What Scientific Research Says About Employee Onboarding — 32 Statistics & Findings

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Introduction

Onboarding, or the process of integrating new employees into an organization, is a critical part of the employee experience.

It is often led by HR, but involves multiple departments working well together.

Done well, it can increase job satisfaction and performance, decrease turnover, and improve organizational culture.

Done poorly or otherwise inconsistently, and it can lead to disillusionment, alienation, and low morale.

In this post, I'll share statistics and research findings about employee onboarding from a variety of sources.

I hope they're helpful as you plan and improve your own onboarding programs.

The Research

86% of new employees decide whether to stay with their new organization within the first few months.

What this means: The first few months are crucial for determining whether a new employee will stick around. Onboarding programs that focus on helping employees feel welcome, supported, and successful during this time period can have a big impact on retention.

R. Maurer, ‘Onboarding Key to Retaining, Engaging Talent’, Society for Human Resources Management, April 16, 2015. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent- acquisition/pages/onboarding-key-retaining-engaging-talent.aspx

Only 12% of employees agreed strongly that their organization does a great job onboarding new people. 

What this means: There's a lot of room for improvement when it comes to employee onboarding. Organizations that focus on making improvements in this area can have a big impact on their new employees' experience and engagement.

State of the American Workplace. Gallup, 2017. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx

In a report published by recruiting consultants, 22% of people surveyed reported that receiving a proper induction and onboarding influenced their decision to look for another job.

Compare this to 51% of employees admitting that a great onboarding experience motivated them to go “above and beyond.”

What this means: There's a direct correlation between a good onboarding experience and employee engagement. Employees who have a positive experience during onboarding are more likely to be motivated and productive employees.

Hays, ‘Staff Engagement Ideas for Action, Hays Recruiting Experts, 2016. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.hays.com.au/documents/276732/1102429/Staff+Engagement.pdf 

When surveyed, 43% of employees who quit in the first 90 days reported feeling that their day-to-day role wasn’t accurately described during the hiring phase.

What this means: Recruiters and hiring managers need to do a better job of communicating what the day-to-day reality of a role will be like. Otherwise, new employees may feel misled.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/platform- success/201903/why-33-percent-new-employees-quit-in-90-days 

Socialization in the workplace is “serious business for organizational leaders.”

Research identified the clear differences between organizational identity and individual identity and the flawed model of what the study calls “enculturating newcomers,” thereby “subordinating a newcomer’s individual and unique perspectives to those of the organization.”

The research looked at outcomes resulting from bringing our authentic selves to work versus the experience of newcomers having to accept the identity of their organization while at work.

It argues that newcomers should be able to frame their new role and its necessary tasks as opportunities to use their signature strengths and unique perspectives at work, thereby bringing more of their authentic best selves to the job.

What this means: Think about it. When are you at your best at work? It’s likely when you’re doing something that comes naturally to you and you are recognized for it.

D. Cable et alii, ‘Breaking Them in or Eliciting Their Best? Reframing Socialization around Newcomers’ Authentic Self- expression’, Administrative Science Quarterly, February 8, 2013. Last accessed 12/21/21. Retrieved from: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/55dcde36e4b0df55a96ab220/t /55e5f041e4b06f3c4b89a71b/1441132609616/Cable+Gino+Staats+ ASQ+2013.pdf

Another study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review showed that engagement and retention improved among new hires who were encouraged to apply their unique personal strengths to their jobs.

Doing so makes it easier for employers to help them connect with their colleagues.

According to a study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success.

Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, technical skills are not the primary reason new hires fail; instead, poor interpersonal skills dominate the list. 

What this means: Many leaders need to focus on hiring for cultural fit and interpersonal skills, rather than just technical skills. Then train new hires on the technical skills they need to be successful in their role.

D. Cable et alii, ‘Reinventing Employee Onboarding’, MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2013, Vol 54, No.3.

http://sloanreview.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/8884a0d75d.pdf 

If 70% of the employee’s experience is based on their direct manager and people quit managers, not jobs, the managers should play a more significant role in ensuring onboarding success. 

What this means: Hiring managers need to be more involved in the onboarding process. How you do this is your decision, but the data suggests that managers play a critical role in the success of new hires.

R. Beck and J. Harter, ‘Why Great Managers are so Rare’, Gallup Workplace Business Journal, undated. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/231593/why-great-managers-rare.aspx

Statistics vary, but Gartner, Inc. recently estimated that remote employees will represent 31% of all workers worldwide by 2022.

What this means: If you have remote employees, you need to consider how to best onboard them. In many cases , this will require a different approach than onboarding employees who work in a physical office.

