We're living in an age where, when opportunity knocks--increasingly--some employees quickly lace up their sneakers--and bolt!

Vexingly, this can also include brand-new hires.

What can firms do to counteract this uptick in employee churn--and the lost human, intellectual and monetary capital (and time) that accompanies it?

Start at the beginning: Onboarding.

If done well, it's one of the most effective ways to get new employees not just settled in at their new firms, but vested--which makes it an invaluable employee-retention tool.

Here are some ways to fortify your onboarding practices--and make them fun!

Many companies now have new employees fill out onboarding paperwork online--ahead of their first work day. "If you're able to get basic, pre-employment documentation before they walk through the door," lifestyle essentials brand Modere's Chief Human Resources Officer Brian Baxter, SPHR, observes, "then you can focus on more important job, corporate and product-related issues and get them up to speed."

Preserve the Human Touch

While automation and efficiency are great, people still crave a human touch, as well as knowing that they're heard and valued. Have the assigned HR representative speak to the new hire prior to the start date to field any pressing questions and encourage the new employee to bring follow-up questions on the first day. Progressive companies are also connecting newbies to "buddies" veterans at the organization to learn the ropes. Some companies even promote having two or more of these mentors, representing different title levels, tenure and even (related) business lines.

Consolidate Onsite Onboarding Activities

A new employee lunch can make the new hire feel wanted, but it is also an opportunity to introduce them to key members of the team. Attendees should include: an HR representative, the direct managers for each new employee, any buddies and peers, as well as a representative from senior management.

Baxter notes that attendees should talk to onboarding employees "about cultural issues, and any potential pitfalls--before they even sit at their desk." He adds, "If you have a combination of corporate and business unit resources they're going to see the whole picture." Any tours of the premises should be done on the same day--and led by influencers, who can make spontaneous introductions along the way.

Gamify the Onboarding Process

At Baxter's company, onboarding is gamified through a company scavenger hunt. New hires are asked details on policy questions found in the employee handbook, and the name of every employee who returns all the right answers is entered into a prize drawing. Year-round scavenger hunts also help to familiarize employees with company information such as pricing, ingredients and markets.

His firm's employees also use Facebook pages to post about things such as special life events or recent vacations "as a way to paint a more complete picture of being part of a company community."

Likewise, new hires are introduced firm-wide at his company's quarterly CEO town halls: They're welcomed, then asked to stand and share a "fun slide" about something they do on their own time, such as fishing or hiking, that wouldn't normally come up in a business setting.

Set Expectations

The most important moment in the onboarding process occurs when a new employee finishes orientation and sits at their desk. While HR owned the initial onboarding process, it's time to do a baton pass, where an initial meeting takes place between employee, hiring manager and peers to talk about expectations. Baxter notes, "It should be very specific: these first few days, you should only worry about X, by then the end of the month it should be Y, and by the end of your first 90 days, it should be Z."

Onboarding can be so much more than choosing your benefits and learning the ground rules.

Baxter says: "To the extent that you can bring people on board, and immediately get them embedded into the business in a holistic way, the more they're going to feel that they're doing something bigger than just making a dollar."

Published on: Sep 12, 2017