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Onboarding: An Overlooked Tactic in Lowering Employee Turnover


January 11, 2022

It takes a lot of work to find and hire great employees. Hiring employees often takes you away from your normal work. So once an employee is hired, it's tempting to just jump right back into your work again. But it's best to pause and remember that one-third of new employees will leave within the first six months. That is sobering. Why so many?

The answer is tied to how you integrate them into your team and train them. How you onboard them. Studies show that a new hire with a great orientation experience will be 69% more likely to stay. On their first day of work, they want to impress you and look to you for guidance. So, it's a great opportunity for you to give them give your best as well.

It's tempting in the rush of the daily work to skip onboarding employees because it takes time. Don't skip it. You have already spent a lot of time and money finding and hiring them. Employee turnover is almost always costly, so it's usually best to limit it. One effective way to limit turnover is by providing a great onboarding, training, and mentoring process. It is time and money well spent.

Your goal should be to have your new hire leave their first days feeling great about their choice to work for YOU. There is a lot you can do to make it a success.

First, give them a walking or driving tour that presents all areas of your farm and their purpose. Even if they will not be working in all these areas, it is good for them to understand the big picture of your operation.

Secondly, introduce them to the key people they will work with and ensure they have their contact information. Thirdly, share with them all the necessary tidbits like where to park and clock in, where to keep their coat and boots, and where they can eat lunch and store their food.

Next, complete all the documentation for payroll, safety, etc. Explain the pay and benefits, even if you've covered them during the interview process. Discuss your expectations if they are sick or want to request time off. Go over the rules and regulations that they are expected to follow. Share with them what tools they have available to them and what tools you wish for them to bring themselves. Review their job duties. Make it clear what you expect them to accomplish on a daily or weekly basis.

And finally, let them know who will be training them and who they should go to if they have any questions. This is important. They need to know that it's OK to ask questions and who they need to be asking. This designated person is their mentor and trainer.

Training takes time and effort. Have a checklist that both the trainer and trainee can refer to. Sometimes the trainer will think they have covered a task in detail, but the new employee is still foggy on what to do. A training checklist is a visual reminder to the new hire that they are expected to learn that task and can prompt them to ask their trainer for further help.

Since the early 70's educators have realized that students do not all learn the same way, great teachers now modify their instruction to match students' learning styles. You can do the same with your employees. There are four main learning styles, and most people learn better in one of the styles.

The 4 styles are

  • Reading Learners – Prefer to learn by reading and writing. They enjoy manuals and other text-based materials. This can be as simple as a checklist or short bullet points listed on a "one-page proven process." Short enough to be complete but not too long either.

  • Audio Learners – They learn by hearing. They tend to speak slowly and tend to be good at listening. They use phrases such as, "I hear what you are saying."

  • Visual Learners – They learn by seeing. They often interrupt, are fast talkers, and use phrases such as, "I can see how this works now."

  • Active Doer Learners –They like a hands-on approach and learn through doing the task. They like to learn by trial and error.

It is often not apparent how an employee prefers learning, so it is often quickest to train a new employee with a four-step process.

  1. Have them read the pertinent areas of a Standard Operating Procedure (One Page Proven Process) or training manual. Some dairies have a poster with step-by-step instructions and corresponding pictures describing how to do a task. If you have such a poster, post it where they will be working on the task.

  2. Tell them how to do the job while being as descriptive as possible. Pro tip: Have them repeat the instructions back to you to know they heard you correctly.

  3. At the same time, physically show them how to do the job.

  4. Then, have them show you how to do the job.

Provide this hands-on training for the first week. At the end of the first week, plan for the next week. Is the new hire comfortable going on their own? Ask them if they think they are ready. If so, great! Let them try it on their own and check in with them every other day to answer their questions. If they aren't comfortable going solo yet, continue training until they have things mastered.

The last part of a good training program is feedback sessions. Their manager or mentor should do this. Visit with them monthly and get their feedback. What is working for them and what is not working? This should be a two-way conversation, and the mentor should have areas for improvement as well as compliments for the new hire. Tell them specifically what they are doing that is great. Do they need to do things differently in a particular area? Let them know. Providing feedback to your new hire at 30, 60, and 90 days allows all parties to measure the success of training, communication issues, and job satisfaction. It will also build a solid base of good communication that naturally flows into their annual reviews.

Provide your new employees with a great onboarding and training program, and you'll have lower turnover. Your team will be stronger because everyone will be trained using the same standard and process. Remember, your goal is to hire great, train better, and communicate effectively. Spending a little more time onboarding and mentoring your new hires will save time and money.


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