Lynn Hagerman

Ask an Expert: Investing in On-Boarding

Susan Templeton, M.Ed., Training and Organization Development Consultant

Question: My unit has spent a lot of time and effort recruiting and hiring a new employee who I think will work out well. Why do I need to invest yet more resources in on-boarding?

As one of the co-facilitators for the Universityís in-person new employee orientation, Making Connections, Iíve seen the number of new staff attending our monthly sessions nearly double in the last year. Itís good news that hiringís picking up again, but some managers and departments may be out of practice for welcoming new employees to their team.

Hiring a new staff member is an investment. Establishing an effective on-boarding process can increase your return on your investment by improving staff retention, engagement, and performance.

Protecting Your Investment

Various recruitment and HR surveys estimate the average cost to hire a new staff member ranges from $3,479 to tens of thousands of dollars for professional and senior level executives (1). According to one survey, more than twice as many employees leave their job in the first two years as compared to those whoíve been with their employer longer (2). And, the cost of turnover can be 150% of the employee's annual compensation or more depending on their level of responsibility (3).

That's a lot of numbers—but what it adds up to is the importance of protecting your investment by retaining employees. Greeting new employees with a thoughtful on-boarding process is a great first step toward creating a positive experience for your employees and thereby improves retention.

Influencing Employee Engagement

How you choose to welcome and orient new employees can influence their level of engagement. Opinions abound about what precisely "employee engagement" is and what drives it, but most would agree there's a strong link between engagement and retention.

One group defines an engaged employee as "someone who feels a bond or attachment to the organization, who supports the strategy and values that leaders have communicated, who is aligned with the company's direction, and is motivated to work hard towards its success." Commonly cited drivers of engagement include trust in management, feeling valued, feeling involved, and believing that your supervisor cares about your well-being.

Through on-boarding, managers can heighten engagement by creating bonds from day one and by orienting new employees to an organization's culture, values, strategy, and current initiatives. In addition, the "personal touch" of a welcoming, positive, well-planned on-boarding process can foster trust, a sense of involvement, and the feeling of being valued and cared about.

Improving Performance

As part of the on-boarding process, managers should review performance expectations and clarify the scope of the employee's role (4). In addition, the process should include opportunities for managers or others to:

Approached strategically, on-boarding can help lay the foundation for employees' long-term success and on-the-job satisfaction, which in turn will benefit the entire organization.


  1. Mike Temkin, "Talent Acquisition Up 6% in 2011 And Average Cost Per Hire About $3,500;" The National Association of Colleges and Employers, "Current Benchmarks: Cost-Per-Hire Rises 57 Percent in 2010;" William G. Bliss, "Cost of Employee Turnover."
  2. Chief Learning Office, "Survey: Holding on to Newer Employees Key to Improving Worker Retention."
  3. Bliss, "Cost of Employee Turnover."
  4. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First, Break all the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999).
Autumn 2012 | Return to issue home