Press Release, Gartner.com. June 22, 2021. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press- releases/2021-06-22-gartner-forecasts-51-percent-of-global- knowledge-workers-will-be-remote-by-2021

A 2017 Gallup survey found that optimal employee engagement occurs when employees spend three to four days per week working off-site.

What this means: The data suggests that employees who work remotely are just as engaged as those who work in an office, as long as they are given the opportunity to work off-site a few days per week. It may not be about working faster from home; it may be about working smarter from anywhere.

State of the American Workplace. Gallup, 2017. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state- american-workplace-report-2017.aspx

The idea of culture has climbed up the list of priorities for candidates over the years.

Most people looking for work consider company culture as being ‘relatively’ important, while 46% claim it’s ‘very’ important.

What this means: Candidates care about company culture more than ever. So you need to make sure your onboarding program reflects the mission, vision, values, and culture your organization wants to create.

2018 Job Seeker Nation Study, Jobvite. Last accessed 12/21/21 https://www.jobvite.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/2018_Job_Seeker_Nation_Study.pdf 

The cost of replacement for one worker was estimated in an article by the Society of Human Resources Management to equal about one-third of ́the worker’s annual earnings.

This is a conservative estimate compared to other available sources, which vary based on the position.

What this means: The cost of turnover is high, so you need to focus on retention as well as recruitment. Onboarding is a key part of retention.

T. Agovino, ‘To Have and to Hold’, Society for Human Resources Management, February 23, 2019. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/all-things-work/pages/to-have- and-to-hold.aspx 

Employers have good reason to be nervous, given statistics that 11% of employees change their minds about an offer after they’ve signed a contract.

Fully 60% of these do so because they receive a better offer afterward. 

There’s a large body of statistics relevant to employees’ early weeks and months in a job.

These vary depending on the job, but what is overwhelmingly common is the high rate of employee departure that hits as early as 45 days all the way through to 18 months. 

  • 28% of new hires quit before reaching 90 days on the job
  • 22% of new hires that quit do so in the first 45 days
  • 50% of hourly workers quit within the first 120 days
  • 50% of senior outside hires recruited to a new position fail within 18 months

What this means: New hires are influenced by their onboarding experience. If you want to retain employees, you need to focus on making sure they have a positive onboarding experience.

M. Singer, ‘Announcing job seeker nation 2018: Exploring the candidate-recruiter relationship, April 24, 2018. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.jobvite.com/blog/jobvite-news-and- reports/job-seeker-nation-2018-the-candidate-recruiter-relationship/ 

T. Taylor, ‘Why do 28% of employees quit in their first 90 days? Poor onboarding practices.’, HR Dive, April25, 2017. Last accessed

12/21/21 https://www.hrdive.com/news/why-do-28-of-employees- quit-in-their-first-90-days-poor-onboarding-practi/441139/ 

A. Hirsch, ‘Reducing new employee turnover among emerging adults’, Society for Human Resources Management, June 2, 2016. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent- acquisition/pages/onboarding-key-retaining-engaging-talent.aspx 

Krauss, A. D. Book chapter, ‘Onboarding the Hourly Workforce’, in J. Maroney, Creating the Workforce and Results You Seek. 2010 

Smart, B., ‘Topgrading; How Leading Companies Win by Hiring’, Coaching and Keeping the Best People’, Prentice Hall, 1999.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to employee onboarding - just download our free checklist, and get started with a tried-and-true process that's guaranteed to set your new hires up for success.

 

In one study by the Wynhurst Group, new employees were 58% more likely to be with an organization three years after completing a structured onboarding program.

When staff invest their time and focus on the organization's mission instead of putting out fires related to turnover, they grow into one of your biggest assets. 

What this means: Structured, curated onboarding programs reduce turnover and help new employees be successful in their roles.

A. Hirsch, ‘Reducing new employee turnover among emerging adults’, Society for Human Resources Management, June 2, 2016. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/onboarding-key-retaining-engaging-talent.aspx 

Organizations with a standardized onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity reducing the time to add real value to the company or organization versus those whose processes are unstructured. 

What this means: A standardized onboarding process increases new-hire productivity, which leads to a quicker return on investment for the company.

A. Hirsch, ‘Don’t underestimate the importance of good onboarding’, Society for Human Resources Management, August 10, 2017. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent- acquisition/pages/dont-underestimate-the-importance-of-effective-onboarding.aspx 

According to a report by the engagement Institute, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year. 

What this means: It's that simple. When you have disengaged employees, it costs your company money. A large part of preventing employee disengagement starts with onboarding.

N. Beheshti, ‘10 Timely Statistics About The Connection Between Employee Engagement And Wellness’, Forbes.com, January 16, 2019. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nazbeheshti/2019/01/16/10-timely- statistics-about-the-connection-between-employee-engagement- and-wellness/?sh=747b106d22a0 

In a paper published in the Harvard Business Review, Denise Lee Yohn cites a Temkin Group study that found great customer service is reflected in employee engagement numbers by as much as up to one and half times compared to companies with non-engaged employees.

