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To Retain New Hires, Make Sure You Meet With Them in Their First Week

This article originally appeared on hbr.org.

Authors: Dawn Klinghoffer, Candice Young and Xue Liu

Dawn Klinghoffer is the general manager of the human resources business insights at Microsoft. Candice Young is a senior data analyst at Microsoft. Xue Liu is a senior data scientist at Microsoft.

First impressions in the workplace really matter — and not just to the employer. New employees can begin to formulate impressions about organizations from the get-go, influencing their decision to stay with the company in the long term. Poor experiences can lead to preventable turnover, the cost of which can be as much as twice the employee’s annual salary.

It’s difficult to measure whether your efforts are succeeding, however. At Microsoft, where we hire thousands of people every year, we lacked a good way to measure the perceptions of our new hires’ experiences.

In an effort to do better, we created a survey and reached out to new employees after their first week and then again after 90 days to learn about their experiences and first impressions of Microsoft.

From the survey, we learned that the little things — such as having a working computer and immediate access to the building, email and the intranet on Day One — matter most. Based on this, we pulled individuals together from payroll, information technology, immigration, legal, global security, learning, procurement, recruiting and human resources to make sure new employees would have the means to be productive from Day One. Every member of the team contributed to this shared goal, and as a result all the organizational barriers were broken down.

Delving deeper, we wanted to understand how early behaviors impact the engagement of approximately 3,000 new hires. To do so we matched anonymous calendar and email metadata with engagement data. Statements we used to gauge engagement included “I feel proud to work for Microsoft” and “I expect to work for Microsoft for __ years.”

We learned that it’s critical for a new employee to have a one-on-one meeting with their manager during their first week. Those who did saw early growth in three key areas.

First, they tended to have a 12% larger internal network and double network centrality (the influence that people in an employee’s network have) within 90 days. This is important because employees who grow their internal network feel that they belong and may stay at the company longer.

Second, they had higher-quality meetings. Higher-quality meetings have fewer declines, fewer layers of management in attendance, fewer attendees who send emails during the meetings and fewer attendees in total.

Third, they spent nearly three times as much time collaborating with their team as those who did not have a one-on-one.

These and other insights are helping us shine a spotlight on the employee experience and guide us as we adjust to make our employees’ experiences even better. We are also experimenting with other ways to improve our orientation processes, with a focus on the new employees’ network — particularly when the manager works in a different location.

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to this: Don’t underestimate the power of having a one-on-one during a person’s first week. That sounds obvious, but it could be the most important connection for the new employee to make.