A great new employee’s first 2 weeks on the job determines whether they will stay with your business for years or just a few months.  During a summer off from college I was hired as a server at a neighborhood restaurant.  My manager, Fred, assigned a more senior server to teach me the ropes.  Fred never had another individual conversation with me after that, and I’m pretty sure that — even though I worked there all summer — he did not even remember my name.  Whatever initial excitement I had for this job quickly faded.  

Turns out, botching the new employee experience is a common phenomenon.  According to The Council of Hotels and Restaurant Trainers, 27% of Hourly Employees in the Hospitality industry turnover within the first 90 days.  66% of all hourly employee terminations are within the first year of employment.

What Fred should have known is that an effective onboarding program includes four central components.  The restaurant where I worked nailed the training component but missed the other three requirements and procedures of an effective onboarding of new hiring program.

1. Provide the necessary new hire training and orientation to New Employees

It seems obvious, but make sure you spend time planning before your new hire’s first day.  You could opt to plan for each hire, but that might not be efficient.  You likely have employees starting in similar jobs every few months, so I recommend that you have procedures for training and orientation in place.  Make a checklist that outlines the key procedures and skill sets to be trained.  And determine the timeline that skillsets must be achieved by the end of the first day, first week, and first month.  All this hard work will be for naught if you don’t ensure that the trainer is effective at mentoring and teaching your new employees.  I recommend that you, as a manager, either conduct the training yourself or personally train the eventual trainer.  Only then can you assign the training plan to the appropriate employee and feel confident that the new employee has the orientation she needs.

2. Communicate your Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals to a New Employee

In a small business, every single person is critical to success. We all know it but too often neglect to say it out loud.  Companies that communicate the value of each position to the company reinforce an employee’s sense of pride and intrinsic motivation to do a job well.  Over time, without reminders of the impact the employee has on achievement of the company vision, employees may lose pride in their work and their performance might slip.  So, for example, communicate to cashiers, servers or sales staff the impact customer service has on overall success.  Remind back of the house employees that quality and efficiency helps the whole company run efficiently.

3. Build Connections

The most important employee perk is completely free: it is simply about remembering to connect to your employees.  Make sure on their first day or in their first week that you have a one-on-one conversation with them.  Get to know them, as people.  What motivates them?  What do they hope to gain professionally and personally from this job?  What challenges do they face? What celebrations are upcoming?  What are their families like? Your employees will feel a deeper connection to you if they feel that you and therefore the company have a deeper connection to and investment in them, as people.  

You set the tone of how you want your employees to treat customers by how you treat your employees in their first weeks on the job.  Companies like Starbucks, Chick Fil-A, Nordstroms, etc., have high employee morale, largely due to the conscious decisions of management to treat their employees as people with unique needs.  Never doubt the power of a personal connection.

4. Proactively Seek Feedback from a New Employee

Check-in frequently with your new hire to uncover any confusion or anxiety the employee may be having.  They may be nervous to approach you with questions or concerns, especially if you haven’t built a personal connection with them.  If you proactively ask questions early, you can discover these concerns and nip them in the bud.

Thinking back on that summer, had Fred followed these four tips of effective on-boarding, I might have been an employee for more than just one summer.  Instead, I was a statistic, one of the majority of employees who turned over within a few months.  Follow these guidelines and your business and you can do better — keeping employees happier and engaged for longer.