Viewpoint: How to Encourage New Employees to Stick Around


By Therese Provencher February 13, 2018

Editor's Note: SHRM has partnered with the Association for Talent Development (ATD) to bring you relevant articles on key HR topics and strategies.

Finding the right person to fill an open position can be a daunting task. The real battle, however, is retaining the talent once you find it. As soon as your new employee steps through the door, the honeymoon phase can begin to deteriorate if they feel as though they are just another warm body, hired to complete tasks on command. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, up to 20 percent of turnover happens in the first 45 days.

When an employee "sticks," or stays with the organization, they are building an attachment, or a positive connection, to the organization. One significant way to make a positive connection is to talk with the employee about their desired growth and present learning opportunities for them to achieve that knowledge. They may want to go back to school and finish their bachelor's degree, or become the best HR person on the team. Maybe they want to learn sign language or become an expert in another knowledge area altogether. Growth and learning goals can be personal, professional, or both. Each type of goal has merit to the employer and can help the employee stick, which, in addition, shows the new hire they are valued and worth investing in.

The plan to help employees stick actually begins before they are offered the job. During the interview process, talk about the candidate's goals for growth and development, and the value the organization places on learning. When trying to nurture a culture of learning in an organization, it's imperative to look for potential employees' desire to learn , and understand that learning comes in many shapes and forms. Most employees will not come out and tell their manager they have a desire to learn or develop new skills for their career. In fact, some may not even realize they have this desire or know how to use it to grow. Managers must be intentional about their goal to help employees succeed, and ask them regularly.

The time it takes to hold a genuine conversation about a person's learning and growth goals is insignificant when compared with the fruit it can yield. Stronger employee relations, team members who believe their manager has a vested interest in seeing them succeed, and an employee's desire to showcase their best work are great incentives for an organization to maintain focus on employees feeling connected to the company. Not to mention all the hours saved in trying to find new employees.

Set your new employees up for stickiness by talking about growth and learning opportunities on their first day with the organization. Spend time during onboarding talking about what learning means in the organization and how you, as their manager, want to partner with them along their journey. Many organizations have tuition reimbursement programs available after an employee is with the company a year. Don't wait to talk about it just because the person may not be eligible for the benefit yet. It's the conversations we don't have, the expectations we don't set, and the assumptions we make that can prevent an employee from sticking.

Be consistent and accountable in your onboarding process. Show new hires that, because you value them and want them to have the best learning environment to onboard in, you follow standards to keep consistency. Have a structured onboarding program, provide on-the-job learning before the employee is out on their own, and follow up frequently on their growth.

Their growth includes learning their new role, connecting with the organization's culture, and making a plan for their continued learning. It can be easy to focus on the empty full-time employee job and the need to fill that void as quickly as possible. In doing so, though, you do a great disservice to the new employee, your team, and the organization. According to a study of 1.4 million employees conducted by the Gallup Organization, employees with a high level of engagement are 22 percent more productive. Employees who feel valued for more than just the work they complete on the clock are more likely to give back to the organization through better work output, a positive attitude, and a drive to achieve.

Set time aside to meet with your new employees, one on one, to hold stay interviews. A stay interview isn't just a meeting, it's a purposeful conversation. Find out what is going well, what needs to be worked on, and what their growth goals are. If your organization is seeing a significant amount of turnover at 60 days, make a point to hold your first stay interview at 30 days. Make sure it's not conducted standing to the side of a hallway or impromptu while you eat lunch. Set a time, in advance, to meet and keep that time. This shows foresight on your part and lets the employee know you value their time and really want to hear what they have to say. Learning and growth are much more likely to occur in an environment that is genuine and welcoming to increasing the knowledge of its employees.

It may be hard to see the value in encouraging an employee to learn a new skill, especially one that isn't necessarily needed within the organization,  but not doing so would miss the intent of building stickiness. Organizations often see the benefit of increasing knowledge in an area related to one's work, but may fail to see the benefit they can receive from encouraging all types of learning—even ones that don't relate to your current job function. Employees will create that organizational attachment when they believe their learning goals are valued. People want to matter, and taking a genuine interest in the growth they would like to achieve, no matter how large or small, gives the employee a stronger reason to stay when they consider how much they want to put into their job with your organization.

Therese Provencher is the talent and culture learning director for National Lutheran Communities & Services (NLCS), where she oversees the education and learning opportunities for employees within NLCS's retirement communities and home health and home care agencies.

This article is adapted from with permission from ATD. ©2018 ATD. All rights reserved.

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