Onboarding Strategies Can Help Turn New Hires into Key Contributors

When you think about your newest hire, any number of things might go through your mind. Perhaps you’re wondering how well they’re handling their workload, if they’re connecting with coworkers, or if they’ve figured out the time & attendance software yet. But one issue that worries as many as 90% of leaders and executives—according to one recent survey—is whether or not the new hire will voluntarily quit the job before their one-year work anniversary.

According to these same executives, up to 25% of new hires leave within their first six months.

The reasons often point back to one of two consistent themes:

  • The new employee‘s role was different than what they thought they were being hired for, or
  • They didn’t feel like the company was the right cultural fit.

An effective onboarding program helps new hires discover the company’s culture, get acquainted with processes and systems, and start the journey toward career development. And the most effective onboarding programs also build a bridge between the new hire’s development and the company’s long-term vision.

Group discussing onboarding strategy

Here’s what companies are discovering: while the first 90 days are vital, that’s not where onboarding ends.

Imagine a river that flows to the ocean, complete with a few hundred miles of tributaries along the way. To tie the analogy to onboarding, the first 90 days on the job represent the headwaters. This may be where the river begins, but it’s a completely different river just around the bend.

What happens after a new hire’s first 90 days can make the difference between turning them into a key contributor, or creating a soon-to-be former employee.


One way that companies grade the effectiveness of their onboarding program is on how well their employees transition into becoming key contributors. Read our recent Spotlight, “Build an Effective Onboarding Strategy,” for insight into pacing and personalizing your onboarding program as your new hire transitions into their role.

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After 90 days, your newest hires might still be learning the ropes around various aspects of the company’s culture, your systems, or the workplace. It can be particularly challenging in companies where different departments interface on large projects, or if your new employee starts during a busy stretch, like a tax manager joining a CPA firm at the end of March.

3 Strategies for Making Onboarding Purposeful

Here are three strategies that can help you make your onboarding program a more integrated and effective part of your workplace culture:

1. Make the entire onboarding period purposeful

If you’re a baseball fan, then you’ve probably heard the phrase unwritten rules. It refers to the types of insights players learn from other players, or that fans discover over time. For instance, there’s no written rule that says you can’t bunt to break up a no-hitter. But if you do, you’ll break one of baseball’s most sacred unwritten rules—and you might get drilled by a fastball the next time you bat against the same pitcher.

  • Many new hires are still trying to find their voice after 90 days. As you look for ways to make onboarding purposeful, consider how your company communicates its own unwritten rules, and how to make this level of communication a normal part of the workday.
  • As part of an integrated onboarding program, you can encourage other employees to take on mentorship roles—officially or unofficially—and provide new hires with the type of cultural guidance that goes beyond what the employee handbook says.
  • Unpacking parts of your company’s vision can help new hires translate buzzwords into actions. When other employees help explain things like breakroom etiquette, socializing between cubicles, or knowing when to pass an email up the chain, these type of “just-so-you-know” conversations can enrich the onboarding experience for everyone, and build stronger teams in the process.

2. Strive for clarity and buy-in when discussing goals

When onboarding goals are murky, or a new hire doesn’t understand why they’re taking part in a specific training, then even the most effective tools and programs can fall short of their desired effect. That’s where the hiring manager’s role can help make a big difference.

  • Schedule time to meet with managers, and discuss how the company’s onboarding program can help new employees adjust to new positions, and begin thinking about their careers.
  • When it comes to the goals, objectives, and outcomes that an employee shares with HR, be sure to communicate these with managers. With their buy-in, they can include these goals later when it comes to employee reviews or promotions.
  • Managers can also play a role in walking new hires through various onboarding steps at different times. This can help new hires see how different parts of the onboarding program can fold into other opportunities that will come later.

3. Look for ways to rethink your company’s definition of onboarding

How do you know when an employee goes from new hire to key contributor? Do you have them fill out a survey? Do you solicit feedback from their manager or coworker? The fact is, most new hires begin to master their positions, and their place in the company, in stages.

  • After a few months on the job, it’s natural for new hires to begin to settle into work, or feel like the onboarding experience is over. Make sure they’re aware of possibilities as they come up, even if they’ve been with the company for close to a year. They might not think a certain opportunity is for them. Be sure to remind them that onboarding is still happening.
  • At the same time, consider pacing your onboarding program to mirror the way new hires transition. When possible, create time for your new hire to process what they’ve just learned before they ramp up to yet another training module. Even after they complete a series of new-hire trainings, that doesn’t mean they’ve figured everything out. And make sure to encourage feedback. This can open the door for new hires to discuss places where they’ve struggled.
  • Whenever there’s a degree of starting over, onboarding can play a role. This includes when a recent hire takes on a new position within your department, or transfers to another part of the company. In these cases, find time to meet with your employee to discuss their strengths, where they can improve, and how different trainings can help them adjust to the new role.

The onboarding experience doesn’t need to wrap up by 90 days, especially if your new hire feels confused, overwhelmed, or uncertain about where they fit. Rather than rush through a program to follow the calendar, consider onboarding as an “always-happening” part of work. This shift can help you connect the company’s vision with your new hire’s long-term goals. When they know why each phase matters, and they possess a better understanding of the culture, you can improve the likelihood that they’ll be around long enough to mentor your next new hire.


myStaffingPro helps you simplify the onboarding experience by helping you stay organized when new hires join your team. Contact a representative today, and find out how we can help you get the most out of the hiring process, from requisition through retention.

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