Companies have a turnover problem. We see it everywhere and it’s only compounded along the record number of job openings as well. Signs at local businesses that people don’t want to work anymore (Show 292 4 phrases to remove from your vocabulary), the well-documented crisis in nursing shortages, and other examples tell the story of the importance of keeping your people around for the long term. 

A Harvard Business Review study showed that people are most likely to leave in their first year. Most companies of course don’t need HBR to tell them that; they feel the churn of the rotating door of talent in some of their most critical roles. Today we’ll discuss ways to keep your people engaged so that they stick around to the first year and far beyond. 

Understand why 

The first step in building out a plan is to understand the reasons why the largest groups of people are leaving. I’ve spoken with and advised organizations that will inherently point to compensation as the reason why. While money and benefits may be a factor, it will never be the only factor at play in the reasons behind leaving. Invest the time on the front end to understand what some of the true reasons are.

Where to look

  • Learn from those that wrapped their first year recently. What kept them around? What were their struggles? What do they feel like they missed? This will be one of the most valuable places to gather this important info.
  • Learn from the leaders of the population that you are solving for. What do they see? What are some of the common skill gaps of new people? 
  • Talk to peers, partners, and others to affirm or add context to what you learned from the first two groups. 
  • Poll those that left. This is a great practice to have in place as long as it is in conjunction with some of the other fact-gathering activities. Often times ex-employees won’t give you the full reason or they may over-exaggerate a point based on a bad personal experience. 

Leverage your findings to build out a plan

Regardless of industry, you’ll typically find a combination of compensation, support to be successful in the role, a sense of connectedness to others, and purpose in their work to be some of the major reasons that you may need to care for. 

Now that you have the power of that knowledge to know where to go, you need to consider how to get there. Look at how your vulnerable population works. Are they office based with strict performance and time expectations? Perhaps they are mobile; always on the move. Maybe they are mostly working from home or in a hybrid work environment.  

For your program to be successful it must meet the person where they are and resonate with who they are, what they need, and how and when they need it. Using the three examples above, if you created one program to try to care for them all, you would inevitably fail at all three. Leverage multiple layers into the program to help meet people’s different learning styles and communication preferences. I prefer to include virtual meetings, mentoring, one-on-one coaching, and self-paced learning (using audio, video, and practical exercises) 

Assess data and storytell

Access your program at the 90-day, 6-month, and year mark to see what adjustments need to be made. I don’t think that there is a single program that I have launched over the years that didn’t change in some regard by the end of the first year. Let go of control and ego to listen and learn from your mentors, advisors, and people that are going through the program. Make those needed adjustments to further refine the experience of your people and increase the engagement of those mentors, and advisors that are making it happen. 

The six-month and year marks are great times to pull retention data to see how your efforts are actually impacting the business. Partner with HR to get an understanding of what the full costs are when hiring for an open role (Comp, backfill expenses, recruiting expenses, loss of productivity, etc). Multiply that dollar amount by the number or percentage of people that were saved as a result of your program. This is a great way to show the bottom line impact of the hard work and clears an easier path to gain more resources to expand or enhance your program. 

Your onboarding program doesn’t have to be an overly complicated plan in order to get great results. Focus on understanding the why behind the reasons for leaving, build a solution that meets the person where they are, and follow up on potential changes. Be sure to celebrate those well-deserved wins along the way!

Make a better tomorrow.