How long will your new hires stay?

There’s a lot being said and written about HR analytics at the moment. Another way of saying people need to be on top of their numbers. A metric that’s worth a closer look in many organisations is employee retention rates; this could pay dividends – literally.

One aspect of retention that could deliver great ROI is reducing departure rates of new hires. If someone leaves before they’ve even reached the end of a standard 90-day probation period, that’s a waste of, a) several people’s time and effort and, b) money spent on recruitment fees, other employee set-up costs and salaries. Even people departing at one year represent a loss in some way for their employer.

Research from the US by Talentkeepers suggests that a significant percentage of annual employee turnover is accounted for by new hires in their first 90 days – 15%. I’ve sometimes heard higher numbers anecdotally here in the UK. There are several possible reasons for this:

  • The newbie didn’t make the cut, or pass their probation period, due to a lack of the requisite technical skills.
  • The employee’s technical skills were great but their communication and interpersonal style wasn’t – they just didn’t get on with colleagues and so were asked to leave.
  • The new hire didn’t fit in with the organisation’s culture – ‘how we do things round here’.
  • The new recruit didn’t ‘live the values’ of their new employer.
  • The new employer didn’t ‘live the values’ in the eyes of their new employee.
  • The employee was so desperate to leave their previous role they grabbed the first thing that came along – then something even better did just after they joined the new employer.
  • The new hire thought the job they were being asked to do was very different from that which they were offered and ‘sold’ in the recruitment process.
  • The newbie was told they’d be given extensive ‘onboarding’ training but was unimpressed by the cursory ‘induction presentation’ and dated booklet they were handed, felt disillusioned and found another job.

What’s to be done? The answers should be common sense – but are often not common practice:

  1. Question whether the vacant role should simply be refilled or if there is a business reason to change it. Is it a full-time role? Is it year-round or seasonal?
  2. Stop and think if the vacancy can be filled internally, whether by someone already doing the same job elsewhere in the organisation, or doing a different job but demonstrating the right cultural fit and attitude to develop the necessary skills.
  3. Be realistic about the role. Update the criteria for what success looks like in the role. What are the required results? Get clear on the must-haves, need-to-haves and nice-to-haves in terms of skills and capabilities.
  4. Create a recruitment process that allows initial screening to be done quickly and reliably, whilst treating applicants respectfully.
  5. Design different assessment formats to allow testing of applicants’ skills v requirements and give feedback. Don’t rely on unstructured interviews to establish skills, whether technical, specialist or interpersonal.
  6. Develop an interview template tailored to the organisation’s culture and the specific role.
  7. Ensure that interviewers are trained in what they can and can’t ask applicants – many inadvertently flout employment law. Train interviewers in taking notes; explain why these are needed and how they may be used.
  8. Get feedback on the recruitment, hiring and induction process from recent joiners and amend it where necessary.
  9. Review new recruits’ performance at regular intervals through the probation period.
  10. Set performance indicators for managers on retention levels of new hires.


Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.

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