Successful Employee Retention Starts With These 5 Stages of Onboarding

Jul 25, 2022

When it comes to retaining key employees, most companies look forward: they focus on creating opportunities for growth, securing interesting projects, and ensuring market-value compensation and benefit packages. These are all very important aspects of employee retention. However, the reality is that if companies only begin thinking about retention at these stages of an employee’s tenure, they’re skipping several critical steps.

Successful employee retention programs start during the onboarding period, even before an employee has had their first day with the company. There are five stages of onboarding that companies can fine-tune in order to strengthen their employee retention strategies:

Stage 1: The Interview

The first interview sets the foundation for the employee-employer relationship. How a company treats candidates is a strong indicator of how they will treat their employees. Do they make a candidate feel special? Do they communicate clearly? Do they do what they say they will do? Do they promptly respond to phone calls and emails? All of these things set the tone for an employee’s relationship with their company, so hiring managers should ensure that they treat every candidate as though they are already a valued employee. In this way, even before an offer is extended, a candidate will be excited to come on board.

Stage 2: The Offer

Once the company has selected the best-fit candidate, it’s time to extend an offer. This is another moment to communicate to the candidate what their future at the company will look like. Many companies make the unfortunate mistake of seeking to save money by submitting a low-ball first offer. This strategy is harmful in several ways. First, candidates know their worth, and they may choose to turn down the offer and wait for a company that provides a better financial opportunity. Second, even if the candidate does accept the other, the company has saved a small amount of money by taking equity out of that employee.

A low offer can sap an employee’s excitement about joining a company, opening the door to potential turnover opportunities. By choosing to put their best offer forward instead of low-balling, companies show the candidate that they are valued and respected, suggesting a positive employment experience to come.

Stage 3: The Danger Zone

The period of time between a candidate’s acceptance of a company’s offer of employment and their first day on the job is often overlooked during onboarding and retention planning, but it’s a high-risk period when it comes to potential turnover. Changing jobs is incredibly stressful, and during this period, employees can be feeling uneasy or anxious about their decision. Fortunately, there are a few simple things companies can do to help the employee sustain their confidence and excitement about their new role.

First and foremost, do not adjust the employment offer, perks, etc. Stand by the offer as it was submitted and accepted, or the employee might lose trust in their employer. Secondly, get the employee involved. For example, ask for their input on their workspace, or allow them to make small decisions that will help them feel like a valued member of the team even before their first day. And finally, get to know the employee’s family. If they have a spouse or children, reach out and welcome them to the team; a family’s happiness is one of the most important factors in employee retention, and it starts by having the family feel welcomed and valued by the company.

Stage 4: The First Six Months

Some companies treat this stage as the beginning of the onboarding process, but clearly a lot of work goes into employee onboarding before their first day on the job. During this beginning stage of employment, managers should schedule frequent reviews with the new employee. Even the most experienced employee will have an adjustment period in a new role, because every company does things a little bit differently. Communicate frequently to ensure that the employee knows what is expected of them and has the support they need to do their job well.

In addition, make sure that the employee is introduced to the company’s executive-level leadership and that those leaders don’t disappear after the employee’s first day. Respect, value, and great communication start from the top, and employees who feel seen and appreciated at every level of their organization will be much more likely to feel committed for the long term. Finally, be sure to keep the employee’s family involved; invite them to company events, send birthday cards, and ask the employee how their adjustment period is going. The importance of showing that a company cares about an employee’s family cannot be overstated.

Stage 5: The Retention

By this stage, the employee has been successfully integrated into the company. The company has shown great communication, made the candidate feel respected and valued, and shown care and appreciation to both the employee and their family. Now is the time to bring in the long-term retention strategies mentioned earlier: challenging, fulfilling work; stretch assignments and room for growth; and competitive salary and benefits. And above all: keep communicating with the employee on a regular basis, ensuring that they have opportunities to ask questions, express concerns, and offer suggestions to contribute to the success of the company.

Every employee is unique, and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to keeping an employee happy. But by focusing on communication and a positive employee experience during all five of these stages, companies will be doing much more than the average company and setting themselves up for high rates of employee engagement and retention.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie joined Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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