October 21, 2021

Employee Retention Starts with the Onboarding Process


Employees have more choices in the new world of work formed out of the COVID-19 pandemic. More jobs are available, but employers are struggling to fill those roles. Additionally, employers also find themselves up against what is being called The Great Resignation

Given all of these factors, the ability for companies to attract and retain talent has never been more important. While retention “right now” is of course key to an organization’s people strategy, the scope in which it is being discussed and focused on is seemingly too narrow.

Thinking Differently About Employee Retention 

Blogs, podcasts, email newsletters, and social media posts are filled with tips on how to keep employees that are working for as long as you can, but these strategies focus primarily on employees that have been with your organization for a while. 

We think retention really starts with the employee onboarding process. 

From the moment a new team member says “yes” to your organization the work on retaining them begins. To illustrate this point, studies have shown that up to 28% of new employees leave organizations before 90 days of employment. 

So how can you begin your employee retention strategy in the onboarding process? 

We have found a few key areas of interaction and information in the immediate time before and after an employee’s start date with your organization that can lead to success. 

Effective Onboarding Strategies for Employee Retention

Have a pre-start onboarding process

Have an intentional pre-start onboarding process for new hires. This process should cover anywhere from one month to one day before an employee starts and be filled with useful information and provide touchpoints with your organization so the person gets to know you, their team, and their work. 

Examples of this content could be:

  • An introduction to their team and direct manager
  • A preview of the work they will do, including any tools they will use or projects they will work on
  • A view of the organizational and team structure
  • Insight into benefits and perks they will choose from when they start
  • Insights on the company culture


By giving new employees a preview of what their work world will be filled with when they start with you, you better prepare them to not be completely overwhelmed with information when they start the job. 

You also start to familiarize them with your team as actual people and the business as an actual workplace – which can create a sense of belonging and inclusion before they ever show up to work. Employees often state that a feeling of belonging to a team is as important to them as traditional benefits or perks. 

And note – don’t overload the employee with things to accomplish or do during this time. Usually, you are not paying them for any effort they are putting into things before their first day. So limit action items and focus more on content that is informative.

Build a specific post-start training plan

Once your employee’s first official day with the organization arrives, new employees should have a detailed, intentional training plan that helps bring them into the team and covers not only what they technically need to do the job but also gets them familiar with the norms, expected behaviors, team culture, and environment. 

These factors are just as important as what a person will be doing day-to-day to job happiness and ultimately to whether a person will remain with your organization or not. 

In this phase of retention onboarding consider a few training factors that can contribute staying power for your new person:

  • An accessible, dedicated training plan, ideally spanning 90 days
  • Several meetings with a direct manager and fellow, immediate team members for training but also for team bonding
  • Time for the team member to learn and explore on their own paired with a project to demonstrate the learned skill to others
  • Team events that focus on getting to know the person, including coffees, lunches, happy hours, and game
  • Exposure and time with higher-level team members and executives to learn the purpose and goals of the company and to feel connected, heard and seen by top-level decision-makers


Having a structured training plan that enables the person to learn at a pace that makes sense for the organization and for them is crucial to getting them up to speed in the right way to contribute. 

Equally as important to employee retention are the culture and team bonding aspects of your organization that they are offered and included in during the crucial first months they are on the team. Building relationships and connections, especially in an increasingly remote-first working world, is a major factor in a new team member feeling like they are part of a group that they might want to stay with long-term. 

Creating a robust onboarding strategy to aid in employee retention can seem overwhelming, especially if you are looking to fill roles quickly. 

However, technology like HRIS systems and project management systems can help you create easy-to-use templates that can be quickly customized to each new person and save you time. The return on the time investment you put into these retention onboarding strategies can really pay off and make it worth it in terms of keeping great employees on your team and attracting new ones. 

Interested in learning more about how we successfully use retention onboarding strategies? Follow us on our social media profiles! 


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