According to Gallup in the same study, 87% of employees worldwide are disengaged, and those workforces that are clearly outperforming their peers are doing so by approximately 147% in earnings per share. 

What this means: There is a direct correlation between engaged employees and great customer service. And great customer service has a direct impact on the bottom line.

D. Yohn, ‘Design your employee experience as thoughtfully as you design your customer experience’, Harvard Business Review,

December 08, 2016. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://hbr.org/2016/12/design-your-employee-experience-as- thoughtfully-as-you-design-your-customer-experience 

A wealth of research and studies show the importance of and need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

A recent Glassdoor survey found that 76% of employees and job seekers report a diverse workforce as an important factor in determining their interest in a company and job offer. 

The same survey found that people are most likely to trust the assessment of a company’s diversity by a non-executive employee instead of a company executive or branding.

Therefore, the appearance alone of diversity and inclusion is not enough. 

What this means: A diverse workforce is an important factor for many employees and job seekers when considering a company. But it's not enough to just have a diverse workforce, you have to foster an environment of inclusion as well.

Glassdoor Team, ‘Glassdoor’s diversity and inclusion workplace survey, Glassdoor.com, September 29, 2020. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/glassdoors-diversity-and- inclusion-workplace-survey/ 

The manager holds a unique key to the connection process.

In research Dr. Talya Bauer conducted with a colleague, they found that inability to establish meaningful connections with co-workers led new engineers to seek less information. 

What this means: Managers play a key role in an employee's ability to establish meaningful connections with their co-workers.

Sushil Nifadkar & Talya Bauer, 2016. “Breach of belongingness during socialization: Newcomer relationship conflict, information, and task-related outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, Volume 101, pages 1-13. 

When employees feel more confident, they are more likely to feel good about those around them, as well as the choice to join your organization.

Research conducted by Dan Cable and his colleagues found that when onboarding focuses on the new employee's value and encourages them to share themselves at work, it can immediately increase performance and retention. 

What this means: When employees feel like they are valued and their voice is heard, it leads to increased performance and retention.

https://hbr.org/2015/11/the-powerful-way-onboarding-can-encourage-authenticity 

Gallup has consistently found that having a close friend at work is related to a 50% boost in job satisfaction and that those employees with a best friend at work were seven times more likely to engage with their work fully.

This starts with onboarding.

If new employees feel alone and isolated on their first day, it can be challenging to recover, as researchers found at Microsoft. 

What this means: It's important to help new employees feel like they have a friend at work from the start. This can be done through structured buddy systems and other team-building activities.

C. Riordan, ‘We all need friends at work’, Harvard Business Review, July 3, 2013. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://hbr.org/2013/07/we-all-need-friends-at-work

According to an industry study by Brandon Hall in 2017, companies with a high onboarding maturity level, which includes engaging in the 6 C’s of onboarding, experienced 38% employee engagement.

Compare this with companies characterized by lower maturity levels, as indicated by engaging in the 6 C’s inconsistently or not at all, which experienced 50% engagement. 

What this means: Companies that engage in the 6 C’s of onboarding (connection, culture, compliance, confidence, compensation, and checkback) experience higher employee engagement.

D. Forry, ‘New research reveals the impact of strategic onboarding, Brandon Hall Group, November 6, 2017. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.brandonhall.com/blogs/new-research-reveals- impact-strategic-onboarding/ 

 

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As shown in the chart above, the Aberdeen Group found that 30% of companies were passive in their onboarding, 50% were high potential, and 20% were proactive.

Proactive organizations reported much better outcomes than passive onboarding organizations.

For example, organizations with proactive onboarding strategies retained 91% of their new employees for one year, while organizations with passive onboarding strategies only retained 30% of their new employees that long. 

What this means: Being proactive in your onboarding process leads to much better outcomes, including increased employee retention.

Madeline Laurano, Onboarding: A New Look at New Hires, 2013, Aberdeen Group. 

The first months matter — Research shows that investing in your new hires from day one until they reach full productivity (8-12 months later) will significantly increase retention and maximize your employees' engagement level.

The same study shows 86% of new hires decide how long they will stay within a company in the first six months, and up to 20% of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment. 

What this means: You have a very limited time to make a good impression on new hires. It's hard to see day-to-day, but investing in them from day one and helping them reach full productivity will pay off in the long run.

R. Maurer, ‘Onboarding Key to Retaining, Engaging Talent’, Society for Human Resources Management, April 16, 2015. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent- acquisition/pages/onboarding-key-retaining-engaging-talent.aspx 

The importance of employee engagement arises time and time again as a foundational element of effective management.

