Why new employees jump ship (and five ways to keep them on board)

You interview a candidate who is the perfect match for the skills you need. She's eager to learn and grow, and gets what your company does. She's great. You hire her. She's an asset almost immediately. She has good ideas, and you start to implement them.

Six months later, she quits.

This devastating scenario happens all too often. A study by the Work Institute estimates about one-third of all new hires quit in the first year.

A question:

Why does this type of job turnover happen?

The study says new employees quit because they are dissatisfied with:

  • advancement opportunities or job alternatives;
  • compensation;
  • supervision, particularly authoritarian supervision;
  • co-workers, especially in teams;
  • working conditions (rigid work schedules, poor equipment, repetitive tasks, etc.);
  • level of autonomy or responsibility;
  • selection and placement procedures, and
  • orientation and training.


Katherine Huddleston, writing for the Work Institute, cites a case where a new employee came in the first day and found his desk bare of any of the essentials, from a computer to even a pen. This experience soured him so that he left with a few months. He felt his presence was not valued in any way.

A more important question: How can you stop this from happening to you?

Here are five ways to help new employees hit the ground running (and stay with your company for the long haul):

  1. Follow the buddy system. Just as kids learning to swim are assigned a buddy in the deep end, new employees also need a buddy to show them where the bathrooms and coffee station are. This buddy doesn't stop the mentoring at the end of the first day. The new hire should be able to check in with that peer whenever they need anything, have trouble understanding something, or just want advice for as long as they work for the company.
  2. Plan for a seamless Day One. Make sure everything is ready for your new employee, from the stack of HR forms to fill out to an appointment with the immediate manager and anyone else it’s important for the employee to meet. Nothing makes new hires feel more comfortable than finding a desk all set up with a computer, business cards and essential files, or being taken to a work station with all the tools of the trade shining and ready.
  3. Get straight into the work. Give new hires an easy task to accomplish right away, or assign them to a team that needs and welcomes the help. Make sure the work they are assigned is the work they expected. Nothing sends a new employee back to his resume quicker than a bait-and-switch on the job description.
  4. Explain the culture. This is another area where the buddy system can help by having a co-worker explain those intricate inter-relationships, who is who, and how it all works. But make sure managers also explain what the vibe of the workplace is, whether it's buttoned-down or laid back, cut-throat aggressive or cooperative, whether people hang out after work, or go home to their families. The interpersonal environment is critical to retention and should be discussed during the hiring process to ensure a good match.
  5. Check back early and often. Don't just pat the new hire on the back and wish her luck. Managers all up and down the chain of command should check in frequently. Even take the new person to lunch to get acquainted and make sure everything is going smoothly and, if not, find out how to help. Make sure the new employee feels comfortable enough to express any doubts or uneasiness.

Simple steps such as these boil down to basic consideration for an employee coming into a new place, anxious to do well. It also comes down to protecting the company's investment in the new hire and avoiding the high cost of high turnover.

Solving problems before they begin to fester can make that great new employee feel valued and motivated to stay with you for the long haul.

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