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How to onboard employees on day 1 to reduce staff turnover

Research shows that 40% of all turnover is due to the first week experience and 50% of all turnover will occur in the first month of employment. So what exactly is causing this turnover, and what can you change in your on-boarding process to reduce it?

Firstly, I want to cover off on the premise that “some” staff turnover is a positive and important for all businesses to continue to grow and evolve. As an owner or manager you need to continually improve the quality, experience and capability of the individuals within your team. Fast growing businesses have a particularly challenging time given each stage of growth requires alternative skill sets and experience which previously the business was unable to attract because of lack of funding or a lack of profile in the market to attract the talent needed for future stages of growth.

Perhaps a good analogy of this comes from one of my Harvard Business School professors who explained that in in the early growth stages of a business, the only people you can afford to attract to the business are friends, family and fools with low IQ and low options. This may or may not be true in all cases, but if so we need to “set them free” and move them into the right seat on the bus which matches their capability and experience or move them off the bus when the time is right. You need A grade players on your team. Don’t make your life difficult by hiring B or C grade players and most importantly recognise when the B grade player is out of their depth.

To look at this in another way, most people are not able to grow and learn from a personal development perspective at the same pace that a fast growing business is evolving. In order to add value to the team for the next stage, these people need to move to a different seat (through splitting roles) or alight from the bus completely.

Hopefully, this provides an example why “good staff turnover” is a positive. The challenge is recognising what we need to change in our businesses to reduce staff turnover – and this starts with creating a wonderful on-boarding experience on day one and throughout the first week. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Never start a new team member on a Monday. We have all been in the position where we are incredibly excited about this new team member that is joining us, they are going to change our life and add value. We have them booked into start Monday morning. The new starter is also excited about this career step and joining your business!  They turn up 10 mins early on their first day (a Monday) and you’re busy getting your head into the week while your team is on their second coffee for the morning to wake up from the weekend. Start them on a Thursday to allow them to have a great couple of days, settling in, have the weekend to reflect and then come back Monday morning with clear direction and hit the ground running.
  2. Allocate new employee buddy. Allocate your new star hire with a “buddy” of the same gender and approximate age. This will allow them to relate to the needs of your new hire. Things like showing where the bathroom facilities are located, where to go for lunch, go to the gym, laundromat and all the other “things” which help your new hire integrate into their new working life easier. This person should take them for lunch with one or two of the other team members during the first week
  3. Meet the team before day 1. Depending on the personality of the individual, catch up for a quick coffee, lunch, drink and have a casual “get-to-know-you” with the team and your new hire in a more relaxed environment, this will enable everyone to get to know each other on a more personal note and day one will be a lot less stressful given you have eliminated a large component of the “day 1 unknowns”.
  4. Don’t have them sort out their own IT. This is basic 101 stuff but unfortunately very common. We see it all the time. The new excited game changing employee starts, they do the meet and greet around the office and then sit at their blank computer waiting for IT to set up user names (and the inevitable problems that will come with this – amazingly that this simple process manages to be difficult every time!). It is incredibly important to have their PC, business cards, end of trip facilities locker, uniform, office gear all set up and waiting. This simple touch (which must be done at some point anyway) makes an enormous difference to how someone feels when they leave for their first day.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of influence of the new employee’s partner. The first thing that is going to happen is the partner will text their loved one mid morning and ask “ how’s your first day?” the answer will be “ok, its been two hours and I’m still waiting on IT to set up my passwords” or “its great, I’m busy running between meetings, it is a great group of people, can’t wait to tell you about it tonight”. Their partner will be your new hires greatest sounding board. You need to keep them happy!
  6. Celebrate people arriving not leaving. It has always dumbfounded me why businesses celebrate people leaving, of course if it is a long serving employee then this might be appropriate, however, cards, drinks, gifts etc for someone leaving is the wrong psychology for the team. Celebrate when someone joins the team, socialise them with the team, send them and their partner out for dinner or send a small gift home with them for their partner to reinforce you are excited to have their partner on the team.
  7. Have a clear plan for the first week and a strategy. This way your new team member can understand where they fit in the bigger picture and what outcomes are required. Once they settle in, they will drive this themselves. However, in week one, give them direction.

These are just a few things that have helped us across a range of businesses to on-board a new employee well. This article has been aimed at more senior office-bound roles however, certainly elements can be adapted and used in shift-based workforces as well. The Roubler onboarding system works with customers to incorporate a systemised approach to successful onboarding and the introduction to the team. I hope this has provided you with one or two points of value. Thanks for reading!

Andrew Northcott is the founder, executive chairman and major shareholder of Roubler. Andrew is a past QUT Alumnus of the year award recipient and Harvard Business School Alumni.

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