What Microsoft Learned About Onboarding from Analyzing Its New Hires’ Experience

What Microsoft Learned About Onboarding from Analyzing Its New Hires’ Experience

Effective onboarding often makes the difference between a successful hire and an early quit. To better understand the causes of attrition among recently hired employees, Microsoft created a survey that was given to new employees after their first week and again after 90 days to find out about their experiences and first impressions of the company. The tech giant’s workplace analytics team also compared anonymous calendar and email metadata with engagement survey data from around 3,000 new hires.

At the Harvard Business Review last week, Dawn Klinghoffer, Candice Young, and Xue Liu revealed what this investigation uncovered and how it shaped Microsoft’s decisions about how to improve new hires’ experience. One thing the survey revealed was that having a working computer and access to the building, email, and intranet on day one was important for new hires to be productive and engaged from the very beginning, making an important first impression that colored their overall experience. Their more complex analysis produced another insight: New employees who had a one-on-one meeting with their manager in week one were more successful than those who didn’t:

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. For example, employees who engage internally intend to stay at a rate that’s 8% higher on our intent-to-stay measure. They also report a stronger sense of belonging on their team while maintaining their authentic self.

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, and they tend to be shorter, too (one hour or less). Third, they spent nearly three times as much time collaborating with their team as those who did not have a one-on-one.

Microsoft’s findings resonate with what we have learned about onboarding in our research at CEB, now Gartner. Effective onboarding can increase an employee’s performance by up to 15 percent. In particular, frequent meetings, effective conversations, and early informal reviews with their managers can dramatically improve new hires’ performance and enterprise contribution. Like Microsoft, we also find that helping new hires make connections within the organization early on is critical: It’s worthwhile for hiring managers to think proactively about the network of direct and indirect relationship a new team member will need to work effectively with their team and within the broader organization.

CEB Learning and Development Leadership Council members can review last year’s power session on how to accelerate performance through onboarding, check out our latest insights about onboarding in the digital era, and access a range of other resources at our onboarding content hub.