Connecting the Dots Blog

Onboarding Practices -- Five Proven Ways to Ensure New Hire Retention

What’s a sure-fire way to lose new employees? Do a lousy job onboarding. According to the Human Capital Institute,  exceptional employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%. Yet so many companies just don’t get it! When asked if their employers did a great job with onboarding, only 12% of employees strongly agreed. With today’s talent shortage and high turnover, it’s more critical than ever to engage employees from Day 1. 


During my three years as a Human Resources manager at a Tennessee pulp and paper mill, I made it my mission to revamp the onboarding process. I asked a group of newly hired hourly employees what we could do better. Here’s what they recommended for onboarding:

1. Onboarding Mentors 

Our hourly employees served on interview teams and then became mentors for the employees they helped to hire. The mentors showed the new employees where the time clock was, where the bathrooms were, and where to start their shift. Mentors were committed to helping the new employees be successful because they were responsible for bringing them into the organization. 


2. Clear Job Expectations

New hires wanted to know what was expected of them for safety, attendance, and quality. It’s easy to say, “We want you to be safety conscious,” but what does that actually mean? We provided behavioral definitions and specific, measurable expectations.  As a result, employees gained confidence in their new role.

3. Performance Feedback 

New employees sat down with a supervisor for a performance review at 30 and 60 days. If employees fell short, we’d say, “You need to pick this up. What can we do to help you?” If they did well, we recognized their behavior. Positive reinforcement is probably the single-best tool to get discretionary effort.

4. Ability to Expand My Role 

Most of the entry level jobs were pretty mundane, so we encouraged the new hires to get involved in things like a safety team or structured board interview team. This helped to challenge them, while also indoctrinating them into the organization.

5. Environment Where I Can Bring Concerns 

The new hires wanted an environment where it was OK to ask questions and talk about their concerns. We created this environment on a number of different levels.

Welcome luncheons -- For example, we invited the new hires to a luncheon where they’d introduce themselves, talk about their background, and have an opportunity to ask questions of the leadership team.

Get Acquainted Meetings -- Additionally, I met each new employee individually, getting to know them. A personal touch goes a long way to make employees feel welcome, while also building loyalty. 

Open for Input  -- I had an open-door policy in my office, so employees could just walk in and sit down.

Go See -- Plus, I went out to see them. The mill manager and I walked around the mill all the time. We’d get to know the new employees, find out what their needs were, and then find ways to meet their needs.

Supportive, Reinforcing Feedback -- We weren’t just out there saying “Thanks. You’re doing a good job.” Instead, we’d specifically tell them, “Here’s what you did well, and here’s the result.” I call it management by walking around. We were building relationships that fostered trust. 

Team Approach to Onboarding 

Onboarding isn’t an HR practice. HR manages it, but it’s owned by everyone in the organization. By broadening the circle of involvement, we got people from all areas of the organization involved in onboarding. Employees served on selection teams and as mentors. Leadership teams participated in formal and informal onboarding activities. By doing so, we created an environment that new hires felt welcome, comfortable, and appreciated. 

Have questions about employee selection and onboarding? Contact 15dots today



For over three decades, Mike has worked tirelessly internally as a Human Resources Manager and externally as a consultant perfecting the tools and precise methods to take the guesswork out of employee selection.

Read more posts by Michael Quinn
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Onboarding Practices -- Five Proven Ways to Ensure New Hire Retention

What’s a sure-fire way to lose new employees? Do a lousy job onboarding. According to the Human Capital Institute,  exceptional employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%. Yet so many companies just don’t get it! When asked if their employers did a great job with onboarding, only 12% of employees strongly agreed. With today’s talent shortage and high turnover, it’s more critical than ever to engage employees from Day 1. 


During my three years as a Human Resources manager at a Tennessee pulp and paper mill, I made it my mission to revamp the onboarding process. I asked a group of newly hired hourly employees what we could do better. Here’s what they recommended for onboarding:

1. Onboarding Mentors 

Our hourly employees served on interview teams and then became mentors for the employees they helped to hire. The mentors showed the new employees where the time clock was, where the bathrooms were, and where to start their shift. Mentors were committed to helping the new employees be successful because they were responsible for bringing them into the organization. 


2. Clear Job Expectations

New hires wanted to know what was expected of them for safety, attendance, and quality. It’s easy to say, “We want you to be safety conscious,” but what does that actually mean? We provided behavioral definitions and specific, measurable expectations.  As a result, employees gained confidence in their new role.

3. Performance Feedback 

New employees sat down with a supervisor for a performance review at 30 and 60 days. If employees fell short, we’d say, “You need to pick this up. What can we do to help you?” If they did well, we recognized their behavior. Positive reinforcement is probably the single-best tool to get discretionary effort.

4. Ability to Expand My Role 

Most of the entry level jobs were pretty mundane, so we encouraged the new hires to get involved in things like a safety team or structured board interview team. This helped to challenge them, while also indoctrinating them into the organization.

5. Environment Where I Can Bring Concerns 

The new hires wanted an environment where it was OK to ask questions and talk about their concerns. We created this environment on a number of different levels.

Welcome luncheons -- For example, we invited the new hires to a luncheon where they’d introduce themselves, talk about their background, and have an opportunity to ask questions of the leadership team.

Get Acquainted Meetings -- Additionally, I met each new employee individually, getting to know them. A personal touch goes a long way to make employees feel welcome, while also building loyalty. 

Open for Input  -- I had an open-door policy in my office, so employees could just walk in and sit down.

Go See -- Plus, I went out to see them. The mill manager and I walked around the mill all the time. We’d get to know the new employees, find out what their needs were, and then find ways to meet their needs.

Supportive, Reinforcing Feedback -- We weren’t just out there saying “Thanks. You’re doing a good job.” Instead, we’d specifically tell them, “Here’s what you did well, and here’s the result.” I call it management by walking around. We were building relationships that fostered trust. 

Team Approach to Onboarding 

Onboarding isn’t an HR practice. HR manages it, but it’s owned by everyone in the organization. By broadening the circle of involvement, we got people from all areas of the organization involved in onboarding. Employees served on selection teams and as mentors. Leadership teams participated in formal and informal onboarding activities. By doing so, we created an environment that new hires felt welcome, comfortable, and appreciated. 

Have questions about employee selection and onboarding? Contact 15dots today



For over three decades, Mike has worked tirelessly internally as a Human Resources Manager and externally as a consultant perfecting the tools and precise methods to take the guesswork out of employee selection.

Read more posts by Michael Quinn

 Neenah, WI 54956
920-309-1009
Email 15dots