top of page
the blog

First Impressions Matter | How Strategic Onboarding Links to Employee Retention

Employee retention starts before an employee's first day of work and many companies aren’t getting it right. Within their first days at a new job, employees are making swift decisions about whether they will stay employed with a company or move on and, unfortunately, many are choosing to move on. One study showed that nearly one-third of new hires leave during their first month of employment, while another study indicated that around 17 percent of new hires terminate their employment between the first week and third month of starting their new job. What happens within those first few days of employment is crucial in establishing new hires with the organization and waging the war on retention. When employees do leave, turnover typically costs six to nine months of an employee’s salary, and in some cases, climbs as high as two times the annual salary of a position. New hires first impressions and experiences greatly impact their choice to stay or go – getting those first days, weeks, and months right makes a difference.

Many organizations aren’t doing a good job at onboarding new hires. According to a Gallup survey, only 12 percent of employees polled believe that their company does a great job at onboarding new employees. Onboarding should be more than ensuring that all of the paperwork is signed and that the employee makes it through the first day of work. Done well, onboarding is an on-going process spread over the first year or more of employment that links the new hire to the organization’s mission, processes, and people. Onboarding should assist new hires in fully investing in and committing to their new organization and setting them up for success in their new job. Effective onboarding is also a social process and one that is appropriately designed for adult learning.

Successful onboarding should not be viewed as a one-day, once and done process. Instead, onboarding should be viewed and developed in stages such as pre-hire, immediate post-hire (beyond the first week), and beyond the first year. One study showed that, of the companies surveyed, 83 percent of the highest performing companies start onboarding processes before a new hire’s first day on the job using tools like new hire portals and welcoming emails from managers. Further support of the extended onboarding process is research that shows mutually beneficial results (i.e., job satisfaction, retention) when onboarding continues throughout the first year of employment, such as assigning mentors to new hires.

Furthermore, successful onboarding should have a goal of providing employees with experiences that connect them to their position, peers, managers, and company. When developing a successful onboarding process, ensure that employees learn and understand what makes the company they are working for unique, how their job contributes to the company’s success in achieving its mission and goals, and lastly, allow the employees, at some level, in some way, to experience the mission and values of the company.

Design of the onboarding process should also consider engaging the adult learner and it should encourage the sharing of information. New employees don’t want to sit in front of training videos for four hours or be sequestered to an office filling out paperwork! Because a main goal of onboarding is introducing new employees to company culture, structure and standards, the design of onboarding should be well thought out to achieve these objectives. One way this is achieved is through social interaction, which is arguably one of the most important components in the onboarding process.


Further, socialization helps reduce anxiety while establishing realistic expectations and clarity about the job, all of which lead to higher job satisfaction.


First impressions matter. Organizations must develop onboarding programs that establish experiences that provide reasons for new hires to stay. Strategic onboarding must stress the “why”, maintain momentum past the first day, engage the adult learner, encourage information sharing and most importantly, strategic onboarding must provide employees with socialization. Properly designed onboarding can have a positive effect on employee retention – through developing and implementing an onboarding process that meets the needs of new hires as well as the needs of the company, organizations can experience an increase in employee satisfaction and commitment and ultimately, organizations can improve turnover and win the war on retention.


Tamarah Martin is a Student in the Graduate HRD Program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!

To read Tamarah Martin's paper and view studies referenced please click here.

More Great Posts!

bottom of page