There’s a lot of work that goes into bringing a new employee onto your team. There’s the search, the hiring process, the paperwork, the on-the-job training…the list goes on.
It requires a lot of your time and resources, but it’s all worth it when you step back and realize that now you have a top-notch employee up and running on your team.
…until that high-performer leaves your organization, sometimes only a few weeks or months after they came onboard. Estimates state that up to a one-third of employees quit their jobs within the first 90 days.
What happened? Well, while your employee onboarding process probably got them what they needed in terms of software logins and maybe even a branded coffee mug, it likely skipped the thing that your employees want most: a strong sense of connection and belonging.
Understanding the intangibles of solid employee onboarding
Take a look at your current onboarding process and it probably looks a lot like a checklist of logistics. You need to get their technology access. Enroll them in benefits. Give them the company handbook. Provide a generic presentation about your company.
Understanding what employees want from the onboarding process can directly influence the 100 perks and benefits that drive retention.
Check, check, check. Maybe you even host a team lunch or a virtual happy hour with a few icebreaker games.
And after that? You dust off your hands and call it done. You return to your daily responsibilities with the assumption that your new hire now feels like a completely integrated member of your team, ready to tackle their tasks and leave their mark on your organization.
Unfortunately, reality hardly ever pans out that way. In fact, most employees—whether they’re new to your company or not—don’t feel like they quite fit in at work, with recent research stating that 25% of employees admit they don’t feel like they belong.
That disconnect eventually leads to turnover, with McKinsey’s Great Attrition survey discovering that 51% of employees who left their job in the past six months did so because they lacked a sense of belonging. 46% of employees said they quit because they wanted to work with people who trust and care for each other.
It’s proof that employees are craving stronger, deeper, more meaningful relationships with the people they work with—something that’s becoming increasingly difficult on remote or hybrid teams. One recent survey in California found that 63% of respondents said they had never even met their colleagues face-to-face.
And when workers don’t get the attachment and kinship they’re so eager to find, particularly in those crucial early days? They quickly become disengaged and dissatisfied—before hitting the road altogether.
To grasp what employees seek from onboarding, explore our ultimate guide to engagement dashboards for additional insights.
How to build a sense of belonging into employee onboarding
When an employee quits after a short tenure, it’s easy to write it off as a fluke or a bad culture fit. It was doomed from the start.
But any time an employee leaves, it’s smart to turn the magnifying glass on your organization and understand what happened—and, more importantly, how you can fix it.
If you don’t, your hiring and onboarding processes are doing nothing but filling up a bucket with a hole in the bottom. You’ll continue to lose talent until you find a way to provide the level of inclusion they need and deserve.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to throw out your onboarding checklist that helps you get the tangible stuff—like logins, payroll, and benefits—taken care of. Those things are important, but they aren’t enough alone.
A solid onboarding process—one that inspires affinity, loyalty, and commitment—goes beyond the nuts and bolts and emphasizes strong relationships and a firm attachment to your organization. Here are a few tips to make that happen.
Match new hires with a buddy or a mentor
When somebody new joins your team, their direct manager usually ends up being their de facto onboarding lead. But honestly, that can sort of feel like having to attend summer camp with your mom and dad.
While it’s important that new employees forge strong bonds with their supervisors, they probably won’t feel comfortable approaching them with some of those early-day concerns—whether they can’t remember someone’s name or can’t figure out how to request time off.
Pairing them up with a mentor or a buddy gives them an opportunity to strike up a relationship with someone else within the company, while also providing them a more informal, relatable, and approachable resource they can turn to when they feel confused or intimidated.
This person can be from the new hire’s team or even from an entirely different department within the company—whatever you think is best. Either way, they will serve as your new employee’s sponsor or ambassador and help them feel not only more connected to your organization, but to their peers.
Facilitate other opportunities for connection
There isn’t always a lot of opportunity for personal chatter and close connection during team meetings and other work-focused obligations.
So, provide new hires information about various connection opportunities within your company, whether that’s employee resource groups, social outings, themed Slack channels, or whatever other outlets your employees use to get to know each other on a deeper level.
Employees can use these resources to meet other people outside of their immediate teams and maybe even strike up some new friendships. That’s important when research from Gallup shows that employees who feel that they have a best friend at work are less likely to leave their company.
You can also implement a tool that will help you prioritize connection. Dailyhuman regularly matches team members to complete progressive, guided conversations. It’s an easy but meaningful way to forge new relationships.
Connect their work to the bigger picture
When employees are new, they don’t have the context, visibility, or understanding to see how their own work impacts the whole. You should connect those dots for them during the onboarding process.
This goes beyond providing your company’s mission, vision, and values (although, of course, those matter too). How does the work this employee does support and fuel those? Get as specific as possible about why their work matters. When 70% of employees say that their sense of purpose is defined by their work, you need to help them understand just how much of a difference your company makes—and how much of a difference they make at your company.
Schedule frequent check-ins
There’s a lot of emphasis placed on the first day or week on the job. But after that? Employees are often left wondering if anybody remembers that they’re there—and that’s especially true in remote or hybrid environments where new hires can quickly feel like they’re “out of sight, out of mind.” For that reason, you need to commit to checking in frequently with any new hires. Aim for at least twice a month, or even once per week for at least the first couple of months. After that, it’s smart to check in every few months or so through the employee’s entire first year.
This doesn’t need to be a long conversation, but it’s a chance to stay in the loop and see how they’re doing, both professionally and personally. During these check-ins, you can ask questions like:
How does the job match your expectations so far?
What has surprised you most about the job or our company?
Are there any questions or challenges I can help with?
How are things going outside of work?
Is there anything else that would be helpful to you as you continue to settle in?
These show that you’re invested in them—both professionally and personally—as they continue to get more comfortable with your organization.
Onboarding that goes beyond the basics
When you think about employee onboarding, you probably think about things like logins and company policies. While those matter, your onboarding process is incomplete if it’s not focused on fostering a sense of meaning and belonging.
Sure, your employees need to know how to access their email or how to request PTO. But they also need to know that they matter—that you’re invested in helping them become a happy, valued, and connected member of your team.
And that? Well, it’s never going to happen with only checklists and handbooks.