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Could poor onboarding be the reason for your high staff turnover?

By Ian Barrow, Senior Employee Experience Consultant from WorkBuzz – this article first appeared in Hospitality Net.

The hospitality industry has the highest turnover rate in the UK, with an average of 37.6% of employees leaving their jobs each year. In 2023, there’s already been a 46% increase in hospitality job ads, with 42% of new employees who join the industry leaving their roles in the first 90 days.

With such a huge turnover of new hires, hotel managers need to dissect the onboarding experience to find out what’s driving such an exodus of employees so soon into their roles. This requires ‘employee listening’ – and then using the insights to drive positive change.

So, how do you know whether your onboarding process is working or broken? After all, the leadership team and the employees on the ground may well have totally different perspectives. For instance, management may have put in place an onboarding process that they believe works well, but due to line managers feeling pressure to quickly train-up new hires, the onboarding reality could be that it’s rushed or missing vital elements.

Not all employees will have similar onboarding experiences. Front desk employees, for example, may be engaged and thriving following their onboarding experience, and yet housekeeping staff might feel frustrated with the whole process.

To uncover the truth about your onboarding, channels of employee feedback must be established. This should include one-to-ones between new starters and their line managers as well as regular team meetings – but there must also be a channel by which new starters can feed back anonymously.

A digital onboarding survey is one such mechanism that measures the experience of new hires, allowing managers to better understand how well the onboarding process is working, get ahead of any potential issues, and action any improvements that should be made.

With the ability to complete the surveys on mobile devices or even ‘kiosks’ in break rooms, they can provide valuable feedback on the recruitment process; how settled new starters feel within their team and the organisation as a whole; how approachable and helpful their line managers are; whether new starters have the appropriate resources to do their job and are clear on the expectations and responsibilities of their role; if they’re considering leaving; and whether they’d recommend the organisation as a great place to work.

By asking new starters to complete some simple and concise questions anonymously, and then having the ability to analyse the results in depth so it’s clear what is and isn’t working, you can get a holistic view of the different onboarding experiences across the organisation. The management team can then work with line managers to improve both the recruitment process and how each member of staff is onboarded.

A robust onboarding programme really is critical, so listening to new starters to find out where and how improvements can be made is vital. After all, when a new starter comes to their new role with enthusiasm and excitement only to find that their manager is largely absent, their team members are disengaged and they aren’t given the resources to do a good job, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they don’t stick around.

Of course, it’s not ‘job done’ once you’ve finished onboarding. Employees want – and need – ongoing training, especially in the early months of their employment.

Bar staff may be shown how to use the till and change barrels as part of the onboarding process, for example, but they can benefit hugely from that training continuing in the months ago – learning more about customer service, how to make cocktails, what it takes to be a team leader, and so on.

A positive onboarding experience can make new starters feel an important and valued member of the team who wants to stay, learn and grow. For the organisation this means a lower staff turnover, a more engaged workforce and fewer recruitment costs – so the impact of getting it right shouldn’t be underestimated.

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