The first 100 days, how to make (or break) a new hire
Jun 5, 2024
The first 100 days, how to make (or break) a new hire
Jun 5, 2024

  The first 100 days, how to make (or break) a new hire

by Grace Lewis


You’ve spent the past two months sourcing and interviewing suitable candidates, shelled out on average £1,500 in in-house resourcing time, advertising costs, agency or search fees, and you’ve finally bagged yourself a new hire, who on the surface seems eager and willing to hit the ground running come their start date. But, says Jamie Kohn, senior research director in the human resources practice at Gartner, “just because they said yes, doesn’t mean they’re not still interviewing you as a company. They’re still going to get phone calls from other companies in this period and they may start to wonder, did I make the right choice? If you have two, three or four weeks between saying yes and starting the job, there’s a lot of room for doubt to creep in.”

That is also true of Dan Kaplan’s experience as senior client partner for Korn Ferry’s CHRO practice: “Some companies have noticed that some new starters won’t update their LinkedIn profile for the first month just in case,” he says. “It means that the person is still quietly listening.”

That’s certainly the picture the stats present. According to Gartner research from 2022, 44 per cent of candidates have accepted an offer but then decided not to start the position, and the Work Institute’s 2019 retention report suggests as many as 43 per cent of new employees leave organisations within the first 90 days of starting.

Job acceptance

It’s clear then that first – and lasting – impressions count for any organisation, and that’s why the period from acceptance to official start date is vital to start the process of building engagement and trust with a new employee. Gallup analysis suggests that actively disengaged employees are 2.6 times as likely as engaged employees to be watching for or actively seeking a new job. 

Kaplan says there has been a “fraying of the relationship between employer and employee” in recent years, while Gartner analysis shows that just 54 per cent of candidates trust organisations to be honest with them during the hiring process. Successful onboarding becomes about “making sure [new starters] feel really committed to the culture” from the get go.

It can begin with a simple introduction to the company email from HR, Savhannah Deans, founder of Women in Learning & Development and author of People Development in a Week, says. As well as the general need-to-know information – start time, dress code, who will be meeting them on their first day – give the new employee a glimpse into what the organisation is like from the inside, she advises:  “That tends to be in the form of literature, blogs or a video induction like a vlog from the CEO.” Deans says it is nothing too hard, but starts the engagement process early doors.

Laura Ibbotson, people and culture manager for EMEA at health technology company Magentus, says in its revamped onboarding process the company now sends an email “before the new employee starts with us, confirming things like address to our sites, lunch options, dress code and start time on their first day. We also include a map to the building with photos and info.

“We also call our new employees before they start with us to check if they need anything or have any questions.”

These check-in calls before the person’s official start date are growing in interest, especially for those companies using virtual or hybrid onboarding techniques. As Kohn describes it, some companies are investing in an almost “concierge position” whereby someone will call the new starter the week before to run through the technology, check the email connectivity, try a test Zoom call, etc. “It can relieve some of the anxiety that people have,” Kohn says.

Equipping managers

The manager’s role also becomes critical at this point. “It’s like everything else in HR: there’s very little that HR should do themselves. What HR should do is bring out the ideas and then provide the tools for [others] to execute,” Kaplan explains.

“Managers have so many responsibilities, and we know the vast majority of them are not trained,” says Daisy Hooper, head of policy and innovation at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), so onboarding is as much about preparing managers as it is supporting new starters. This could be in the form of a checklist or standardised templates for managers to follow. Bosses at Ciphr now have access to “everything they need – recruitment templates, libraries of FAQs and how-tos” – after the software company transformed its onboarding process. Lucy O’Callaghan, people experience manager, explains that the L&D team also designed a bespoke onboarding training platform that is mandatory for every manager to undergo, and they now have a dedicated onboarding person in the people team to monitor the first 12 months of new starters’ roles.

Hooper says managers are “absolutely central to employee engagement and satisfaction and productivity” and, more often than not, are the main point of contact for a new starter. According to CMI research, just a quarter (27 per cent) of workers describe their manager as ‘highly effective’ and, of those who rate their manager as ‘ineffective’, half (50 per cent) plan to leave their company in the next year.

“One of the most helpful roles the HR team can play is around creating standardised processes that they update in line with best practice, because then at least the managers have a framework to work from,” says Kohn. She explains that this helps to create a consistent approach, so that every new starter is given the same messaging and equally HR is supporting managers in a consistent way. “For scalability, most onboarding – at least in terms of the items on the checklist – will be the same,” says Kohn. “Where you get the tailored experience is in helping managers to have these conversations in a way that connects more with the employee in their specific needs and role or duties.”

Some businesses have already cottoned on to this technique. When researchers from London, Harvard and Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler business schools analysed different organisations’ onboarding processes, they found that shaping onboarding processes around individual identity, via the process of ‘personal-identity socialisation’, increased work engagement and job satisfaction, led to lower quit rates and resulted in greater levels of performance. They used examples such as “a consultant with artistic talents [who] could design eye-catching templates for presentations and develop more powerful ways to present data. [Or] a salesperson who enjoys teaching others might share that enthusiasm with new hires, becoming a mentor.” 

One of the most common ways organisations fall down during the onboarding process according to Kohn is by overwhelming new employees with “floods of information” early in the process. Instead, “where we’ve seen organisations be successful is by saying: ‘What’s the bare minimum that you need to know? Let’s start out with something that will make you feel successful,’” she says. Deans echoes this, stressing that “there’s no rush to be competent”.

