The Importance of An Employee’s First Year

The importance of a new hire’s first impression during the onboarding phase continues to be a critical component in employee retention during and beyond the first year. National trends indicate that one-third of new hires employed 6 months or less are currently searching for a new job. With potential hiring opportunities still available from their most recent job search (or a search that hasn’t finished, even after accepting an offer), and the belief that leaving before they get “too deep” is best for everyone, we must have an impactful onboarding plan in place or risk losing new hires within, or around, their first year.

The Importance of An Employee’s First Year

As we look for ways to stay strong in a competitive hiring market this year, it makes sense to not only review what onboarding means for your organization, but also how to take it to the next level.

Review and Understand Your Current Situation

As HR professionals, start by asking yourself these questions:

Are employees leaving your organization at critical points during their first year?

Does your current onboarding program address these issues, i.e. determine ways to reduce that number?

How does your organization encourage loyalty?

Does your management build relationships quickly?

How can you help leadership deliver this type of relationship building?

In high turnover industries such as healthcare, estimates from 2015 show that more than 50% of separations occur within the first 12 months. Take a few minutes to calculate your own turnover rate – if you don’t already do so annually – as you may be surprised at what you discover.

You may need to conduct more comprehensive studies on trends in your workforce, which will take time, but are definitely worth the effort. In order to see a positive change, you have to make sure you’re fixing the right things. Keep in mind the extra challenge of multiple locations, to ensure that your onboarding program is comprehensive and unified across all locations.

Create An Onboarding Plan Right for Your Organization

At a broad level, your role as an HR Leader requires you to define and implement a singular, company-wide plan that all managers agree to fulfill as part of onboarding new employees. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA®), we’ve recently launched a new onboarding program designed to start the day after a new Stakeholder (Employee) accepts a position (Pre-Boarding) all the way through their first anniversary with us. As a test case, I’d like to share some key points to help you in defining your own onboarding and working to boost retention during an employee’s first year.

First, start simple with defining stages of where you would like an employee to “be” at certain points over the course of their first 12 months and then simply ask “how do we (HR Leader and Employee Manager) get them to that stage.”

At CTCA we decided on six phases based on the core values of our organization. Breaking down the first year of a new employee into manageable phases, whether quarterly or bimonthly, makes it less overwhelming and more likely to be successful in achieving your goals. Structure and guide the process for your leaders, so they are more likely to succeed in building a loyal, fully-performing member of their team.

Pre-boarding: The Basics

In the pre-boarding phase at CTCA, HR’s responsibility is to make sure that our leaders know how to identify and understand what new employees hope to accomplish in their role in order to help them reach their goals. For us, pre-boarding is the most critical step in the onboarding process. A successful pre-boarding increases our new hire’s engagement and prepares them for a successful first week and beyond.

Outreach before and during the first day guides the new hire so we try to make sure to have the basics prepped and polished. The checklist (recapped below) from my previous post provides a good baseline to work with, but feel free to expand for your own organization:

Welcome Email/Call


Forms, Benefits

Handbook, HR Documentation, Corporate Information

Technology, Access

Seating Arrangements

Manager/Team Introduction

After Day 1: The First 30 Days

The next step of the onboarding process will come with a conjoined process carried out between you and the employee’s manager.

At CTCA we make a point that our managers (during the first month of employment for a new hire) make sure that their employees know:

What is expected of them

How they can succeed

We look for managers to foster feelings of engagement, team affiliation and a willingness to take on responsibility. Using good communication and feedback, the goal is to empower employees to give suggestions and be involved. This is also the time that most employees want to “get up to speed” and learn as much as they can about their department, site and company/enterprise, so we work to provide them with a plethora of resources and information to foster their creativity and provide innovative ideas and contributions.

During the first 30 days, it’s also important to keep in mind the power of strong work relationships, as these can create a genuine sense of belonging and loyalty. Leaders are often not well prepared to deliver this type of relationship building and so your role as HR professionals is to help facilitate activities to help leaders build long-lasting teams.

The Middle Months

Taking the employee through to the end of their one-year anniversary at CTCA means being responsive: reacting easily or readily to suggestions, appeals or requests. In your own organization, you should mindfully continue to listen to your employees’ needs and hold an interest in their learning and development.

During months 3 to 6 for a new hire, we entrust our managers with the responsibility to provide advice, suggestions, and coaching along the way. We also ask that managers act in a compassionate, genuine, non-judgemental way while focusing on the needs of their new employees to give meaningful support: Are they motivated or disappointed? Energized or overwhelmed? At that point, we ask that managers respond accordingly.

Share The Numbers

When you get down to brass tacks, effectively onboarding and retaining employees saves money and time. Tracking turnover and sharing it with managers will enable you to work as a team to tailor efforts throughout the process and make it better. Know your annual rate of new-hire separations and use it to track your process. I know that with a bit of hard work you can make a difference in how your employees view themselves and their relationship with your company.

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Eric Magnussen

Eric Magnussen serves as the Vice President of Talent for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) and is accountable for all aspects of the CTCA Talent function for a 5,500 employee organization. Eric is responsible for talent strategy, attraction and selection, employee development, succession planning, wellness and wellbeing, compensation and benefits. Connect with Eric.


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