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How Improving Employee Onboarding Can Boost Your Bottom Line It can be the key to staff retention and company success

By Amy Chen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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We get it. You're busy running a business, your team's under pressure and there's a gap that desperately needs filling. But with up to 20 per cent of employee turnover occurring within six weeks of starting a role, recruitment doesn't stop when your new starter signs on the dotted line.

Getting employee onboarding right is critical to retaining top talent. A Robert Half study found 93 per cent of candidates considered leaving a role before the end of their probation, and onboarding problems is why 36 per cent leave new roles.

And if you need more reasons you should invest time and money into proper onboarding, consider that:

  • Revenue is directly related to employee engagement, which is why company executives are obsessed with it. In a study, Aon Hewitt found a five per cent increase in employee engagement can lead to a three per cent revenue increase the following year.
  • Recruitment costs thousands more than advertising and other costs that hit your cash flow. Think intrinsic costs (time sorting applications, interviewing, etc.) and productivity lag, with new employees taking an average of eight months to become fully productive.
  • Existing staff put up with the additional workload for a long time, with an average of 68 days to fill a vacancy plus time to get someone up to speed. The quick exit of a new hire can affect morale and make others question whether pastures are greener elsewhere.
  • Negative onboarding experiences spread quickly, which can damage your reputation as an employer, hinder your ability to attract talent, and deter others from taking a role with you.

Most businesses are great at getting the mechanics right, like start date, contracts, payroll etc. But the human side of onboarding has increasingly been lost because we're stressed and under pressure.

So here are some ways to increase staff retention and give your new starter a positive experience.

Tools of trade

Your new hire is there to use their skills to add value to your business, not spend the day on the phone to IT trying to print. At best, you appear disorganized. At worst, your new starter may think you don't care.

Organizing things like computers, office access, logins, phones, etc., before they start will not only minimize downtime, you'll make a positive first impression.

Countless people arrive on the first day with no computer or desk available for them, or spend hours trying order business cards on an incomprehensible system because the team assistant couldn't be bothered helping.

Nothing is less welcoming than having nowhere to leave your things, and there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to do what you were hired for.

If something continues to be a problem, assign someone to help. Your new starter is there to be challenged and use their skills to better your business. Give them tools to do so.

Introduce them to their new environment

No matter how busy you are, make time to welcome your newbie and show you're pleased they've chosen to work with you.

Introduce them to people they'll see daily and who they'll be working with. Include management if you can: at the very least, you'll minimize the risk of your new start embarrassing themselves in front of someone important.

Little things matter too: kitchen, amenities, where to find stationery, facilities (showers, change rooms, bike storage), where to get lunch or coffee, etc..

Share the tour guide and introduction duties: you'll reduce the risk of one person feeling burdened as work continues to pile up, and it gives your new starter an opportunity to get to know someone different.

The Business Induction

Providing framework and context for your new employee will work help make them feel part of something greater and ease into the role more quickly.

Whether it's formal or scribbled on a whiteboard: outline what different areas do, and what the goals and vision of the business are. Let them know where to find policy or procedure manuals, or who to ask if they need them.

By giving your employees knowledge, you empower and give them confidence as they navigate their way around their surroundings.

Some businesses organize one-on-one meetings with the management team for all new starters to learn about the business first hand. It's especially valuable if your newbie is naturally introverted, and it provides an opportunity for them to network internally and build rapport with others in the company.

Set Expectations Early

I had a client whose employer didn't provide them with KPI's until nine months after starting their role, which is a very long time to be uncertain about what's expected of you.

Make sure you're both aligned on what the role entails from the outset. Be specific: run through the job description and how they'll be measured.

It's also a good opportunity to reassure them they'll have leeway to settle in. Ask them what support they'll need, and leave the door open for them to come back to you.

Assign a Buddy, Share the Training

Everyone has different skills to offer. Sharing the training will allow new employees to build rapport more quickly with others and see how the business operates from different perspectives.

Many organizations have buddy systems that work well, but be mindful that not all individuals will gel, and negativity from existing workers can be contagious.

In more sinister cases, some buddies are reticent to help or work in the best interest of new staff.

No organization does things the same way, including expense claims and leave requests. Every business is different so take the time to show them how you do things.

Regular Check-ins

Checking-in regularly allows you to identify issues before they become chronic. If you're happy with their progress, tell them (positive feedback can boost confidence). If they're struggling, ask what help they need or arrange to have someone else to assist them.

Feedback is an opportunity to improve, so create an environment where they can share without consequence. Employee turnover costs your business dearly in both dollars and productivity, so it's in your interest to learn if there are issues that need addressing.

Your employees can be your greatest advocates. Lots of little things going wrong can make them question whether they've chosen the right employer.

But when employees are engaged, they're more likely to remain loyal, resilient and happy to go the extra mile for you. And getting the onboarding process right is a key step to meeting the needs of the business, and making your employee's experience a positive one.

Amy Chen

Business coach and consultant

Amy Chen is a business coach and consultant. A former banking executive, she uses her extensive commercial experience to help entrepreneurs take control of their numbers so they can focus what they love doing while sustainably growing their business.  

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