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How onboarding surveys improve retention

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How do you know if a new employee is enjoying their onboarding experience? 

It’s simple, ask them. 

Onboarding is a critical time in a new hire’s journey. A strong onboarding process increases employee engagement, productivity and retention. 

“The impact of onboarding is well established in academic literature,” says Louise Parkes, Workplace Psychologist and Principal Consultant at Xref Engage. 

“A meta-analysis of over 30 research studies shows better onboarding practices improve job satisfaction, organisational commitment, job performance and intention to stay.” 

It’s a good idea then, to ask new hires about their onboarding experience so you can improve your processes. 

The best way to ask new hires about their experience is through a digital onboarding survey like those offered by Xref Engage.  

Data by Wakefield Research and Explorance reveals that 78% of employees are eager to take company surveys. 38% say surveys are their preferred method for sharing feedback. By conducting onboarding surveys, you give new employees the chance to share their early experiences with your company. 

By asking for feedback in an employee’s early days, you show them you care about their experience and encourage more engagement in the onboarding process. 

Onboarding surveys specifically allow for the gathering of structured feedback. Planning how you will receive feedback means you can also be proactive about acting on it. Data gathered from onboarding surveys allows you to directly improve an individual’s onboarding experience, a move that can increase retention in the short and long term.  

In this blog, we explore how onboarding surveys work and how you can use them to improve retention.  

How onboarding surveys help increase retention 

Onboarding surveys help increase retention because they generate feedback that can be used to improve the onboarding process. Dr. Peter Langford, General Manager at Xref Engage says, “Delivering and acting on onboarding surveys sends a powerful message that you care about new staff and want to maximise their success.” 

Research shows one’s early experience in an organisation strongly impacts their long term intention to stay. 

A 2023 study by Paychex reveals 80% of respondents who felt undertrained from poor onboarding plan to quit soon. 

The numbers are even higher for remote workers. Remote employees are 117% more likely to leave employers after poor onboarding. 

A study by SilkRoad and Career Builder revealed nearly 10% of employees quit due to a poor new hire experience. 

Paychex statistics reveal the stakes have become higher since the pandemic especially as many organisations are still trying to discover the best way to integrate employees virtually. 

By gathering feedback about an employee’s onboarding experience, organisations can: 

  • Improve individual onboarding experiences. Managers can have one-on-one sessions with individuals post-survey to discuss feedback and deal with any early issues. 
  • Help employees feel seen and appreciated. Onboarding surveys show employees you care about their experience from the outset. 
  • Continuously improve onboarding. Organisations can keep improving their onboarding process for current and future new hires. 

In short, organisations can set the scene for strong retention by asking employees for feedback and then using results to create meaningful changes to onboarding processes. 

Xref branded green graphic with a photograph of Dr. Peter Langford, General Manager, Xref Engage and his quote on onboarding surveys to the right

What is a digital onboarding survey? 

A digital onboarding survey asks new employees about their experience with your organisation. Survey data reveals valuable insights into how employees feel about their experience allowing organisations to improve onboarding programs. 

Xref Engage is an example of a platform that offers digital onboarding surveys. 

You can send onboarding surveys through a simple online form but a specialised survey platform will bring the best results. 

Using a survey platform like Xref Engage you can: 

  • Access expert questions. Use questions designed by workplace psychologists to get the best value out of your onboarding survey. 
  • Capture information quickly. The last thing new starters want is to juggle another meeting to capture their early experiences. A survey can quickly capture feedback and integrate into any onboarding program. 
  • Gather comprehensive feedback. Surveys generate feedback about a range of important topics from access to resources to learning progress.

  • Generate reliable data. By asking the same questions at the same point in time, data is reliable and comparable across individuals and teams. 

Overall, the data collected by digital onboarding surveys gives organisations the chance to improve onboarding programs and increase retention. 

Acting on feedback from onboarding surveys 

Onboarding surveys are so powerful because they collect feedback directly from new employees. 

When managers act on this feedback, they can immediately improve an employee's experience with their new company. There’s little point in conducting an onboarding survey if you aren’t going to act on the feedback received. 

Acting on feedback will ultimately improve an individual’s onboarding experience and thus, strengthen retention. 

Imagine taking part in an onboarding survey and flagging that you’re still unsure of role requirements. Then, imagine nothing being done about it. It’s not an ideal scenario. 

Acting on feedback shouldn’t be left to chance. Here are three tips from our experts at Xref Engage about collecting feedback from onboarding surveys and prioritising action.  

1. Ask the right questions 

Every onboarding process has key elements that should be measured. 

For example, Xref Engage onboarding surveys ask about the following categories:  

  • Introduction: Measures the recruitment, orientation and welcome process. 
  • Guidance: Asks about learning and development tools and support provided. 
  • Productivity: Investigates if an employee has the right resources and appropriate guidance around health and safety. 
  • Proactivity: Assesses how an employee seeks information and feedback about their role and organisation. 

Xref Engage research shows each category impacts an employee’s overall level of adjustment, engagement and wellbeing. 

By deliberately planning and asking questions about topics that matter most, your organisation will already be primed to take feedback seriously. 

2. Integrate surveys into your workflow 

Decide at what point of the onboarding process you’d like to deliver a survey and then create a workflow around this. A survey platform will help you automate with process. 

For example, if you’d like to send a survey one month in, schedule this into your survey platform. Each new employee will automatically receive a survey on their one-month anniversary. 

You can automate survey delivery and reminder emails with Xref Engage Onboarding Surveys. Platform managers are sent automated updates when surveys are completed and can then share these results with direct managers for follow up. 

3. Act on feedback 

Make it easier for your team to take action by preparing how you will act on employee feedback. 

Designate which employees or teams will be responsible for different types of feedback. 

For instance, an HR manager may be responsible for dealing with workplace safety and resource issues while a hiring manager might address issues with day-to-day work. 

If employee results come in healthy, you should still take action. An email from a company leader thanking employees for their feedback and sharing results can go a long way in building trust. 

Best practice tips for acting on feedback include: 

  • Acknowledging the receipt of an employee’s feedback and letting them know when they can expect a response/action. 
  • Acting on feedback within a reasonable time frame (the sooner the better). 
  • Conducting follow-up meetings with employees explaining what improvements have been made and asking if there are any further areas for improvement. 

Acting on feedback is simpler when data is easy to analyse. Xref Engage data makes feedback buckets very clear. You can easily see scores in different areas and understand if the results are within a healthy range. 

Xref branded green graphic with mobile device screenshots of onboarding surveys dashboard

Final thoughts 

First impressions count. You're much more likely to retain a new employee and create a future advocate if you seek feedback about the onboarding process. 

Digital onboarding surveys are an efficient way to gather employee feedback. By acting on the feedback you receive, you build trust and engagement with employees, a step that goes a long way in creating long-term retention.

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