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3 Smart Onboarding Strategies To Improve Employee Retention Rate

onboarding Feb 21, 2023

You can tell a lot about a workplace by the way they onboard their new hires.

Onboarding is much more than just a fancy term for filling out paperwork and getting a new email address. The onboarding process is what sets new hires up for success.

It’s crucial in aligning their talents with your company’s mission and vision. And it’s what could cause them to stay for years to come – or drive them away before ever experiencing your office Christmas party.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can turn your onboarding process from a formality into a retention powerhouse. Let’s start with explaining how the two are connected.

Then, you’ll walk away with three strategies you can implement into your own organization almost instantly.

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Is onboarding really that important for retention?

Truth be told: employees leave companies for a variety of reasons. The biggest causes for turnover nowadays are very different from what they used to be.

For instance, people leave because the remote work policy doesn't align with their work-life balance goals (aka: some dusty manager insists on all commuting for 45 minutes to sit in the same room and send emails).

Other people leave because of a lack of advancement opportunities. They feel like they have hit a dead end in their career and go look for ‘more’ elsewhere – whether it's responsibility, money, or both.

So how influential is onboarding even with all these ‘’bigger’’ factors at play?

It’s true that even the best onboarding process can't keep employees abroad if you're not paying them enough or ignoring their career goals. But assuming you have all of that sorted properly, onboarding can make a big difference. Organizations with a strong onboarding process can improve retention by 82%.

But it's not just about keeping people on board for the sake of it: you want them to be engaged employees, able to express their talents and wishes, making a real difference in your business. That’s sorted too: a solid onboarding process can improve productivity by over 70%.

It’s hard enough to attract new talent, and even harder to keep them on. Let’s dive into how you can make it a little easier.

What should be included in an onboarding process

Okay, so onboarding is about more than giving new hires access to tools, showing them how the system works they’ll work with and adding their birthday to the company calendar.

Every company and even every role will require a slightly different onboarding process. However, you can start with a basic framework that makes sure you hit the goals mentioned below.

Goal 1: You stimulate employee engagement and support learning and development

The onboarding process isn’t just about your employee getting to know your organization. It’s also about you getting to know your new hire.

Make learning and development an integral part of the first steps. Find out early on what employees want to learn and achieve, and set up a system to track their progress. Moreover, give them access to tools that can help them achieve these goals.

Create a clear roadmap in your employee management software to make it easy to keep tabs on how they are advancing, and when you can provide extra support. This tool can also give themselves a practical place to track milestones and makes it easier to communicate about this.

Also, connect them with other members of the team – including senior leaders – that can help them achieve their goals.

This is much more effective and proactive than setting up a meeting 8 months into their contract to discuss their professional goals and career vision. Show you're supporting them from day one!

Goal 2: The employee knows where to find anything, anytime

Don’t just give them access to the general Drive and hope for the best. You will want to make sure they have easy access to the right documents and can get there fast.

That’s where a tool like Recruitee’s Applicant Tracking System comes to the stage. An ATS can be customized to facilitate clear communication about documentation and giving access to tools and files throughout the onboarding process.

The benefit for your business is that an ATS helps automate things like assigning onboarding materials, tracking completion and ensuring all compliance documentation is completed, so you can focus on connecting with the new hire.


Goal 3: You align the employee with the strategy and vision of your business

Then it’s time to talk about you! Ideally, you will have already talked about strategy and the company’s vision during the hiring process, and made sure there’s a match there. Now it is time to solidify this and put it into practice.

You can reveal more about the company's goals and objectives, both short-term and long term. You will explain how the employee contributes to these with their day-to-day tasks – and you will ask them if they see other ways they can help make it happen!

This is also the moment to provide more context for the industry and market if that is useful to the new hire.

When employees get a deeper understanding of the Why to their What, it is easier for them to feel more engaged and motivated in their work, and they'll be less inclined to check whether the grass is greener at other jobs.

Goal 4: The employee feels welcome in the company and understands the company culture (and contributes to it)

Socializing new hires is incredibly important. But, as adults, we dread it. Some companies can make it extra cringy or awkward. But if done right, it’s highly effective: 33% of high-performance onboarding programs include social networking.

It’s important to know why you’re socializing before thinking about the how

  • Getting to know the team is about building relationships and feeling part of the team. It creates a sense of belonging.
  • It helps reduce anxiety: not many people love being introduced to a group of strangers. Even more if they want to perform. Socializing can take some of the awkwardness and overwhelming experiences away.
  • Knowledge sharing! The relationships to coworkers can be a source of support and guidance for new hires as they learn the ropes.