A Gallup employee engagement survey found that highly engaged employees resulted in 21% greater business profitability. 

What this means: Make the investment. Employee engagement has a direct impact on your company's bottom line and is worth the time, energy, and resources to improve.

J. Harter and A. Mann, ‘The right culture: Not just about employee satisfaction’, Gallup Workplace Business Journal, April 12, 2017.

Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236366/right-culture-not- employee-satisfaction.aspx 

Apps are hard to encourage people to adopt, and email is not consistently read.

A 2021 post-pandemic shutdown survey found that 22% of remote workers want to leave their current job because of the volume of emails they receive. 

It is ineffective to send onboarding emails to managers and expect that the work gets done.

The typical HRIS does not have an onboarding module beyond the Compliance attributes. 

What this means: There is a disconnect between what HR wants to communicate to employees and what employees actually see and read. This can lead to frustration on both sides. You can address this by investing in systems designed specifically for onboarding and employee journeys that are easy to use and read.

R. Vohra, ‘The state of your inbox in 2021: email burnout and browsing in your bed’, Superhuman blog, April 21, 2021. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://blog.superhuman.com/the-state-of-your- inbox-in-2021/#METHODOLOGY 

The power of strategic, time-bound plans is illustrated by an experiment conducted at Google.

HR sent a simple, 37-word automated email to managers prior to their new employees’ start date.

The emails emphasized the need to discuss roles and responsibilities with the new employee, the importance of matching the new employee with a peer buddy, the need to help the new employee build a social network, the importance of setting up regular onboarding check-ins once a month for the first six months of the new employee’s tenure, and the need to encourage an open dialogue.

The results were impressive. Google found that this email alone increased productivity by 25%. 

What this means: You don't need to overcomplicate things. A simple, automated email can go a long way in reminding managers of the importance of onboarding and what they need to do to set their new employees up for success.

M. Schneider, ‘Google increased new employee productivity by 25 percent with 1 email. What you need to know’, Inc.com, undated. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.inc.com/michael- schneider/google-increased-new-employee-productivity-by-25- percent-with-1-email-heres-what-you-need-to-know.html 

Organizations only get one chance to make a great first impression with new employees and set them up for a mutually positive relationship.

Those in charge agree with 76% of HR leaders who admit that they are ineffectively onboarding their new employees.

The three top reasons managers give for neglecting the onboarding process are:

  • Not having enough time (57%)
  • The absence of tools to measure its effectiveness (55%)
  • A lack of digital onboarding technology to automate the process (39%) 

What this means: It's not that managers are lazy. Many of them want to do a good job onboarding their new employees, but they feel hamstrung by a lack of time and resources.

J. Filipkowski, Ph.D., et alii, ‘New hire momentum: Driving the onboarding experience’, Human Capital Institute, ‘January 23, 2018. Last accessed 12/21/21.

https://www.kronos.com/resources/new-hire-momentum-driving-onboarding-experience-research-report

It is essential to recognize the importance of supporting managers in the onboarding process to radically shift the employee experience to benefit both individuals and companies.

When HR educates, coaches, and supports managers to build positive and lasting relationships with their teams, we see and feel real change.

When we consider that 70% of an employee’s experience is related to their direct manager (the unspoken power of engagement), this expectation has weight.

What this means: Yet again, we see that the key to successful onboarding is supporting managers. When they feel equipped and empowered to do a good job, they will DO a good job.

R. Beck and J. Harter, ‘Managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement’, Gallup Workplace Business Journal. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/182792/managers-account- variance-employee-engagement.aspx

 

Good onboarding software supports every onboarding step that ultimately serves as the foundation for optimum employee performance.

When Google sent a simple email reminder to hiring managers containing tips in the form of a new hire checklist the day before orientation, they were able to jump-start new employee productivity by a month.  

What this means: You don't have to be Google to reap the benefits of good onboarding software. Any organization, no matter its size, can use technology to streamline and improve the onboarding process.

Dr. J. Sullivan, ‘WOW, Google’s simple just-in-time checklist improves onboarding results by 25%’, ERE Recruiting Intelligence,

October 26, 2015. Last accessed 12/21/21. https://www.ere.net/wow-googles-simple-just-in-time-checklist- improves-onboarding-results-by-25/ 

Conclusion

The onboarding process is a crucial time for both the employer and the employee.

By following some simple best practices, organizations can set their new hires up for success from day one.

From creating a strategic plan to building in accountability, these findings will help ensure that your organization gets the most out of its onboarding process.

 

Don't leave anything to chance when it comes to employee onboarding - download the free Employee Onboarding Checklist, and make sure you're covering all your bases.