Frontline staff turnover is a serious challenge in many industries. Companies dealing with the issue often struggle to find a realistic solution.

Picture yourself in this scenario:

Armed with a credit card, you walk into a store determined to make a much-needed purchase. You have already narrowed it down to two options. But you’d like help from a store employee to make your final decision.

After a few minutes of walking around, you spot a frazzled-looking woman wearing the company logo. When you approach and explain to her what you need, she immediately shakes her head and turns away. “Sorry, I’m new here. You’ll have to find someone else.”

After several more minutes of searching, you are beginning to grow frustrated. Where is everyone?

Finally, you are able to flag down a tired-looking young man. You begin to describe your dilemma but are taken aback when the employee interrupts you with a frown and a brusque, “I really don’t have time for this. You can find that stuff yourself on the second floor,” before hurrying away.

How likely do you think this customer is to return to the same store next time he is planning a major purchase?

How will this single experience change his entire view of the company?

This disaster scenario is only one of many real consequences of high frontline staff turnover. First of all, continuously hiring and training new frontline employees gets expensive fast.

But perhaps more importantly, frontline staff turnover can have an enormous impact on the customer experience. Despite the fact that many frontline employees hold entry-level positions, it is important not to forget that they often serve as the face of the company for your clients. In other organizations, they play a key role in executing important processes. Competent, high-performing frontline employees bring a huge amount of value to an organization.

“I already know all of that,” you might be saying.

But do your employees themselves know how important they are? Do they identify strongly with the mission and values of your company? Do they have a strong understanding of how their role fits into the larger framework of your organization? This is where an onboarding program comes in. The onboarding process is your opportunity to directly influence the way that employees view and identify with your organization.

Defining a Successful Onboarding Program

Each onboarding program has a unique set of characteristics and goals. But they should always have a strong focus on addressing key factors that increase employee retention. Here are four ways that a successful onboarding program can reduce staff turnover.

1.    Higher organizational identification

One of the best predictors of employee commitment is how much employees identify with the values and goals of their organization.

Think of sports fans who identify strongly with their favorite team. Their identity as a part of the team’s community becomes a source of pride and self-esteem. Likewise, employees high in organizational identification are able to take pride in their role within the company.

When you view your role in an organization as a positive part of your identity, you are far less likely to leave your job. Organizations who put effort into helping their employees identify with the overall values and mission of the company experience less turnover.

reduce staff turnover

For a concrete example of how onboarding training can promote organizational identification, consider the new hire training curriculum that we created with The Mosaic Company. We were faced with the problem of how to turn 40 hours of required instructor-led training into a real learning opportunity.

By looking at the big picture, we were able to transform the compliance training into a holistic onboarding experience. Employees leave the program with a real understanding of how the work they do fits into the larger context of the organization. So the result is better performance and higher identification with the mission and values of Mosaic.

When frontline staff understand how the work they do fits into the larger context of the organization they are part of, they are able to find more meaning and motivation in their work.

2.    Greater self-efficacy and empowerment

When front-line employees feel confident in their ability to do their job well, the result is better performance. They are more likely to persevere even when a task becomes challenging and requires autonomy.

On the other hand, when front-line staff feel overwhelmed by the expectations of their job, they are more likely to give up on tasks and even have higher turnover intent.

Onboarding training can increase employees’ self-efficacy by providing them with both the knowledge and the practice that is needed to successfully perform the tasks of the position. Training can give employees the opportunity to engage in active practice. A good onboarding program will be interactive and offer a safe space to learn by doing.

Empowered employees who have the knowledge and skills to perform their job somewhat autonomously are more likely to feel engaged in their organization and have lower turnover intent.

3.    Encourage employee goal-setting

Onboarding programs offer an invaluable platform for employee goal-setting. Realistic goals can help new frontline employees understand how they will have the opportunity to grow and improve in their role.

When done correctly, guided employee goal-setting can send a message to front-line staff that the organization is invested in their development and values their effort. The more concrete and achievable the goals are, the more effective they are.

One powerful way to motivate employees with goal-setting is to develop a credential or certification program. Employees who are introduced to the program during the onboarding process will gain a clear vision of their value to the organization.

reduce staff turnover

This was what we had in mind during our collaboration with the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE). We helped bring AHE’s vision of providing a credential that helps environmental services technicians feel valued and appreciated to life. The result was the Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technician (CHEST) program.

The CHEST certification model creates a career development opportunity that has a powerful impact on new employees. The certification sends a clear message to both EVS technicians and the individuals they work with that EVS technicians are valuable members of the hospital staff.

Newly hired EVS technicians who are trained by a fellow staff member will immediately learn that there is room for growth and advancement in their healthcare organization. They feel respected and empowered by the CHEST certification because it changes the way they are viewed by their fellow professionals.

Employees who perceive that their organization is committed to providing them with career development opportunities will be more motivated to do well. Furthermore, they’ll be more inclined to stay with the company if they feel they are making progress in the field and gaining valuable skills.

4.    Decrease onboarding stress

We all know that starting a new job can be stressful. The onboarding process itself is often a source of anxiety. New employees may find themselves far from home. They may be surrounded by unfamiliar faces as they go through a time-consuming training program.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by information overload. This is especially true when employees have trouble connecting the information to the practical applications in their job. Frontline employees in particular often need to be trained to perform high-demand tasks within a short period of time. These are the exact conditions that can lead to high stress for employees.

High-stress jobs are associated with lower job satisfaction and higher staff turnover. Employee stress is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when your company is struggling with high turnover.

When designed correctly, an onboarding program can make a big difference in an employee’s ability to manage stress on the job. It makes staff feel that they are part of a supportive community. Employees who feel that they have social support within their organization are less likely to feel overwhelmed by job stressors. This, in turn, leads to better resilience and higher job satisfaction, both of which are factors in frontline staff turnover.

The Bottom-Line

It may be obvious why frontline staff perform a critical role in your company and is essential to achieving company objectives. But you can’t assume that employees automatically understand this larger context. At the end of a successful onboarding program, frontline employees should have the knowledge and skills they need to quickly become productive. They should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. How do I fit into the context of this organization?
  2. Why does my role matter?
  3. How can I personally make a difference in this role?
  4. What future can I see for myself with this organization?