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How To Make Sure Your Hardest-Won Hires Stick Around

New hires aren’t the only ones who need to worry about making a great first impression.

How To Make Sure Your Hardest-Won Hires Stick Around

With the median number of years a U.S. worker holds a job hovering at just over four years, it’s critical to retain the cream of the crop by actively engaging bright, new recruits as quickly as possible.

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In the same way that your company invests time and effort in nurturing relationships with new clients, your organization needs to cultivate relationships with new employees. The best tech companies engage employees from day one, forging connections that are designed to help them establish a mutually enriching relationship with the company.

By engaging new employees from the beginning of the onboarding process, the company gives new recruits an early stake in the organization. Although the hope is that the individual’s relationship with the company will continue to grow over time, early experiences set the tone for the employee’s entire career with the organization.

But here’s the catch: Meaningful employee engagement means much more than walking the individual through HR procedures and hosting an office meet-and-greet at the end of the first day. Instead, effective employee engagement occurs in the context of a carefully developed onboarding strategy with touch points before and during the initial orientation.

Initiate Dialogue Before Orientation

Frequent communication during the pre-orientation period is a hallmark of a successful onboarding process. Depending upon the company’s hiring practices, there can be a significant time lapse between recruiting and the first day of work for freshly graduated college alumni. Young talent and experienced hires alike will benefit from proactive engagement opportunities initiated by the company.

In addition to helping new recruits coordinate travel, relocation, or other logistical concerns, tech agencies need to initiate dialogue with recruits during the days, weeks, and possibly even months leading up to orientation. Personalized emails and phone calls are nice, but face-to-face meetings and meals with recruiters or other key staff members are a better way to open two-way communication channels.

New recruits should be included in distribution lists for company newsletters and other publications as soon as they commit to the company. The more information you share leading up to orientation, the more excited they will be to participate in orientation and the more quickly they will become invested in the company’s success.

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Create CEO and Executive Leadership Interactions

Involving the CEO and executive leadership team on a personal level with new team members is another critical piece of an effective onboarding process. Throughout the recruiting process, qualified candidates should have opportunities to meet potential team members, coworkers, and managers. This is also a chance to stand out to particularly experienced or specialized talent by involving senior management in outreach to differentiate your company from competitors using only recruiting staff. However, upon joining the team, the new employee needs to interact with a broader range of people, including various department heads and C-suite leaders.

At some point during orientation, consider scheduling time for the CEO to engage new hires in a group conversation about their backgrounds and to present his or her vision for the company. The onboarding process can also benefit from presentations and interactions with executive leaders representing a range of organizational functions and divisions.

Coordinating schedules with executives can be challenging. But interactions with C-suite leaders send a strong message about your company’s commitment to openness and collaboration. Through conversations with the CEO and other department heads, new employees gain a more informed perspective about the company and a deeper understanding about how they fit into the big picture.

Prioritize Team-Based Onboarding Opportunities

It’s important to help new tech employees feel productive as quickly as possible. The early stages of orientation have to focus on HR policies, employee benefits, and other generic topics that are relevant for all new employees. But at some point, the onboarding process needs to move into team-specific opportunities that engage recruits in their areas of specialization while testing and expanding their knowledge about the company.

For example, sales recruits might spend a week or more cultivating their sales pitches and testing them in simulated client meetings. Over the course of the week, recruits can present to sales managers or learn how to improve their performance based on actual case studies.

Companies that tailor at least part of the onboarding process to team-specific requirements generate opportunities for new employees to cultivate their skills alongside veteran team members. More importantly, these opportunities offer an experience-based introduction to company culture and help new recruits understand how they will be expected to perform with actual clients.

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Exposure to smaller project teams also gives new employees the opportunity to build stronger connections earlier in the process. Although individuals may ultimately be required to work as part of larger project teams, early participation in smaller teams encourages wholehearted engagement with coworkers and within the company’s mission, giving them the opportunity to establish interpersonal relationships.

When everything is said and done, the onboarding process may be your best chance to influence the commitment, enthusiasm, and longevity of your workforce. By designing a strategy that targets deeper and wider engagement opportunities, you can buck current trends and retain a higher percentage of the best and the brightest in your field.

Jim Newman is the Executive Vice President of Operations for Acquity Group, a global brand eCommerce and digital marketing agency.

[Image: Flickr user Lee]