By Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd, Onboarding Product Management

Starting a new job is one of the more emotional experiences someone can go through. Traditional onboarding systems focus on paperwork and process, forgetting about the emotional transition of a new employee. While process efficiencies are important and can save company’s money, significant cost savings can come from reducing first year attrition. By addressing the emotional needs of new hires, they will feel more comfortable and welcome in their new organizations and thus help to reduce attrition during that critical first year

Although process efficiencies are important and can reduce administrative costs, the cost savings associated with reducing first year attrition can be significantly more substantial.. That’s why we believe that a complete onboarding solution should address not just the administrative process of bringing someone into the organization, but the human aspects as well.

Researching onboarding needs

Before designing our new onboarding solution, we did several rounds of research with people who recently started new jobs, as well as hiring managers across industries and generations. We wanted to deeply understand the experiences, frustrations, and delights of these employees.

To frame the research, we broke the onboarding process into three stages: Contract signing up to Day one, Day one, and after Day one. We kept the conversation open ended and encouraged people talk through their recent onboarding experiences. Below are some key points from our research findings:

Before Day One – “The more you know, the less stress you have”

New hires are especially anxious about their first day. There is no such thing is too much information as long as it is presented simply and clearly. We found that new employees appreciate background information on projects and technology. We also found that:

  • There’s considerable frustration with the piles of documents and papers that needed to be filled out. Although new hires were generally tolerant of pain in this part of onboarding (forms are not exciting), they expressed a strong desire to experience “completeness;” knowing they received and completed everything.
  • New hires face a sea of unknown faces when they start a new job and meet lots of new people. New hires frequently requested the ability to learn names and faces of their new colleagues ahead of time.
  • New hires were commonly concerned with asking “stupid questions.” New hires wanted a place to ask questions that were inappropriate during the interview, but that they wanted to know before Day 1.
  • Contact with hiring managers before Day one was also appreciated. One new hire shared that she was delighted to speak with her manager prior to her start date about expectations, her job role, and why she was hired.

Day One – “They’re prepared for me and know who I am”

In great onboarding experiences, new hires felt that the company was prepared, both physically (computers, access, workspace, etc.) and emotionally (people greeting and welcoming them) to welcome them. Additional findings included:

  • Buddies can be a great help. New hires often feel alone and a buddy can help them ease into the new role and environment.
  • New hires appreciated when managers sent out emails introducing them to their colleagues, as it was stressful for the new hire to have to take the initiative. We suggest including something that could help break the ice in the email. For example, a manager could share that the new hire has just moved to the area and is looking for a gym.
  • New hires generally enjoy orientation when it is about people—meeting senior management, other new hires, etc. They were less interested in classes that got them “into the weeds” (how you fill out your time sheet, vacation requests, etc.) and often forgot such training as soon as they walked out of the room.

After Day One – “Let me show value and establish credibility quickly”

New hires want to show value and establish credibility as soon as possible. Furthermore:

  • New hires find it disheartening when the company doesn’t take advantage of their skill set.
  • New hires are often left unsupported with set-up tasks and don’t know where or who to go to for help.
  • New hires wanted to learn background information before Day One to be able to study up ahead of time.

What we learned

Our research clearly showed that the real stars of onboarding are the managers and colleagues. People don’t leave companies because paperwork is frustrating; people leave managers, positions, and organizations in which they don’t feel welcome or comfortable. Our challenge, as we develop our onboarding solution, is thinking beyond the process steps and addressing the human element of this stressful and highly emotional experience.

Learn more about our new Onboarding solution with this fact sheet and let us know if you have any questions in the comments.

2 Responses to Reducing First Year Attrition: What the Research Shows

  • Part of the reason that call centers tend to have a high agent turnover rate is because they don’t take the time to make new employees feel like part of the team. There is no learning curve, no buddy system and very little sit-down time with a manager. Your employees, especially customer-facing ones, care about the long-term success of your business as much as you do! So take the time to give them all the tools they need to achieve.

  • Yes, it is 100% true that new employees fall in problem in the workpace at first time….I also face this kind of problem. Actually, I like that organization, however I face the problem of communication of others employees (they do not want to give time with new employees…). Well, I am trying to improve more communication…always smile and greeting.

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Mike Ettling

President: HR Line of Business

Jenny Dearborn

Chief Learning Officer

Steven Hunt

Sr Director,
Business Execution Practices