Keep the good ones Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

The first 90 days on a job are the most critical for a new employee. Employers need to understand that this period is the most significant for a new hire. With the unemployment rate currently less than 4 percent, retention of good talent is critical. One path to employee retention is to implement an effective on-boarding program. Employers need a strategy to integrate new hires into a corporation’s procedures, culture and vision.

Smart Business spoke with Leslie Peterson to learn more about the value of on-boarding both temporary and direct-hire employees.

How does an employer benefit from a strong on-boarding program?

Companies that have structured on-boarding processes in place spend fewer dollars on recruiting and hiring due to a lower turnover rate. Perhaps the best benefit of on-boarding is employee retention, partnered with loyalty and increased productivity. According to Westwood-Dynamics’ Web site, employees who go through such a program stay with a company for at least three years longer than employees who are not offered an on-boarding process. The relative cost of on-boarding is low compared to the cost of turnovers. The expense of one employee turnover can be up to 1.5 times the salary of the position.

How do employers create a successful on-boarding program?

There are a variety of ways to set up a solid on-boarding program. Employers can start by evaluating their current plan, creating a checklist and providing a mentor. The primary goal is to set up the new hire for success through information and training. The on-boarding program needs to be consistent and ongoing with follow-up throughout the employee’s first year. Periodically checking in with new hires and assessing their development will assure them of commitment to their success.

When does the on-boarding process begin?

Ideally, on-boarding begins before the job is even accepted. The employer should ask new employees to explain their concerns about the job before they start. When new employees are permitted to relate their fears early, employers can be proactive about potential tough periods in their process. By mainstreaming the new-hire process, employers can retain top talent and help their bottom line grow.

Post acceptance, the hiring manager should go over some key items with new hires, providing specifics as to where to park, dress code, items to bring for paperwork, when to arrive, whom to ask for and what to expect on the first day. That process will ease the new employee’s jitters, save time and serve as a starting point to plug him or her into the company.

What can employers do on an employee’s first day to ease his or her transition?

The first day of a work with a new employer is difficult. Often my candidates have told me that they feel out of place or uncomfortable asking for basic information that is second nature to seasoned employees. They need to be given a tour of the office, introduced to the team, shown restroom locations and told what time lunch is typically taken. These are simple suggestions but having a basic working knowledge of the office can ease tension on that first day. In addition, established employees can check in with them periodically to engage new hires and make them feel welcome.

What steps should be taken after the first day?

The most crucial step is to check in with new employees to see how they are handling training and adjusting to the team. Thirty days into a new position, a new hire can begin to wonder if he or she made the right decision. Why? Relationships. Employers should check in with the new hire at the 30-day mark to see how the training process is preparing the employee and to see if he or she has developed at least one relationship with a fellow employee. Pairing new employees with a mentor connects them with the team, gives them a forum to ask questions and helps them to learn the company culture.

What is important to new hires during the first 30 to 60 days in a new position?

Challenges and successes begin to surface between 30 and 60 days after a hire. Sometimes, new hires still wonder if they really know what is expected of them, if they have had an opportunity to exercise their strengths, if they received recognition recently and whether co-workers care about them as individuals. If the answers to these questions are no, then the employer and the new hires should discuss why that is and to whom the employees can talk to resolve these problems.

Ultimately, investing in people with the right values and tools of support will deliver the organization’s goals and everyone will reap the rewards.

LESLIE PETERSON is an executive recruiter, CTS, with Delta Dallas. Reach her at lpeterson@deltadallas.com or (972) 788-2300.