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The Secret to Promoting Long-Term Employee Engagement & Retention

By Steve Margalit, FPC National

First impressions matter. Just as we experience initial feelings and reactions when meeting another person, we also have distinct impressions when we start a new job. These impressions are powerful, lasting, and often difficult to change. The good news is that there is a lot that companies can do to help shape these impressions and create a path that leads to high levels of employee satisfaction and retention.

An employee’s first impression of your company begins long before an offer is extended. Be sure your interviewing process is consistent, manageable, and people-centered to provide a positive experience that makes candidates want to work for your company. Emphasize to your HR staff and hiring managers that their roles include being company ambassadors with a goal of providing a positive and professional image of your organization.

Onboarding Impacts Profitability

According to a study by Glassdoor, employers spend an average of $4,000 and 24 days to hire a new employee. And that’s just for the hiring process alone. When factoring in the costs of training and learning curves, companies can expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for each new hire.

High retention means greater profits. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) released a report stating that “Half of all senior outside hires fail within 18 months in a new position” and “Half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days.” With attrition rates as high as these, it’s easy to see how important onboarding is to promote greater retention.

In addition, according to a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group, companies with successful onboarding functions experienced 2.5x revenue growth and had almost double the profit margin over companies with ineffective onboarding processes.

Remote vs. In-Person Onboarding

During the pandemic, many companies have adopted a remote or hybrid workplace model. Onboarding is just as important for remote employees as it is for in-person staff. And while onboarding remote employees presents logistical challenges, most of the core principles and objectives still apply.

When it comes to effective onboarding, companies must go beyond filling out paperwork, registering for employee benefits, and signing out computers and other tech. Onboarding needs to focus on the human element as well. The quicker that an employee becomes acclimated to your company’s culture and day-to-day operations, the quicker they can be a productive member of your organization.

Promote a Sense of Belonging

Employees thrive when they feel they belong and have meaningful connections with others. Assign a superstar long-term employee to guide your new hire through the onboarding process. Ensure that new team members have bonding opportunities with those in their department. Set up icebreaking activities to help your new employee feel welcome and connected. The quality of workplace relationships is strongly correlated with job satisfaction and longevity.

If possible, onboard new employees in groups, rather than individually. When new hires are acclimated together, there is a sense of community, as they are all beginning from the same place. This gives each new employee a head start when it comes to forming productive workplace relationships.

Promoting connections at work is even more important for remote employees. Team members who are working from home can experience a sense of isolation and disconnectedness from their companies. Simply providing remote workers with a laptop and an employee manual does not create a sense of belonging. Be sure to set up regular check-ins through Zoom, Slack, Teams, or other applications to foster strong interpersonal relationships.

Culture, Compliance, and Expectations

The most significant components of the onboarding process are intangible. When a new employee is introduced to their position, there is often a sense of uncertainty and insecurity surrounding expectations. Supervisors must take the time to ensure that new staff members have a complete understanding of their roles, objectives, and performance measurements. This often requires more than an introductory overview and company documentation. An employee’s confidence grows as they feel more comfortable with their expectations.

It is equally important to acclimate new hires to your company’s culture. Give them a sense of your organization’s personality so that they can start to feel at home. Be sure to expose new team members to your company’s mission and core values so they can get a strong sense of what your company stands for. Let them see the level of dedication, work ethic, and commitment to compliance exhibited by other employees.

Competitive Edge

Implementing a world-class onboarding system will provide your company with a significant advantage. According to a study by Gallup, only 12% of employees surveyed believe that their organizations do a great job with onboarding. By focusing on the human connection, creating a sense of belonging, and emphasizing company culture, you can use your onboarding process to promote high levels of engagement and retention.

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