Great Onboarding: The Secret to 88% Employee Retention

employee retention ad agencies

How to cut employee turnover in half.

This is a guest article written by John Paul Strong, the owner of the Birmingham-based advertising agency, Strong Automotive Merchandising.  John Paul has developed a very robust onboarding process that I wanted him to share with you.

Their original roster of 10 employees and eight clients has exploded today, growing to more than 115 full-time employees and 250 automotive dealers. And it hasn’t gone without notice. Strong Automotive Merchandising has been recognized as a perennial winner in Birmingham’s Best Places to Work contest and as a Top 20 Agency among Google’s National Ad Partners.

Imagine finding the perfect candidate for your agency. After breezing through interviews and wrapping up negotiations, you’ve secured a valuable addition to your team.

Six months later, you hear a knock at your office door. It’s your superstar new-hire – coming to put in her two-weeks notice.

Employee turnover is a tough subject for ad agencies. Forbes found that the annual turnover rate for advertising is 30 percent – second only to tourism. To add to the issue, the cost of replacing an employee is estimated to be 20 percent or more of their annual salary.

Knowing this, agency leaders have even more reason to retain talent. Some have turned to offering trendy perks and incentives. The key, however, lies in the first few weeks on the job.

How to Cut Turnover in Half

An excellent onboarding program is essential to retention. One report found that 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for 3 years if they experienced great onboarding. Click To Tweet

For the past 5 years, Strong Automotive Merchandising has enjoyed an 88 percent annualized retention rate – that’s just 12 percent turnover. How did we manage to beat the industry average by more than half? The secret is in our 3-month onboarding process.

Right after a candidate accepts an offer, they receive a welcome email with HR paperwork to complete. The week before their start date, their future manager calls them with an introduction and details for what to expect the first day.

Before a new-hire arrives at the office, our COO sets up their workstation with a nameplate, T-shirt, umbrella, tote, and other branded goodies. They’ll also see their name displayed on the receptionist’s digital signboard. On their desk, they will find a personal welcome note from the company owner.

New-hires are assigned “sidekicks” once they start. This works like a buddy system. One sidekick is within the department, the other is outside. This way, new-hires have familiar faces for things like company events and meetings. On a larger scale, “squads” are interdepartmental groups of around 10 employees who compete in challenges and teambuilding exercises each month.

One of the best traditions is the new-hire lunch. On an employee’s first day, they will go to a pre-arranged lunch with their two sidekicks plus two managers outside of their department.

Their first week on the job, new-hires are introduced at the manager’s meeting and begin their departmental training. These short orientation sessions occur with each department manager, giving employees a chance to learn about each branch of the agency in a more personal setting.

Within the first month, new-hires receive a one-on-one orientation with the company HR consultant and a 90-day training schedule. They also complete a short personality quiz with questions like, “What’s playing in your car right now?” This is turned into a graphic showcase and shared with the agency. The showcase helps employees get to know a few fun facts about the new team member.

At the end of the first month, new-hires receive their first round of manager feedback, with subsequent reviews leading up to the 90-day mark. This keeps expectations clear and encourages employees to voice any concerns early in the onboarding process.

The Takeaway for Your Agency

STRONG’s onboarding process won’t fit every agency. The two biggest points to remember for your new-hire plan are:

  • Communication
  • Socialization

We communicate by having regular touch-points with new employees, from the day they accept up until day 90 of their training. With socialization, it is paramount to make your new-hire feel like a valued member of the team. Remember, starting a new job can be scary. So, let them know you’ll be there every step of the way.

About John Paul Strong:

Owner, Strong Automotive Merchandising, Birmingham, Alabama, a privately-owned full-service automotive advertising and marketing company focused on partnering with individual automotive dealerships across the United States.

Connect with John Paul Strong: