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How to Reduce Turnover with Functional Onboarding

Kristen Buchanan

One of the biggest pain points we see in our work is high turnover rates.

You might know turnover in terms of attrition or nonfunctional turnover — whatever name you call it by, all of these terms but they all mean the same thing:

Employees aren't staying at your company for the long term.

We've learned through experience that onboarding plays a critical role in whether or not employees stay past the one year mark.

What is the relationship between turnover and onboarding?

Turnover is specifically related to employees' inability to thrive at the company.

And while many different factors can influence how a new hire experiences their role (managers, industry, company culture), exit interviews consistently show that onboarding is at the heart of the issue.

In general, people leave a new job between 12 to 16 months not because of a poor fit or a bad manager. They leave because they're not feeling connected to the company, department, and team culture.

And worse, they often feel that they don't have the tools they need to do their actual job.

Turnover that is related to an employee's ability to embed themselves in the culture, to get the tools they need to do their job, and to work within their department and team really well is connected to onboarding.

The good news is that this type of turnover can be changed.

A functional technical onboarding program can be the difference between watching talented new hires leave through a revolving door and nurturing talent over the long term.

And the best part?

When new hires thrive, their teams thrive, and the company prospers.

Onboarding; It's a Piece of Cake

To break down onboarding into its necessary levels, we've adopted the "Three Layer Cake Model.”

The first layer of the cake is the company and/or corporate onboarding. This is the basic, run-of-the-mill information that every employee gets. Think HR benefits, company structure, and an overview of the company's process or product.

Effective technical onboarding programs go beyond this first layer into layer 2, which is department onboarding. This allows a new hire to begin to gain a sense of how their role fits into the goals of their department, and how they might collaborate with other departments in their work.

Finally, the third layer is immersing the new hire into the teams, processes, and specifics of their actual job within their department. This layer could include things like engineer-specific onboarding, product education, and team introductions.

If you're giving your employee everything they need to thrive in your company culture, you're covering all the things they need at the company layer, department layer, and the team layer.

The key here is that in order to reduce turnover and retain technical talent, your onboarding program must include resources and tools that are related to the new hires' actual job.

Why is functional onboarding so important to new hires?

When companies go beyond the standardized onboarding process, they offer a glimpse of what new hires are stepping into: a long term relationship with their teams, departments, and the company mission overall.

Understanding not just the company highlights, but also their own role within the business, helps new hires feel like they matter.

And that translates to engagement with work, innovative ideas, and retention over the long term.

It's important to remember that new hires aren't just cogs in the wheel; they're people who need to feel connected to their work.

Most people can generally forgive a not-so-great HR benefits presentation.

What's harder to forgive and harder to overcome is not having the tools you need to do your actual job.

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