. You want to teach your new staffer about your company’s mission, values, and culture, as well as how he or she fits into your department and the organization as a whole.

To make an employee’s first day a less stressful experience, plan ahead for a smooth arrival. Since you’re in IT, I hope your business has a new hire portal that allows electronic completion of forms such as the W-4, I-9, etc. and access to the company’s policy handbook. Humanizing this portal with a welcome message from the manager as well as photos of teammates can go a long way toward easing the rookie’s mind.

Empty_Chair_iStock_000000515158_SmallYou don’t want your new hire to show up and have no place to sit or a cubicle without a workstation. It’s up to you to provide all the tools to do the assignments for which you’ve hired him. Job duties should be outlined in a detailed, clearly written manual, hopefully in an electronic version that is easily searchable. Video training is great for visual learners, assuming you have the resources. If the outgoing employee is available to train the new recruit, take advantage of the opportunity for job shadowing.

While the first day is important to make the employee feel welcomed and valued, effective onboarding lasts weeks or months. It can take up to a year for a new employee to become fully productive. Check in regularly with your freshman – not just in passing – with weekly or even daily meetings to ensure tasks are understood and completed and to gauge satisfaction of both parties.

Readers: What is your company’s best onboarding practice?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

Getting Started
New Hire Training
Becoming the Boss: Advice for New Managers

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Miar
    Mar 30, 2015 @ 13:09:12

    I am looking for job that’s fet on what I do in life ,
    I use to work as a international buyer for a fashion company in UAE , Dubai ,
    And now in USA , WI
    It’s hard to find this kind of job , I need some help please


    • anitaclew
      Mar 30, 2015 @ 15:58:39

      Miar, you may need to expand your focus. Could you be a buyer for other industries? Your experience in fashion may lend itself to home furnishings and fashion. How about being on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of being a buyer, try being the seller and look for positions in sales.


  2. Brent Murphy
    Mar 24, 2015 @ 15:38:12

    I have read recent reviews and I appreciate some of your feedback. I work at a job that is not secure. My hours could range from zero to forty hours a week. I am at a point in my life where I would like to be with a company to have a career where I can excel in my work to become an asset to the company. This will allow me to become better for myself and secure my future so I can exceed in life. Please direct me in an area of your expertise! Thanks for the ear.


    • anitaclew
      Mar 26, 2015 @ 08:10:18

      Brent, that is a great disparity in hours from week to week. I can see why you would want something more stable. Without quitting your current job, make a plan to search for a new position in your area of experience. Get your résumé together, and apply through the online job boards.


  3. Lisa-currently seeking
    Mar 24, 2015 @ 10:00:11

    I have ran into a couple of bad companies myself. I try so hard to get it right but some people are so stuck in their ways they don’t want to see any change even if it’s for the better. I am always willing to work the hardest and the best I can but when your employer is just rude its hard and you have no desire to come to work. I am looking. I know there’s that job out there that needs me and I need them.


  4. Steve Luera
    Mar 24, 2015 @ 09:39:43

    My onboarding horror story.

    Job was telephone service agent at call center job for nation’s largest(best??) mobile phone service. Granted, this was a subcontractor, not the actual carrier, but the training was supposedly designed and sanctioned by the carrier. Seven week paid onboarding period, three in classroom, four “nesting” on production floor. Nice, yes. Actually, no.

    Classroom training period consisted of interminable bad jokes by trainer, extended personal vignettes/ anecdotes, corporate promotion, training in “soft skills”, but little actual drill in the steps of the customer service transactions on the corporate software. Constant buzzword was “bellyflop”, ie, when trainees were put onto production floor they would do a bellyflop, and sink or swim …. all good fun. Of course, getting help from nesting supervisors was like pulling teeth.

    Granted, after two weeks “nesting” this newbee was able to make great improvement in completing required tasks, but this was done at the expense of the live caller/customer and the trainee. Furthermore, evaluations of trainees by those same callers were done, which counted against final review ratings of trainee. After complaining about “preschool” atmosphere of workplace, this trainee received wrath of supervisor in crackdown of evaluations and eventually quit. He was not alone.

    It seems as though the national jobs creation numbers are falsely supplemented by this revolving door personnel strategy. Tax breaks for job creation evidently outweigh training costs.


    • anitaclew
      Mar 24, 2015 @ 10:07:18

      Steve, I hope someone at that mobile phone service reads this article! I think most people have experienced bad customer service via phone at some point. You point out that it’s not always the agent’s fault if they haven’t been properly trained.


  5. Greg Yount
    Mar 24, 2015 @ 08:46:29

    Your article mentions some new employees needing a year to become productive. I am currently seeking a position and couldn’t imagine ever indicating that to a prospective employer, nor would I feel secure in my job taking such a leisurely approach to getting acclimated and becoming productive. Even 6 months seems overly genrerous, and from what I’ve seen of past jobs, productivity is typically expected within a month of starting, and rarely does an organisation have a fully functioning workspace. As a new hire, you are expected to just deal with it and work around it with a smile. I think perhaps this is a way to judge how able you are to adapt and if you’re a whiner or not.


Leave a Reply to anitaclew Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
%d bloggers like this: