How Not To Lose Your New Employees In Their First 45 Days

How Not To Lose Your New Employees In Their First 45 Days

July 15, 2013 Retaining Employees


Cost-conscious firms are missing out. Few prioritize onboarding programs, yet they expect new employees to drive results within 90 days because “anything faster can mean that the employee hasn’t been analytical enough in his assessment of the business,” according to Louis Dubois for At a minimum, though, onboarding should be a 90-day process.

However, 90-day onboarding programs are rare. What is more common are one to two day onboarding programs primarily focused on educating new staff members about legal and policy-related rules. The result of these insufficient acclimation efforts are that new employees are left ill prepared  for their first 90 days when it comes to deeply understanding their jobs, uncovering vital team relationships, or even indoctrinating themselves into their new company’s culture. As a result, firms are losing talent—HR industry studies show that a great amount of staff turnover (possibly as high as 20 percent) can happen within the first 45 days of employment. (Side note: it costs between $3,000 and $18,000 to replace quitters.)

For example, on one of my client’s first day at a 100-person agency, he was handed the usual paperwork and taken to his seat. He ran into a manager and asked where the manager’s team was. The manager replied, “Working. That’s what we do here: work.” My client sat back down, shocked by the direct response. There was no planned team lunch or coordinated meetings. That first “inconsequential” day set the tone for his tenure there—from which he promptly resigned within three weeks.

Aside from abrupt resignations, there are also costs associated with those who stay and remain unproductive due to poor onboarding experiences. In the US and UK alone, an estimated $37 billion is spent annually to keep unproductive employees who do not understand their jobs, according to a 2012 IDC survey.

So, consider these five ideas for what to incorporate into your 90-day plan when introducing a new hire.

1. Create reasons for strangers to meet. Think Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

Working cross-functionally is often the key to innovation and success. To facilitate these cross-business-unit relationships, consider opportunities for new hires to chat with veteran employees. Ogilvy & Mather does this superbly. On day one you are handed a temporary lime-green name plate, signaling that you are new to the organization. It creates opportunities for anyone who walks past you to say hello. Also, consider temporarily seating new hires in high-traffic areas. This creates another natural way for strangers to become acquainted.

2. Come up with an activity that captures your company’s culture.

Team lunches often feel like an extended interview and can become awkward when typical “first-date-type” questions ensue. Make sure that the team members who will interface with the new employees join in. This can be fused to already existing events, such as trivia lunch hours, which firms like Kaplan Test Prep host. Another example is choosing to volunteer as a group at a soup kitchen (this is suitable for food companies, for example). Doing something activity-based brings out the team members’ personalities more authentically than a sit-down lunch. Meanwhile, if you find a way to tie the activity to your sector, area of expertise, or a cultural nuance, then this event will not only foster connections but also shed light on a firm’s spirit and priorities.

3. Answer the “why” question.

Why were you founded? When delegating a task, employees should know why they are doing that work. Sharing context brings about engagement.  Similarly, new employees should hear why their employer was founded.  You should not use a client pitch deck to convey the authenticity that employees deserve. Instead, archive original documents, conversations, or videos that articulate from the founders why they wanted to build the firm. Alternatively, who in your current organization has a fire in their belly for its mission or cause? Volunteer that person to convey the company’s history. To maximize on resources, this conversation can take place as a group talk.

4. Make every new employee a consumer researcher.

If you sell a product, give new employees samples. P&G does this well. New hires must experience the product to become brand advocates. If that’s not possible, then replicas will do. Get them to see it up close. If you sell a service, share customer testimonials and feedback. The best feedback not only praises your offerings but also helps a new employee articulate its value proposition and compare it to the competition. New employees should see how your offerings stack up against the competition as early as possible—it helps create an “us vs. them” mentality early on. It’s also another way to solicit fresh feedback. If you ask new employees for feedback on your offerings, they will feel like contributors from the start, which is a critical factor that drives employee retention.

5. Share their report card(s)..

Some hiring managers express their vision of a role and impact during the interview process. Yet, the savviest managers reinforce and make this tangible during the first 90 days. Sharing performance-review templates, team and individual goals, and career-development-plan templates is useful early on. This information will help new hires better plan their own first 90 days.

Onboarding is critical. The “big” guys are making it a priority, including Zappos, Booz Allen Hamilton, and IBM. However, so are the “little” guys, including, Tastefully Simple, and Now it’s your turn to see the value of onboarding and realize its impact on your firm. Your lack of resources no longer has to be a barrier.



If you are thinking through a plan, then I invite you to email me []. I’d love to share with you the insights that I have garnered from working within 16-plus business units throughout my career, and from having worked with executives who had based their decisions whether to quit or stay on their first 90 days.

About the author

Melissa Llarena: is the CEO and career coach behind Career Outcomes Matter. Her craft is coaching top executives on how to dissect and deliver the perfect job interview. Her client base includes US-based as well as international business leaders with 15-plus years of experience who are undeniably really good at what they do yet simply want a strategic partner who can quickly fully understand their tangible and intangible contributions to effectively scale up their interviewing skills for the toughest interviews. Click to gain instant access to her 20-page interview preparation kit to gain an edge then schedule a phone call to see how she’d leverage her most powerful insights based on your unique situation -- all in time for your next interview.