L&D offering and building networks

The first few days should cover a facility tour, including an explanation of technology and systems, introduction to the team, one-to-one chats with the manager and basic mandatory training, says Deans, but this is also an opportunity to show new starters the development opportunities on offer – or at least where to go for that information. Lucy Shutt-Vine, head of talent development at Captify Technologies, explains: “Our L&D team puts content on the LMS platform around getting to know your leadership team, the heads of department and the ecosystem of the business, as well as team introductions. We have that ready for somebody to access from their first day.”

Captify also offers new starters group training to initiate those early networking opportunities. “We find that when new starters learn and network together, there’s a sense of ‘we’re in it together’. They can ask each other these questions, if they feel silly asking other people,” Shutt-Vine says.

Kaplan stresses HR’s role in helping to forge personal connections. The first few weeks are a great time to “give the person the early stages of developing the internal support network”, he says. “Make sure that their peers are able to take them out for lunch; do things that build community and get the person tethered in. Ultimately, people stay [with an organisation] because they have relationships in an environment that inspires them to get up in the morning, get dressed and go to work.”

And while the compliance side of onboarding obviously doesn’t go away, says Kohn, HR is really the central hub for identifying the right connection points and ensuring that those connections happen: “That’s what we’ve seen HR functions take on more directly, because they have that broader view into the organisation. They are responsible for building that connection marketplace as a way of matching people based not on the direct work they’re doing every day, but maybe on some aspect of their background.”

Ibbotson says her team is now looking at introducing a buddy system to help better integrate new starters into the company. In Kohn’s experience, onboarding buddies tend to come in two forms: a peer in your team who has either done your role before or is someone you will be working closely with to help with day-to-day aspects of your work. “Whereas a wider organisation buddy may help you build a broader view of what success looks like at the company,” Kohn explains.

An employee’s first month with a company is a milestone for both them and the organisation. They would in the most part have completed the compliance training, so this is when L&D becomes more role specific, according to Deans: “This is probably when you need to start discussing metrics and what they look like as well. What are your KPIs? What are the objectives of the business? And where do you fit in that? I’d say that’s where the learning starts to become more than surface level.”

Deans also uses the first month mark as a review point, sending out an induction questionnaire to see how the new starters are settling in and if there are any areas that need improvement. Similarly, at Ciphr the people team uses a review system for new employees. “Every month, we monitor it to make sure managers are having sit-down conversations with new starters, and to identify any pain points,” O’Callaghan explains. “This way we can nip any issues in the bud as soon as possible if we notice any problems, because sometimes it’s just teething problems that can be resolved just from communication.”

Kaplan says that, for the most part, recruiting and onboarding new starters is a “sales process” and it’s important for companies to keep momentum going and “keep the promises they made during recruitment”.

The petering out of those initial onboarding initiatives, and disillusionment with the realities of a role, are common downfalls for organisations – just 59 per cent of new hires in Gartner’s 2022 candidate survey said they would repeat their decision to join their organisation, compared to 83 per cent in 2021. For the new employee at the two to three-month mark, the orientation honeymoon period is over, the excitement has worn off; they aren’t quite into the daily rhythm of the company, but are not totally new – so what’s next?

Kohn says this is where HR – and primarily managers – can use those connection points and networks “to check in with people about their role, how they are feeling, what they have learned, what they are looking forward to next. We think of them as early performance conversations, but they are really early career conversations and are critical to helping people to think not just about the next couple of months, but about the next few years.”

Again, HR’s role at this point is overseeing and prompting these check-ins, especially if early feedback and monitoring has thrown up any issues but, as Deans puts it, ultimately “let managers be managers. I would normally do my check-ins with managers, rather than the new starter directly.” Kaplan agrees, saying that it’s “not practical” for HR to be involved in every new starter’s every step of the onboarding journey – as much as many people professionals would love to be.

Shutt-Vine says that, from an L&D point of view, at Captify they “train the managers to be empowered; to help create a 30-60-90-day plan for the new starters so that they have goals that they can be measured on, and that they know they are progressing at the rate that we need them to”.

After the first three months, many new starters would have completed their probation period and have undergone an official review, which can then inform the next stage of career development, according to Deans. Crucially, learning should no longer be spoon fed as it perhaps was previously, she adds: “New starters should take the lead, so it becomes a more CPD-led approach.” This also doesn’t mean the input from HR and L&D ends here, says Hooper. “Onboarding should absolutely not be a ‘one and done’ thing. It shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise. You’ve spent a lot of time and money recruiting this person – you want them to succeed in the role and to get the best out of them. It’s in your interest to support them into the organisation. But it’s not like after 100 days suddenly they don’t need any more support,” she says.

Kohn emphasises the importance of regular reminders for new starters about the benefits on offer, the wellbeing initiatives and the “periodic reminders of the broader employee value proposition”. And later, as new starters approach their one-year anniversary, HR and managers can prepare them for their annual appraisal: ask them to start reflecting on their achievements to date and where they would like to develop further. Deans adds: “Once we know that someone is committed within the first 12 months, once we can see that there is a continuous climb, that’s when the more structured succession planning starts to be implemented. There’s much more of a greater focus on not just making someone competent, but making them excel.”

For Kaplan, the “missing piece” in most failed onboarding processes is the long-term mindset. Rather than striving to get an employee past their first day, first month, first quarter, “companies should be thinking: how do we successfully get them to day 365? You’re there to get them to succeed long term,” he says, and, with that in mind, the rewards will be reaped tenfold.





We’d love to discuss your HR recruitment needs and help you find your next superstar.  Please call us on 0207 788 6600 or email us at and one of our consultants will be happy to advise you. You can also follow us on Facebook.


Related Articles