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How to Engage and Retain Employees

This post originally appeared on on March 14, 2017.

5 Tips to Improve Onboarding and Retain Employees

According to Gallup, today’s workforce is dominated by employees who are always on the lookout for another job opportunity. Employers are constantly competing to retain  employees. One factor that can give you an edge in employee engagement and retention is a robust onboarding process. Sixty nine percent of employees are more likely to stay with the company for at least three years after a great onboarding experience. Here are five tips for a highly effective onboarding process:

1) Pre-boarding that wows

Many new employees complain of information overload or a lack of specific performance objectives during the onboarding process. Dr. John Sullivan encourages managers to “wow instead of numb” and explains that, “if you want new hires to ‘hit the ground running,’ it’s important to reduce ‘first-day’ stress even before they start work to get new hires fully engaged with the company.”

Simple examples of pre-boarding include sending a welcome e-mail before the employee’s first day in the office, which provides information about what to expect on the first day. Welcome e-mails may include links to videos that convey company culture. Onboarding portals offer a virtual tour to help new employees become acclimated before employment officially begins. Proactive pre-boarding engages new hires and introduces them to their role and responsibilities.

Good onboarding doesn’t end after the first few days, weeks or even months.

2) Time-released onboarding 

An extraordinary onboarding experience should be an ongoing process. While it’s tempting to give the new employee everything they’ll need to know about the company on the first day, it’s more effective to introduce policies and procedures gradually. The concept of time-released onboarding helps today’s employees feel like their company cares about them and their progress, and breaking up information about company policies makes sure that they don’t miss something important because of information overload.

Good onboarding doesn’t end after the first few days, weeks or even months. In fact, it can, and should continue throughout the first year. This will not only allow your employees to digest large pieces of information, but it opens the door for management to forge a more lasting relationship with their employees.

3) Clear and measurable performance objectives 

Provide new hires with clear performance objectives from the get-go. Employees need to understand what is required of them and how they will be evaluated. Performance objectives should be specific and measurable to assess progress and development. Employees need to understand the big picture and how their work relates to the bottom line goals of the organization. Focusing on measurable performance objectives helps motivate employees to perform at a high level as quickly as possible to meet both short and long term goals.

4) Mentoring improves performance 

Every new hire should have a mentor.

Every new hire should have a mentor – someone who will support and encourage them that is not their direct supervisor. Mentors help the new hire adjust to a new environment and provide valuable on-the-job training. Although mentoring requires time and budget allocation, it is an investment with positive financial returns and increased employee satisfaction. Mentoring benefits both the trainee and the mentor by fostering loyalty in the trainee, and empowering and building leadership skills of the mentor. The company benefits from having a new employee perform at a high level as a new hire.

5) Blended training engages employees

New hires benefit from a blended training approach with mixed modalities. A balance between one-on-one mentoring, instructor-led training, and the use of video and web-based training provides new employees with a variety of ways to learn and understand training material.

Web-based training allows employees to progress at their own rate and to benefit from micro learning strategies. Gamification, which applies game elements to an engaging learning activity in a training course, is another way to capture the new employee’s interest. It also provides immediate feedback and helps new employees be active learners in the onboarding process. This blended, layered approach improves employee retention of information, combating the traditional impersonal, unengaging onboarding process of the past.

New employees feel more engaged and committed as mentors and instructors meet ongoing needs through a mixed modality of time-release style onboarding. As employees gain confidence and meet performance objectives, productivity and retention rates increase.

Want more great insights into improving your onboarding?

Take a look at these great resources:

3 Powerful Truths about Onboarding

Final Boarding Call for Onboarding