Increase New Hire Retention With Better Onboarding

At last! Someone has been hired to fill the position that was vacant much longer than anticipated. The team has been strained in the wait, so they and their leader are excited to put the new employee to work. Here’s to hoping the hire lasts more than three months, which is more than the last one did.

This scene is repeated more times than we can believe. Openings have outpaced applicants, so workers “shop around” and claim the best offer, even if it comes after starting a new job. Harvard Business Review reports that 33% of new hires quit the organization within the first 90 days. 1 The fact that the new hire started the job is not a guarantee your problems are over.

We know this is costly, but what are the real numbers? The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that replacement costs can be as high as 50% to 60% with overall costs ranging anywhere from 90% to 200%. That means that if an employee makes $60,000 per year, it costs an average of $30,000 to $45,000 to replace that employee and roughly $54,000 to $120,000 in overall losses to the company.2

Why Do People Quit Their Jobs?

Why do people quit, you wonder? Here are some answers from exit interviews:

  • Unmet expectations promised during recruitment
  • Lack of clarity, training or direction for their role and tasks
  • Little to no coaching
  • Few or no opportunities for growth
  • Underappreciation
  • Feeling out of place and disconnected from the organization’s culture

Notice that most of these lay at the feet of the manager. Support for these may come from Human Resources (HR), but it is up to the manager to make some promises up front and then follow through to ensure these are not ignored.

What Do New Hires Want?

Exactly what do new hires want, you ask? Professional development and a path to progression, achieved by unwavering support and connection from leaders and colleagues. New hires thrive when aligned to purpose, which a purposeful welcome experience can deliver. The key, then, is a comprehensive program produced and co-delivered by HR and the manager.

Onboarding sets the tone for the new hire’s view of life at the organization. If onboarding is a thorough, well-planned endeavor, their impression of the company will be positive and can lead to deeper commitment that pursues success. More research indicates that 69% of employees say they are likely to stay with a company for at least three years after a great onboarding experience. 3 This is an element leaders need to optimize. Strong onboarding processes have been shown to increase new hire retention by 82% and improve productivity by 70%!3

How To Structure A Successful Onboarding Process

The pace of onboarding is of prime importance. There is so much they need to know right away, but a well-paced approach keeps new hires from being overwhelmed and offers frequent check-ins as learning is put into practice. The manager should seek input from recent hires for realistic time to autonomy and a reasonable schedule for the next new hire. This investment in their new teammate fosters collaboration and ownership, and the new hire realizes that many are investing in their success.

It is important to balance the influx of knowledge and procedures with opportunities to establish rapport and relationships with their leader and team. They should not eat alone that first week or two, even if they work remotely/virtually. Additionally, the manager should ensure the new hire’s calendar is pre-populated with value-packed 30-minute meetings (on camera, as need be) with key leaders, colleagues and resource personnel. Even if agendas overlap and information is repeated, the new hire will benefit from several views on essential topics and tasks that the leader indicates are of prime importance.

Larger-scale welcome activities support a strong company culture. The manager should ensure the new hire is part of the next in-person or virtual meet and greet and introduced in an all-company announcement. These can share where the new hire is based, strengths they bring to their new role and team, high-level personal information like their location, hobbies or interests and comments from the manager and new hire.

There is always value in the manager assigning a peer coach who can check in on the new hire daily or sit with them at a break. They are able to answer any questions that arise as the new hire navigates their calendar, the office floor plan, the ins and outs of platforms and programs and offer refreshers on instructions for tasks not fully grasped the first time. It is best that this person not be on their team. Someone located nearby in the office or in a related department may have an additional perspective that will be valuable and will expand the new hire’s network quickly.

Questions To Ask During A Meeting With A New Hire

Finally, 15-minute meetings with their manager on those first few Fridays can keep the leader apprised as to the success of the three focus areas offered above—pace, agenda and connection. They might ask:

  • What were your biggest takeaways this week?
  • What excites you most about this new role? Our team? Our organization?
  • What do you look forward to digging into next week for greater understanding and skill?
  • How is the pace of your onboarding? Offer a scale—for example, are you feeling overwhelmed (9-10), rather bored (1-2) or moving along well (4-6)?
  • Who did you get to know this week? Who has impressed you and why?
  • What do you want to be able to tell me at the end of next week? (Finish by offering what you hope they will tell you)

Retention is closely related to employee engagement, experience and achievement. The HR Team, working closely with the hiring manager, can prepare and deliver onboarding that positively impacts the new hire, the team and the organization—as well as the bottom line.

Besides, who wants to be doing something that doesn’t work all over again in three to six months? None of us want that.

Interested In Learning More?

Learn how Onboarding for Performance helps leaders cultivate a performance culture with new hires that fosters engagement, enhances productivity and increases retention!


1Matusen R. So you want to quit your brand-new job …. Harvard Business Review. Published December 6, 2021. Accessed March 29, 2023.

2Allen DG. Retaining talent: A guide to analyzing and managing employee turnover. SHRM Foundation. Published 2010.

3Mazur C. 17 incredible onboarding statistics [2023]: HR trends in hiring, training, and retention. Zippia. Published Feb 26, 2023.