This is just as important for remote employees or companies that are fully remote. It can be even more challenging to socialize for them, but the need is still there.

We’ll dive into some ways you can make socializing a natural and valuable part of the onboarding process right now!

3 Strategies that turn your onboarding process into an employee retention powerhouse

Now you know which elements to make part of your onboarding process, it’s time to look at ways to shape the whole process. Here are some strategies your new hires will love.

Use the right tools

Instead of setting up workshops in classrooms to teach employees all at the same time, give them tools to learn on their own.

Companies that use tools that enable on-demand learning are 300% more satisfied than their lower-performing peers with the technology they use in their onboarding process. That also ties up with big wins in time-to-proficiency, meaning employees get at the right level quicker, and new hire retention is also higher.

Take a look at your onboarding tools right now. Is it a mix and match of different programs? Are some parts online, and some not? If that is still the case, it’s time to invest in a tool that ties it all up together and streamlines the process for your employees.

Include mentorship and coaching

It’s not just technology, however. Two in three high-performing onboarding programs are built around mentorships and coaching.

Personal mentorships and a coaching program can have a tremendous impact on retention rates. The one-on-one type of support gives a more tailored, social and human approach to employee development. New hires will acclimate to their new roles and teams more quickly.

A mentor can share their experiences and give advice on how to navigate the company culture – something onboarding tools can't really do, yet. Mentors can also give motivation when needed and celebrate successes with new hires. No amount of on-screen confetti does the same thing.

Socialize new hires

How do you foster new-hire socialization without making it weird or feel forced? Mentorship and coaching is a way to achieve socializing, but you want new hires to get to know the entire team, not just their mentors. Here are some ways to do that:

Introduction: make sure a new employee is introduced to the team with more than just a Slack message. Organize an hour in which you can have a meeting (or a Zoom!) and introduce the new employee.

In that hour, you will talk about the role they will play, who they will be working with, what projects they’re on, etc. That will give your current team a better idea of what the new kid is doing. You can also introduce the other team members at this point.

Welcome chats: make sure your employee will have welcome chats with each team member they will directly work with. Whether it’s a coffee over a virtual meeting or in person, give everyone time and space to do this. Give them some pointers to talk about if necessary.

Shadowing: for some roles it can be extremely useful to allow new hires to shadow or observe team members at first. You can also set up a type of buddy system in which the new hire will work on different tasks with the current team. That way you hit two stones with one bird: they socialize, and they get to know the systems.

Make retention a priority from day one

In the challenging landscape we’re in today, employee retention should be on top of your to-do list.

If you start at the onboarding process, you’ll be able to tackle things before they become problems that can cause employees to leave earlier than you’d like them to.

Whether it’s through coaching, improving your onboarding tools or making sure people feel more welcome, or thinking of milestone ideas to reward employees, onboarding can make all the difference.

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How does onboarding impact employee retention?

It’s all about starting off from the right food. If new hires have a positive experience during onboarding and get everything they need to succeed at the company, they are more likely to feel engaged, supported and therefore committed to their work.

It is one of the ways you can make people happier, improve job satisfaction and with that keep them on for longer

What are some effective onboarding strategies for employee retention?

Effective onboarding strategies that can help you improve employee retention include aligning new hires with your company’s vision and values, providing personalized coaching and mentorship programs, socializing new hires into the team and utilizing learning tools.

The onboarding process should include everything your new hires need to be successful and happy at your business. Choose a strategy that fits your culture best.

How long should the onboarding process be to improve employee retention?

The length of the onboarding process can vary, defending in your company and the role someone is hired for. It is generally agreed that onboarding should last beyond the first day or even week of employment.

But really comprehensive onboarding programs can take up to several months. There’s no one ideal length for all companies. You will have to test and see how long new hires need support in their early days, weeks or even months and how long it takes to get them on track to reaching their goals.

About the author

Vicky Frissen

Vicky is a freelance copywriter with more than five years of experience in copywriting and content management. Having been working remotely since before it was cool, she wants to do things differently, in every way of her work. She has been working for SaaS brands, small businesses, coaches and creative companies in a wide and wild variety of sectors, empowering them to adopt a tone of voice that is daring, different and gets the job done.


Zoi Kotsou

Copywriter - Content writer - Content Creator - Columnist

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