How Long Does Your Onboarding Run? (Answer: Not Long Enough!)

Posted in Talent & Onboarding

A lot can happen in 24 months. Babies learn to cry, walk and talk. The Earth completes two laps of the sun, travelling 3.76 billion kilometres. People earn Master’s degrees and write novels. There’s so much potential in this time period, but it seems we’re forgetting that when it comes to the first 24 months of employment. 

The first two years matter for both new hires and employers – and we’re here to show you how your organization can realize the full potential of this important stage in the employee life cycle.


Are you Making a Good First Impression?

Employees these days are a restless bunch, unwilling to take a ‘wait and see’ approach if they’re not impressed with their initial experience in a new workplace.

Research from the United States suggests that three out of ten new hires will be gone within the first 90 days. Meanwhile, Australian research by Price Waterhouse Coopers found nearly one in four new employees leaves their job before their first 12 months is up. 

Reports suggest the main reasons employees move on so quickly are:

  • They decide the work is something they don’t want to do anymore
  • They feel the job is different from what was described during the interview
  • They’re not feeling much love for their boss

Other reports confirm that first impressions are incredibly important. In the first six months, most employees are making big-impact decisions: 86% of new hires decide to stay or leave a company within that time period.

Why are we Losing the War for Talent?

With new employees so willing to pack their bags and leave if their first impressions don’t stack up against their expectations, the initial period of employment is a key battleground in the war for talent.

And the war is a costly one!

Australia’s turnover rate is 23% within the first 12 months, costing $3.8 billion in lost productivity and a further $385 million in avoidable recruitment costs.

There are also those pesky hidden costs. High turnover impacts employee morale and productivity, and can compromise client relationships. Of course, the true costs are often hard to measure, with many organizations ill-equipped to track areas of loss.

If you’re surprised by the the staggeringly high costs of high employee turnover, get ready for another shock…

Statistics suggest most workers who leave could have been retained!

A report by the Society of Human Resource Management reports that 77% of workers who quit could have indeed been persuaded to stay.

So, what’s going wrong? Why are we losing this seemingly winnable war for talent?


The Not-So-Secret Weapon to Win the Talent War

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15% of employees are engaged in the workplace. That’s right. It’s not a typo. Just 15%.

It’s clear that high levels of employee engagement can promote talent retention. So it’s no surprise that in these times of high staff churn, we’re also seeing plummeting levels of engagement.

Low levels of engagement hurt both workers and employers. The Gallup report reveals that organizations in the top quarter of engagement achieve higher scores for customer metrics, productivity, sales and profitability while rates of absenteeism, shrinkage and safety incidents are lower.

Employees, on the other hand, don’t realize their full potential when unengaged or actively disengaged – and can suffer both physically and mentally.

The conclusion is obvious.

Developing an effective strategy for boosting employee engagement – particularly in the early days and months of the employee life cycle – should be a key focus in winning the war for talent.

Boosting Engagement with a Real Experience

Despite the doom and gloom of statistics that reveal the extent of high churn workplaces combined with chronically low levels of employee engagement, there is good news.

With strong onboarding processes, you give engagement a shot in the arm – boosting employee retention rates by 82% according to the Brandon Hall Group and productivity by 70%.

Other reports indicate 69% of new hires say they’re more likely to stay longer than three years if they experience well-structured onboarding.

However, this obvious way to effectively fight the warn on talent is – surprisingly – an underused solution.

Just 12% of employees say their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.

With so much room for improvement and so many employers neglecting onboarding, taking the time to focus on delivering a great onboarding experience can give your organization a clear competitive edge.

So, how do you deliver great onboarding?


First: Deliver a Real Onboarding Experience

Don’t confuse orientation with onboarding and finish it up after a day, a week or a month. As we’ve seen, the first six months of an employee’s journey with your organization is critical. This is the absolute minimum period for an onboarding program. Ideally, look at the first 12 to 24 months.

Second: Go Beyond the Superficial

A welcome morning tea or lunch is great, but you need to help the new hire make strong connections with ongoing mentoring. You also need to think about company culture, helping your new employee understand their role in the organization and identify how their strengths can align with organizational goals. Think more deeply about the person and their experience rather than working to a generic checklist.

Third: Get your Managers Onboard with Onboarding

It’s estimated that managers account for around 70% of variance in employee engagement scores, confirming what we all know – people leave jobs because of bad management. However, many managers don’t have the time or skills to effectively onboard new recruits. That needs to change if you want to discover the true value a real and comprehensive onboarding program can deliver.


We all know that we don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression.

Make sure your organization is putting its best foot forward and unlocking the enormous potential that can be found in the first 24 months of the employee life cycle.

Want to learn more about how onboarding can boost employee retention and transform your organization? Download our whitepaper and discover how Microsoft, Google and Eventbrite balance technology and human connection to keep their best people.

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