Retaining New Employees by Re-Imagining the Onboarding Process

Leadership | Engagement

Starting a new job is an exciting experience. It’s an opportunity to work with interesting people, contribute to a meaningful mission, build skills, and advance ones career. However, it can also be a time of uncertainty, apprehension, and self-doubt.

That’s why implementing a strong employee onboarding experience is significant. Done right, a strong onboarding experience acclimates employees to their job, welcomes them to a team, socializes the company’s values and philosophy, and highlights what the company has to offer.

Easy Come, Easy Go
In the last two years of remote work arrangements, building connections between new hires, their managers, and teammates has gotten very difficult. A New York Times analysis notes “more people are beginning and leaving new jobs without once seeing their colleagues face-to-face, leading to an easy-come, easy-go attitude toward workplaces.”

According to one employee HR survey, over 30% of recent hires leave new jobs within the first six months. According to another survey conducted by CareerBuilder and Silkroad Technology, 10% of respondents reported leaving a company because of a poor onboarding experience. 37% percent said their manager did not play a critical role in their onboarding experience support.

In an already challenging hiring environment where more than half of companies report persistent recruitment challenges, hiring managers should be asking questions like: “Do our new hires really get on board or do we risk them getting off at the next port of call?” How can we build deeper connections and shared experiences?

Cohort Learning Improves Onboarding Success
Simply put, cohort learning brings people with similar responsibilities or situations together to learn about a single subject. The process often includes team collaboration, peer reflection, and meeting senior managers. This approach supports individual development while helping managers socialize, nurture, and develop their talent.

Cohort learning is a strategy that can be applied to the orientation or employee onboarding process to produce better outcomes. It can help new employees make positive emotional connections to their managers and teammates as well as feel more connected to the company’s mission. This sets them up for success right away by attaining new relationships, skills, and insights.

Skill Development is a Key Ingredient
As the recent McKinsey Global Survey on workforce skills found, “Most respondents say that skill building (more than hiring, contracting, or redeploying employees) is the best way to close those [skill] gaps and that they have doubled down on their efforts to reskill or upskill employees since the pandemic began.” Of the specific skills that companies have prioritized, the largest increases align around emotional and social skills.

Interaction Associates has helped global companies learn how to work, lead, and meet better together for more than 50 years. We’ve outlined five foundational skills critical for new hire success that are well suited for cohort learning:

  • Effective Communication: Ranking as the most in-demand topic for new hires, communication skills like active listening, purposeful speaking, exchanging feedback are a sure bet for cohort learning, especially coupled with orientation subjects.
  • Work-Life Balance: In an increasingly remote or hybrid work environment, new hires want to know the boundaries. In a cohort, you can lay out expected routines such as work hours, technology usage, response times, and have the cohort explore the implications.
  • Day-to-Day Teamwork: New hires want to know how to get things done with others. Learning essential collaboration skills such as building agreements, reconciling differences, and engaging stakeholders in decision-making will provide them with a common language and toolkit for working with their new colleagues.
  • Effective Meetings: Ineffective meetings cost everyone valuable time, reduce the productivity of teams, and sabotage the bottom line. Every new employee will benefit from being able to guide meetings to successful outcomes, as a team member, facilitator, or meeting leader. Providing effective meeting training to new hires will pay off immediately.
  • Building Trust: Providing new managers with skills to conduct emotionally safe and effective conversations with direct reports and peers is a fast-track solution to trust and collaboration.

Done right, setting up new hires to learn practical skills with their peers, helps them build a meaningful connection to the organization, welcomes them to the team, and reduces the incidence of turnover.

Looking to improve your onboarding process and set your new hires up for success with skill development? Learn more about how Interaction Associates can help.

About Barry Rosen

The CEO of Interaction Associates, Barry consults with company leaders on how to empower people and teams to work across functions and other boundaries to get important things done. He leads the assembly of IA's collaboration tools and learning content, including programs on facilitative leadership, inclusive teams, and task-focused group facilitation.