How to Retain Employees from Day One

Lee Polevoi by Lee Polevoi on August 3, 2012
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According to employee turnover cost studies compiled by Sasha Corporation, the cost to replace an entry-level employee who quits is $3,500, with estimates for other positions going as high as $25,000! This should provide small-business owners with ample incentive to keep staffers around — starting with the first day on the job.

How you set up the rookie’s first day is critically important to keeping employee turnover down and retention high. In larger companies, the process is called “onboarding,” but the benefits apply to your small business, too. Here’s what a successful welcome gets you:

  • New employees become productive quicker;
  • They get a keen grasp of your mission and values earlier; and
  • Their co-workers appreciate them being able to hit the ground running.

Get started before day one. Let’s say you’ve decided to hire Jane for that open accounting position. In the days following your decision (and before she starts the job), you can communicate with her via email and/or phone to share details about how your business operates and your vision for its future, as well as to answer any initial questions she may have.

Offer a warm welcome. On Jane’s first day, make sure that everything on her desk (telephone, computer, etc.) works and that she has the proper keys and supplies. If you can, greet her in person, but at the very least encourage her new co-workers to introduce themselves and offer a warm welcome. You might even throw her an informal “welcome aboard” party.

Provide information. Have you put together a simple employee handbook covering basic policies and procedures? This should be on Jane’s desk when she arrives. Other things she’ll want to know: computer passwords, names of the people she’ll work with (and their job titles and functions), where the conference room, restroom, and other key facilities are located. The more information she gets up front, the fewer questions she will feel obliged to ask — another way to boost a new employee’s comfort level.

Assign a mentor. Ask a veteran employee to serve as Jane’s mentor during her early days on the job. This mentor can offer answers to “behind-the-scenes” questions that Jane may not want to ask the boss.

Take the new employee to lunch. This is a big one! A new employee should never have to eat lunch alone on her first day. Encourage one or more co-workers to take her out (and tell them you’ll pay), so the “getting to know each other” part gets accelerated.

Get her feet wet. Feeling useful from day one is another great long-term retention tool. What project can Jane get started on right away? Even a small contribution will make her feel productive early on.

Check in and set expectations. At the end of the first day, invite Jane into your office for a chat. Ask how her day has gone, what impressions she’s come away with, and whether she has any concerns you can address. Take this opportunity to talk a little about some short-term goals you both agree on, so she has a good sense of your expectations.

Following a successful first day, Jane will likely go home eager to share her excitement with friends and family. That incidentally heightens your profile as an employer-of-choice, an attractive recruitment tool for future new hires.

Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.

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