These stats about on-boarding will make you gouge your eyes out with a rusty spike

Onboarding Stats Are Depressing

Ah, on-boarding. (Or is it “onboarding?”) The process of a new employee’s first day/days/weeks/months. It’s something every company should have a plan for, but almost none ever seem to. People view it as a transactional thing: meeting with your boss, walk-through with HR, lunch with your boss, set up your cube, and then go home. On Day 2, your boss FWDs along some project you’ll be “spear-heading,” and you hit the ground running. The next time you have a conversation with HR will be about insurance when you can opt-in, and the next time you have a convo with your boss will be whenever they have time; after all, there’s not even time on the ol’ Outlook calendar to respect you.

Onboarding is near and dear to my heart, even though I’ve never worked in the HR space officially. Think about it: this is someone’s first impression of your internal culture. And yet every company gives approximately zero shits about it. Why is that? Isn’t that kind of backwards? Shouldn’t we be setting big, hairy, ambitious goals on Days 1-5? Shouldn’t we be talking about you at your best and what that looks like? Why does no one care about this at all? (Is it because “we’ve always done it that way?”)

Anyway, mini-rant aside … Harvard Business Review did a little write-up on onboarding processes and failures earlier today. Some of the stuff is sobering.

First off, check out this stat: 33 percent of new hires look for a new job (i.e. a different one than the one they just started) within six months of starting a new job.

Stop and think about that for a second. 1 in 3 people get a new job and within six months — which is like, no time at all — they’re looking at other jobs?

Jesus Christ.

Now look at this chart and let’s discuss:

Onboarding Is A Failure

Alright, so … 22 percent of companies have no formal onboarding program. 1 percent of companies think it’s “unsuccessful,” and 49 percent think it’s “somewhat successful” (meh). Soooo … over 70 percent of companies either don’t have a program or are kinda middling around on it.

Break this down: 7 in 10 companies don’t really have a program (at all) or a good one to introduce people to their company, right? And 1 in 3 people are looking for a way out before the half-year mark.

You think those things might be somewhat correlated?

Probably, right?

Now look, there are weird studies around workplace attitudes all the time — for example, Salary.com did a survey that said 54 percent of people report being “happy” at work, but 23 percent look for a new job “every single day.” That’s confusing. So maybe people aren’t being honest on these things, or we’re asking questions the wrong way, or whatever the case may be.

The HBR article goes on to talk about “digital onboarding solutions,” which makes me think the author has a stake in something and wants you to buy a product, but whatever. I guess that’s neither here nor there. It does bother me a bit that you take a problem essentially rooted in lack of human interaction and contextual understanding — “Hey, this is what your job is and this is how it relates to the bigger picture” — and you try to solve it through a program or interface. You can’t solve people problems — i.e. “This is how my work relates back,” i.e. purpose, which is something your manager should be helping you understand out of the gate — with “a cool new technology.”

All that “cool new technology” represents is “another thing the manager has to manage,” and ultimately they’ll resent that. They’re slammed as is, remember?

I personally feel like there’s two reasons why no one really gives a crap about onboarding:

do think you can get around these issues, but it requires (a) caring about them and (b) putting the right people in place to manage them. Most orgs don’t do that well.

If you’ve ever worked in onboarding or have any thoughts, go for it in the comments.

Ted Bauer


  1. I’m surprised the 33% who look for another job within 6 months isn’t even higher. I don’t think it takes that long to “size up” the company you work for and its internal culture. I think all these stats point to the idea that companies view their employees as dispensable, and therefore don’t feel the need to invest in them from the outset. “You mean you don’t want to put up with a lot of bullshit for peanuts? Well, we’ll just find someone else who will!” And they always seem to find someone else, so the vicious cycle continues.

    • I’m surprised it’s not higher too; on the link I used, it did say “This figure is probably higher for millennials.” I’m kind of tired of the broader “Millennials are different!” narrative, but the figure probably is higher for them. As for the cycle, well, I agree 13,456%. I just think it’s funny that the main things “great” companies do are so simple, and yet every other company is like, “Well, we don’t have time for that shit!”

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