Bad onboarding can lead to high quit rates for new workers

A large percentage of employees are disatisfied with their experience of joining a company, and a recent survey shows nearly half of new hires plan to quit soon after joining a company. That's especially true for remote workers.

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New employees who start a job feeling undertrained and disconnected from their work environment are far more likely to quit than those who have a good onboarding experience.

With the unemployment rate lower than it has been in decades — even more so in technology fields — job candidates more often than not field multiple offers. So, if the onramp to a new job is bumpy, they’re far more likely to reconsider staying with the organization, even in the short term.

According to research firm Gartner, 63% of new hires are satisfied with their onboarding experience. A recent survey by payroll and human resources provider Paychex showed onboarding experience affected how quickly they would quit after taking a position.

The survey of about 1,000 Americans by Paychex, released last month, found half (50%) of newly hired employees plan to quit soon.

paychex new employee quits graphic Paychex

A breakdown of those surveyed by Paychex that looked at whether they work remotely or onsite, 63% of remote workers said they would leave their employers soon, while just 29% of onsite workers said the same. In other words, remote workers were more than twice as likely to consider leaving their employers soon compared to in-office employees.

“We find a good onboarding experience makes you more confident in accepting the job and more likely an employee (who) will see a long-term career at the organization,” said Jamie Kohn, research director in Gartner’s HR practice. "So, a good onboarding experience definitely has an impact on the longevity of employment.

“The other thing to note is we didn’t find any difference between whether an employee was onboarded remotely or onsite. It doesn’t really matter,” Kohn said.

Among the percentage of remote workers who said they're likely to leave their current job soon, 88% described their latest onboarding experience as boring, 78% called it confusing, and 74% saw it as a failure. On-site and hybrid employees fare better; only 36% of them viewed the onboarding process as confusing.

paychex onboarding improve graphic Paychex

Remote workers are most likely to feel disoriented (60%) and devalued (52%) after onboarding, the survey found.

Effective onboarding is crucial in bringing a company’s employee value proposition to life, as poor onboarding experiences can result in confusion, feeling undertrained, and ultimately, high turnover rates, according to Alison Stevens, director of HR services at Paychex.

Without a streamlined and supportive process, employees can be left frustrated, she said, which can muddle a new hire's first experience in a new position and affect their morale.

“It is important for managers to deliver an engaging and informative experience that aligns with the company culture and values,” Stevens said in an email response to Computerworld. “Remote employees are especially vulnerable to feeling undertrained and disconnected; thus, companies may need to refine their remote onboarding process to deliver meaningful connections with new employees to help them feel valued right away.”

Par Merat, Cisco’s vice president of of training and certifications on skills and future of work, said her company has made a concerted effort over the past three years to improve its onboarding experience – particularly in light of the increase in remote/hybrid workers.

gartner onboarding remote graphic Gartner

One of the ways Cisco has tried to improve the acclimation process is by assigning mentors to new hires — senior employees who can help new hires to ensure they’re comfortable with the process.

Merat called a good onboarding experience “critical” to the long-term satisfaction of the job at Cisco, and noted that a bad experience can also affect a company’s reputation.

“How important is the brand of your organization? How does the candidate feel about the interview process, whether they get the job or not. Because word of mouth travels,” said Merat, who pointed to job review sites such as Glassdoor. “Every step along the way matters.”

In its study, Paychex recommended employers “re-onboard” new employees after they’ve been on the job for some time. Re-onboarding refers to making sure employees are comfortable in their new positions and feel connected to the organization and their co-workers and understand company culture.

Seventy-one percent of Paychex’s survey respondents indicated they'd like their employers to perform a company re-onboarding. “Employees who re-onboard are more engaged with their employers –– so much so that re-onboarding increases employee retention by 43%,” Stevens said.

Re-onboarding can also be especially useful for remote employees, Stevens said, because they are vulnerable to feeling undertrained and disconnected.

gartner onboarding graphic 2 Gartner

“It is the responsibility of the employer to evolve the onboarding process to meet the needs of the remote/hybrid world we are living in today," she said.

Paychex found that employees who got a re-onboarding process are more focused (47%), energized (42%), productive (34%), and efficient (33%).

Gartner’s Kohn suggested several steps companies can take to improve the  onboarding process:

  1. Don’t wait until a person begins their job to start onboarding. Companies need to start the engagement process from the time a job offer is accepted. The period between accepting and starting a job is anxiety provoking for people. They’ve accepted an offer, but aren't sure they made right decision. Introduce new employees to the team they’ll work with and see what interests them.
  2. New hires need to feel connected to their company’s values in addition to the work they’re doing. Most organizations tell employees their values without demonstrating them in action. For example, it’s not enough to say community service is important to the organization; a new hire should see how a manager and others are supporting it.
  3. Organizations should build networks beyond the employee’s immediate business team. Becoming connected with colleagues across an organization gives an employee a better perspective and an opportunity to ask questions of more people.

Another onboarding problem arises when organizations see the process as “a one-way experience,” according to Gartner’s Kohn. In other words, the company teaches the new employee about their job and how the company does things without fostering a connection.

“You need a two-way connection where they’re not only learning about the company, but the company [is] learning about the employee and tailoring the onboarding experience to them. In that, they’re also learning what the new hire brings to the table,” Kohn said. “It works a lot better when a new hire comes in and sees a manager and a team already recognizes [that the new hire] brings strengths to the table.”

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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