The hidden value in interviewing new employees about their onboarding experience

Apr 29, 2021 | The Employee Journey

hidden value in interviewing new employees

Interviewing your new employees about their onboarding experience is about more than simply understanding their experience. It also builds a strong foundation for your work in improving overall employee engagement and reducing employee turnover.

In this article, I share the benefits of incorporating ‘new employee interviews’ in the onboarding process. From the obvious benefits – learning what you’re doing well; learning what you can do better; learning what the experience is like from the new employees’ perspective – to the less obvious, but hugely valuable, benefits – building employee engagement and commitment; establishing employee feedback as the cultural norm, and identifying factors that may affect employee retention.

By the end of this article, I hope that, if you’re not already speaking to your new employees about their onboarding experience then you go away and add new employee interviews to your onboarding checklist; or, if new employee interviews are something you already do, you have a newfound appreciation for the breadth of value they bring.

Think you’re doing a good job of onboarding?

Speaking to your new employees about their experience enables you to measure, monitor and improve your onboarding process. But a word of warning, you may not like the initial results.

According to Gallup, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organisation does a great job of onboarding [Source] and less than 1 in 3 new hires (29%) say that they feel fully prepared and supported to excel in their new role after their onboarding [Source].

That’s a lot of opportunity for improvement.

By interviewing your new employees, and by identifying and working with the 88% of new employees who don’t strongly agree that the organisation does a great job of onboarding, you can discover what they felt was missing, what suggestions they have to improve the process/experience for future new employees and what they appreciated or enjoyed most in the onboarding experience so you can do more of it.

First impressions matter – catch them now

A new employee’s onboarding period is critical to engaging and retaining new team members.

It’s the time where initial impressions are made – impressions that, once made, can be hard to change. Impressions about how the agency is run, the team dynamics, and the agency culture; and how these things align with their personal purpose, values and style.

“[Onboarding] offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.”

Amy Hirsh Robinson, The Interchange Group

New employee interviews provide a great opportunity to tap into these initial impressions. They enable you to understand how the reality of working with you compares to the expectations they created during the hiring and even pre-hiring stages. They allow you to see your agency with fresh eyes.

Talking of fresh eyes… Another benefit of interviewing your new employees is that they often bring new ideas and excitement for working for your agency with them. Ideas and excitement that can get lost over time. Tap into these ideas and observations now before they become ‘just another part of the team’ doing things “because that’s how they’re always done here”.

Is the onboarding process that important?

It’s easy to think of the onboarding process as only being a short period of your employees’ overall time with you and choosing to focus on your longer-term employees’ engagement and experience instead. After all, there’s more of them and they’re more likely to leave you for another job right?

Not exactly. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has shown that employee turnover can be as much as 50% in the first 18 months of employment. Bamboo HR research found that 31% of people have left a job within the first six months, with 68% of those departing within three months. Why? The primary reasons given were a bad onboarding experience, lack of role clarity, or subpar managers.

Polymensa’s Virtual Onboarding Report shares the example of one agency, who surveyed new employees after 90 days asking them: “Do you feel the company is meeting your expectations?” New employees who answer “no”, tend to not last longer than 9 months. Those who answer “undecided”, stay 14 months max.

According to Digitate, employees who had a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for other career opportunities in the future

Speaking to your new employees early and often, enables you to identify and address any issues that may impact retention rate and work collaboratively to address them early on.

And now for the good news…

The benefits of a great onboarding experience have a long term influence.

Gallup report that employees with an exceptional onboarding experience are

  • 2.8x as likely to feel fully prepared and supported to excel in their role.
  • 2.8x as likely to say they have the best possible job.
  • 2.6x as likely to be extremely satisfied with their current organization as a place to work.
  • 3.3x as likely to say their job is as good, or better than expected.

Research by Glassdoor found that organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

So by speaking to your new employees about their experience and by working with them to identify and deliver the improvements needed for them to have rated it ‘exceptional’, you’re helping to ensure that future new employees are more engaged and committed to your agency.

But that’s not all…

There’s even more value to be had from this exercise. Other, less quantifiable benefits of taking the time to interview new employees about their experience include:

Benefits to your new employees:

From the get-go, your new employees:

  • feel seen and heard.
  • can see that you welcome and value employee feedback.
  • can see that you not only listen to feedback but act on it by improving processes and experiences.
  • feel included, recognised and a valued part of the agency.
  • feel more engaged with the agency.

Benefits to the agency:

As an agency leader, using new employee interviews enables you to:

  • establish asking for, listening to and acting on employee feedback as the norm.
  • understand how your employee brand is perceived externally by the wider workforce.
  • show how important your employee’s experiences are to your organisation.
  • build trust with your new employees.
  • encourage a culture of open and honest conversations.
  • spot any potential misalignment early on and manage that accordingly.

What about new employee surveys?

You could, of course, use surveys (or a series of surveys) to gather some of this information. And arguably, there is a place for them at certain points in the onboarding process – for example, to quickly gather a one-off score/metric or generate quantitative data.

But for high quality, informative, insight, we prefer interviews. Interviews allow you to dig deeper into the new employee experience, immediately ask clarifying or follow-up questions, and establish a deeper relationship with each new employee.

In conclusion

Learning what the onboarding experience is like from a new employees’ perspective; understanding the initial impressions being formed; and getting ideas for how to improve the onboarding process are, in themselves, really good reasons to speak to your new employees and seek to understand their experience. And if that were all the benefit to be gained from the exercise, then they’d certainly be a worthwhile investment.

But as this article has shown, there are many more benefits to be had from incorporating new employee interviews into your onboarding checklist. Benefits that last long after the onboarding period has ended.

So if you’re not already doing so, make sure that new employee interviews (and surveys) feature on your onboarding checklist today.

Interested in learning more about how Ferris Wheel People Experience Agency can help you?

We specialise in embedding a Communicate > Listen > Understand > Act mindset in agencies to help them understand and improve their employees’ experiences (new and existing employees). If you’d like to learn more, get in touch today.

Not ready to get in touch yet? Learn more about the services we provide, read our client testimonials or explore more articles on the blog.

Don’t be a stranger, connect with Lynne on LinkedIn to receive regular insight about how agencies can engage, retain and attract talented employees.

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