Employee retention is a big challenge. But what’s an employer to do? How can you improve your odds of retaining new employees through their first 90 days?‍

In some industries, high turnover is seen as the cost of doing business. We think there’s a better way, so we’ve put together a 90-day plan to help you onboard and retain your newest employees. While some principles will apply across any company, this plan is tailored for companies with high numbers of deskless workers—aka employees who don’t sit at a computer.‍

New employee turnover is costly

Recruiting can feel like a never-ending process. ‍

When you’re growing quickly, the need to recruit constantly is a good thing. But that’s not always the case. If your company feels like a revolving door—employees come in then head right back out—then you’re probably feeling the pain of a high turnover rate. This pain shows up in a few key areas:‍

  • It costs you (a lot) of money. It’s hard to estimate cost-per-hire because it depends on a lot of factors, but a normal average is between $3000-5000 per employee. That may or may not sound like a large number (depending on your budget), but it adds up quickly. Take XPO Logistics as one example: they were hiring for over 4000 roles in 2021, which means they may have spent upward of 20 million dollars on hiring. If a third of their hires were to leave within 90 days, that’s the equivalent of wasting nearly 7 million dollars.
  • It hurts your productivity. New employees may be highly engaged, but oftentimes they aren’t as productive as they could be because they’re still learning their roles. Constant turnover of new employees means your company is never operating at its full potential.
  • It makes your customers suffer. New employees are more likely to make mistakes, take longer to complete tasks, or be unable to solve a customer’s problem. If you’re constantly replacing your employees through turnover, you’ll never get ahead and your customers will feel the pain.

Best practices for retaining deskless workers

The first 90 days of a new job are a critical period. It’s when you learn about the company and your role. You’re constantly evaluating if you made a good choice taking your new job. You’re often eager to make a good impression on your new boss and team.‍

30/60/90 day plans are sometimes used by companies during the hiring process. For instance, a managerial candidate might be asked to create a 90-day plan on how they’ll approach their new role (if they get the job). ‍

We think the 30/60/90 day plan is a great framework to use when onboarding deskless workers. It helps bring focus to the key objectives you’re trying to achieve and the related tasks you need to complete during each stage. ‍

Days 1-30

The first 30 days of onboarding are the foundation for everything that follows. Your new employee steps through the door knowing very little about your company or their role, and your priority should be to help them get acclimated as quickly as possible.‍

It’s useful to think about this period through two lenses:‍

  • Company-specific onboarding
  • Job-specific onboarding

Company-specific onboarding

At most companies, a part of each new employee’s first week is dedicated to company-specific onboarding tasks. This includes things like completing required tax documents, safety training, payroll paperwork, and an intro to employee benefits.‍

To make this process successful, start by creating a clear checklist of all the items an employee needs to accomplish in their first week. Map out the steps required to complete each item. Tools like Gusto or other payroll and benefits providers can help make this onboarding process easy but may require computer access, so it’s important to think through each step of the process as if you were a deskless worker.‍

The other important step at this stage is making sure employees know where to go for help. Since most deskless workers aren’t dealing with HR or Finance teams regularly, you need a way to make this simple and memorable. Anthill makes these resources accessible to employees through two-way text messaging available anytime, anywhere. ‍

Job-specific onboarding

You’ll want your employees to start being productive as soon as possible, so you’ll need to make sure they’re introduced to their teams and their jobs quickly. ‍

Every job is unique, so prescribing specific actions for this step is tough. You likely already have a feel for how to teach employees the specific tasks that make up their jobs. But are you also helping your new hires understand how your organization operates? What about facilitating connections with other employees?‍

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends considering the “Four C’s” at this stage:‍

  • Compliance – what are the necessary legal and policy-related rules and regulations new hires need to know?
  • Clarification – what is the job the employee was hired to perform? Are they clear on their expectations?
  • Culture – what are the norms—both formal and informal—within your organization that employees should know about? How do things get done?
  • Connection – who do new hires need to know? What relationships will help them be more effective and engaged?

Answering these questions should be a priority in the first 30 days. By the end of this period, your new employee should have a firm foundation to stand on.‍

Days 31-60

Once your foundation is laid, it’s time to focus on really setting employees up for long-term success. While you start this during the first 30 days, the second month is when the magic really happens. ‍

Your new employee has settled in by this point. The nerves have worn off a bit, and there’s a sense of familiarity with their role. Days 31-60 are all about building on the first month and helping them become well-versed in their role. Prioritize additional role-specific training to help them improve. ‍

Whenever possible, match up your new hire with a peer mentor who can be their go-to point of contact for questions and needs. This has three big benefits: it helps them build a meaningful relationship and learn faster, it creates leadership opportunities for your tenured staff, and it frees you up as a leader. ‍

Days 61-90

Days 61-90 are about solidifying your successes from the first 60 days. Unless you’ve hired for a particularly complex or technical role, your new hire should have a good understanding of how to perform their job by now. That means it’s time to shift away from basic job training to maximizing engagement. There are a few easy ways to get started:‍

  • Connect your employees to benefits. Initial onboarding is a blur, and it’s not uncommon for employees to totally forget about the benefits you offer (and pay for!). You can increase the ROI you get from that investment and increase your employees’ satisfaction by reminding them of available benefits and making it easy for them to find more information. Simple reminders can go a long way towards showing you care for your people.
  • Survey your employees. This is a great time to conduct an initial survey of your new employees. They still have a fresh perspective on your company and their onboarding, and you’ll benefit by learning from their experiences. Asking for their anonymous feedback—and acting on it or responding to it—also demonstrates that they aren’t just “a cog in the machine” at your company. Your employees want to know they have a voice and they’re doing meaningful work, and this is your opportunity to drive that message home. Just remember: If they don’t work at a desk, sending them a lengthy email survey isn’t a good option! Prioritize communicating via text message for higher engagement.

Retention efforts never end

Getting new team members through their first 90 days should be a key milestone in your employee retention strategy, but it’s not the end of the road. The first 90 days is simply where you lay the foundation for long-term employee engagement and retention. You can download a copy of Anthill’s 90 Day Retention Model here.

If you need help figuring out how to scale onboarding and retention across your deskless workforce, give Anthill CONNECT a try. Through simple text messaging in over 100 language, you’ll immediately improve your employee communications and engagement.

Lawrence Barker

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