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Employee Retention MUST Start With This

employee retention

Jake arrived right on time to start his new job as a CNC Machine Operator.

 Entering the building, he rang the bell on the counter in the vestibule twice before being acknowledged by Julie,


the company’s receptionist who appeared to be having a rough morning.

Jake explained to Julie it was his first day of work and was told to ask for Matt. As Matt wasn’t in the office yet, Jake took a seat in the vestibule and waited. Twenty-two minutes later, McDonald’s coffee in hand, Matt walked in, smiled at Jake, and gestured to follow him through the door into the office.

Walking together down a long hallway, Matt tells Jake that the first thing he needs to do is meet with Karen in HR to go over and sign some paperwork. But unfortunately, when Matt introduces Jake to Karen, she said she wasn’t aware a new hire was made and hence, no new hire documentation was prepared, and no arrangements were made for onboarding or training.

Matt vents his frustration on Karen because he remembers sending her an email about Jake’s new job and start date. Jake just stood there for a minute or so, watching the two argue.

As Jake couldn’t enter the shop floor before certain documents were signed, he had to wait another fifteen minutes for Karen to get everything together. After numerous autographs, Karen hands Jake a welcome packet for him to read and walks him to the shop floor where he meets his new supervisor.

Perhaps you can relate to this situation and recall when a new relationship or a new beginning got off to a rocky start. It may have been rocky enough that you second-guessed your decision, or bad enough that you wanted to back out.

Alternatively, you may recall a time when a new beginning went so well that you know you made the right decision.

It can take weeks or even months to find qualified employees. Reaffirming a new hire’s decision to work for your company is critical to keeping them aboard and engaged. It starts with a meaningful and well thought out onboarding program from the moment they walk through the door.

For new hires, a good, reaffirming gesture could be a manager placing a call to him or her two days before the first day to ask if s/he has any questions. It could also be printing his or her name on a welcome sign for them to see when entering the building while the manager is close by, waiting to greet.


The goal is for you, the employer, to make the best possible first day impression you can so that your new hires feel valued, respected, and important – kind of like what companies do when onboarding new customers. There shouldn’t be any difference.


When employers tell stories of employees showing up on their first day and not coming back the next day or even after lunch, I can’t help but wonder what the employee experienced on that first day of work.

I’ve conducted plenty of culture assessment interviews in my career to know that the onboarding programs some companies provide are nearly non-existent. More common is going from HR right into training with a manager or connecting with a mentor. (Oftentimes a mentor who may not be qualified, or may not want want to be a mentor – Read When Mentoring in Manufacturing Backfires.) I’m baffled by this, especially when employee retention and attraction has been (and continues to be) a priority concern for employers for the last several years. 

Employee Onboarding Versus Customer Onboarding

In many organizations, there is a stark contrast between employee onboarding and customer onboarding. When an organization has a better onboarding program for its customers than for its employees, it exposes a disturbing culture attribute – customers are viewed as more important than employees by senior leadership. The most obvious reason for this mindset is that customers are viewed as assets: as they bring in revenue; employees are viewed as liabilities: they deplete revenue. Any organization operating with this archaic and distorted mindset is doing so at its peril.

Whether your new hire is entering an entry-level hourly position or earning a six-figure salary, your duty is to “WOW” them with memorable and impactful onboarding – so much so that they are genuinely excited to come back the next day.

Of course, you’ll also need to develop and maintain a culture that keeps people for the long term, as no one ever wants to lose their A-players.