In many labor markets around the country, finding qualified candidates to fill positions in fields such as healthcare, IT, and software development can be slow going.

In Denver, where the local job market is booming, I’ve spoken with clients struggling to add headcount across their organizations to support important new initiatives. After posting the openings on several online national job boards — posts that emphasize excellent starting salaries and highly engaging work —organizations are simply not receiving enough resumes to fill their many open positions.

Keeping Employees is Harder Than Ever

Now, picture an organization (maybe yours?) that finally finds that elusive highly qualified applicant. In the first few days, do you:

  • Provide your new employee with an overview of the organization’s strategic goals and vision?
  • Drill-down on how teams work together to achieve the vision and goals?
  • Walk that new employee through the products and services you provide and explain how he or she contributes to and supports the organization’s success?

Introducing new employees to their co-workers, pointing out the coffee maker and rest rooms, and handing them a badge won’t cut it. When you engage new employees starting on day one, you’re enabling them to quickly discover how they can apply their talents to help boost organizational performance sooner. You also help new hires to recognize the gaps in their understanding about the business.

Without that context, your new employee can quickly grow disillusioned. In fact, according to the Association of Talent Development, 86% of employees decide to stay or move on within the first six months. And, if they decide to leave, you’re stuck with starting a candidate search all over again.

Specific Retention Strategies

So, what can you do to increase the likelihood that new hires will stick around and contribute to your organization’s success for years instead of days or months? Make sure your onboarding program is geared for employee success and long-term engagement.

Let’s look at some specific, low-cost strategies:

  • Share the vision and goals of the organization early and often.
    • Some successful organizations provide pre-employment orientations and Q&As. This can be a great advanced organizer to help new employees acclimate to the job and organization more quickly.
  • When meeting with new employees, highlight the company’s strengths, but also acknowledge where the organization needs to improve, the plans in place to address shortcomings, and how the new employee can contribute to needed changes.
  • On day one, assign new employees a manager-mentor who they can turn to when they have questions about any facet of the job: from how to get a parking pass to who they can talk with to get the nitty-gritty details of your products or services.
    • According to a 2015 Gallup survey, employees report being three times more engaged when they meet regularly with managers who build relationships, communicate regularly, leverage employee strengths, and set priorities and goals.
    • Manager-mentors should share their skills and knowledge with new employees so they come up-to-speed more quickly and excel over the long term.
    • Be sure to carve out dedicated time in the manager-mentors’ schedules to allow them to work with their new mentees regularly and often.
    • And, while you’re at it, provide training and tips for those manager-mentors (such as active listening, observational, communication, and constructive feedback skills). The more manager-mentors know about how to support new employees, the more satisfied, engaged, and successful your new hires will be.
  • Provide thoughtful learning opportunities.
    • Curate the right materials for each candidate based on his or her current skills and knowledge.
    • Don’t ask highly experienced new hires to review remedial content. Likewise, don’t drop less experienced employees into highly advanced training. Both scenarios typically end in employee frustration.
    • Also, make sure that the new hire’s mentor and co-workers are available to discuss or answer questions about the materials they’ve reviewed.
  • Treat your onboarding program as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.
    • Even as new employees get comfortable with the job and assimilate into the culture, be sure that they still have access to their mentor and any other support tools they might need throughout their employment.

An effective onboarding program doesn’t have to be cost-intensive to be effective. But it does require organizational planning and commitment. Once in place, you’ll find that these approaches create employees who are productive more quickly, remain highly engaged, and contribute to the organization for years instead of months.


Gallup. (2015). State of the American manager. Washington, D.C.

Gaul, P. (2017, August). Onboarding Is critical. Retrieved from:


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