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Nov 2017

Designing onboarding experiences that increase employee retention

Blog posts

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

For many companies, the most pressing goal when designing onboarding experiences is to get new hires trained on their job and company procedures as quickly as possible so they can hit the ground running. From the employee perspective, however, this approach may not align to what they really need and want. Of course, new employees want to learn how to do their jobs and do them well. But they also want to feel welcomed and part of a team, while also looking ahead to opportunities for growth. As we design onboarding experiences, it’s important to take a holistic view of the employee’s experience, meeting the needs of both the organizations and the employee.

The challenges during onboarding

Remember that onboarding a new employee isn’t just telling them about what they need to do; you’re also validating for them that they made the right decision. The employee onboarding period is the time during which your organization is being evaluated by your new employee the most; it’s a critical period in which many employees decide whether they’re going to stick around for the long haul or get out quick. In fact, many employees (40%) who leave companies shortly after starting do so within the first six months, with a further 16% leaving within the first year - which means it’s crucial for your new employees to be getting the proper support, motivation, and direction during their first months and beyond to avoid high turnover rates and increase retention. Interestingly, the goals of the employer and the employee don’t necessarily align during this period and when designing onboarding experiences many of the things that are important to the employee may get overlooked. 

As we said, typically the employer is hoping to get their new hire up to speed and compliant as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the employee is looking to learn the in’s and out’s of their new job, form bonds with their co-workers - or at least know who their teammates are by the end of the first week - and feel like they know who to go to when they have questions. As you can see, one of these groups is focused purely on business objectives, whereas the other is adding in some interpersonal concerns as well. For these reasons, it’s important that when your organization is designing onboarding experiences, they’re taking into consideration both sets of goals in order to create a holistic approach that will leave employees feeling as though they’ve gotten the support they need and the employer feeling that the organization is well on their way to managing a successful new teammate.

How to align employer and employee goals

So, with two separate goals, how can your organization bring it all together when designing onboarding experiences? One way is to create an induction portal that can be customized (to an extent) for the individual new hire. An ideal portal will include on-demand learning resources, provide opportunities for digital and in-person peer-to-peer resource and knowledge sharing, and provide a structured pathway that creates measurable milestones to be discussed with mentors and managers. Outside of the portal, however, there should be a strong emphasis on building relationships - whether that’s assigning mentors or “buddies” for the first few weeks of the new transition, setting up routine, in-person check-ins with colleagues, or encouraging and embracing various forms of social learning.

It’s also helpful that the portal and/or materials are available to the employee prior to their start date – not to make them feel as if they have to start working before they’re officially on the clock, but build on that excitement they have with joining a new company, while allowing them to start absorbing information on their own time in a way that feels less pressure-filled.  

And of course, don’t stop the onboarding process too soon! Many organizations follow that onboarding experience through the entire first year, building in regular check in’s and layered experiences to help the employee make the most out of their first year.

We’ve created a free guide chock-full of onboarding best practices - get your copy here!

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

Steve Lowenthal has over 15 years of experience in Learning Technologies in consultancy, sales and management roles. He's a regular speaker at US conferences and events on trends in LMS, elearning and technology.