May 31, 2019

More employees than ever are quitting in their first 90 days—but it doesn’t have to be that way at your company

Illustration: Two women, seated at their desks, express exhaustion and dissatisfaction.

During the first 90 days at a new job, the relationship between a new hire and their employer is as vulnerable as it gets: 20% of all employee turnover happens during those crucial three months.

Leaving a job before things really get going is becoming increasingly normal, especially for younger workers: Jobvite’s oft-cited annual “Job Seeker Nation” survey reports that 34% of them have, at some point in their young careers, left a job in the first 90 days.

So, why is this happening? We asked our Pros to share what they see in their sessions with new hires who come to them as flight risks. Within this group, the top three session themes were: performance and role (33%), working relationships (28%), and general stress (10%).

Let’s break down the top themes in each of these categories, and how your company can prevent turnover related to these issues.

Performance and role

  • Not feeling connected to the company mission. Today’s employees want purpose in their work, and to feel like they’re having a direct impact on their company’s success. Work with new hires to help them understand exactly how their performance impacts org-wide goals, tying their metrics to company OKRs.
  • Not feeling like their responsibilities match the original job description. It’s human nature to want exactly what you signed up for, but it’s also a fact of life that company needs can change quickly. Transparency around the reasons behind any necessary changes helps new hires feel valued, rather than blindsided.
  • Needing more guidance and feedback early on. We frequently hear from employees who feel directionless in their new roles, but stay silent so they aren’t perceived as needing “hand-holding.” Companies can keep new hires from this uncomfortable position by formalizing the feedback process for new hires. Include check-ins at the one-week, 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day milestones.

Working relationships

  • Feeling unwelcome. According to the 2018 Jobvite report, 17% of new hires who quit said, “a friendly smile or helpful co-worker would have made all the difference.” Helping new hires feel like they belong is truly a group effort. Establish simple courtesies, like greeting each other, as part of your company culture, so that new hires feel them from day one. You can also take this a step further by institutionalizing things like first week “coffee buddies.”
  • Contending with new communication styles. Decoding a new manager’s unfamiliar style can make even experienced employees feel like they’re starting their careers all over again. Having a shared language around communication preferences helps everyone in the company understand each other better, and collaborate more effectively.
  • Entering into an established dynamic. New hires have left behind an old “we” at work to enter an existing one, and it’s not always easy to “break in.” Socialize the idea that growth and change are good for the team, preparing your people to welcome their new peers.

General Stress

  • Having to meet unrealistic expectations. Some new hires feel that they’re tasked with cleaning up past messes, while others simply feel too much is expected of them too quickly. If an employee is walking into a challenging project or situation, be open about that—and frame their first goals in terms of tangible early wins sets the pace for ongoing success.
  • Being overwhelmed with new information. Onboarding should be well-paced through the first 90 days and beyond, including clear paths for new hires to get questions answered and policies clarified.
  • Fear of failure. Anxiety about making a poor early impression plagues new hires at all career stages. Setting clear and measurable goals and priorities, with built-in flexibility to account for the learning curve, eliminates the ambiguity that’s often the root of this fear.

So, why do employees quit in the first 90 days? As it turns out, for a lot of reasons. As employees at companies working Bravely have seen firsthand, these reasons are, in most cases, preventable. It’s never too late — or too early — to take action against unwanted turnover.

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