The Workplace

The 3 reasons your new hires keep leaving—and how to retain them

Part three in a series of the seven conversations all managers should have with their employees

By Jackie Kimmell, Senior Analyst 

You've finally done it: You've hired the perfect person for a job. You conducted a thorough, evidence-backed behavioral interview to find the right candidate. You welcomed your new hire to the fold with a first-week check-in. And then, six months later, your dream candidate hands in their resignation letter.

What went wrong?

This nightmare scenario is all too common: Of all turnover at health care organizations, about 30% happens among employees with less than one year of tenure.

According to Kate Vonderhaar of Advisory Board's HR Advancement Center, there are three main reasons why new hires leave hospitals and health systems within their first year of employment:

  1. They don't feel a strong connection to their peers;
  2. They don't feel a strong connection to their manager; or
  3. They think they're underperforming.

The good news is that there are straightforward ways to address these common concerns. Here are three key questions to ask your new hire in their first months on the job—and suggestions for who should be asking them at each stage of an employee's tenure. "Checking in with new hires at 30, 60, and 90 days of a new hire’s tenure is a very well-known best practice. Having the right questions makes the conversations more valuable—and more likely to happen, since managers will know what to discuss," says Vonderhaar.

For the full set of recommended questions, read our manager's guide to new hire onboarding.

The 3 key questions to ask your new hires

  1. "Which coworkers have been especially helpful to you?"

    Often, new hires run into colleagues who—despite the best of intentions--feel too busy and stressed to proactively lend a hand to someone new, Vonderhaar points out. Not surprisingly, your new hire may take this as a sign that the entire culture is unfriendly or unwelcoming. 

    How can you surface this? Ask who your new hire has interacted with and who has been helpful. If the new hire can't name several helpful colleagues, take a few minutes to walk him or her around and make introductions to key colleagues. You also might consider assigning a peer mentor who can help show them the ropes and connect them to more peers.

  2. "Has this job met your expectations? Do you have any concerns about your job that I could address?"

    Pay particular attention to any differences between what the new hire expected the job to entail and its reality. Unmet expectations—even if they were unrealistic in the first place—could signal a retention risk, as could a large number of concerns about the role or a general sense of dissatisfaction or anxiety.

    "If you realize their frustration is related to fundamental aspects of the job itself, it's an early warning sign that this is someone you want to keep an extra eye on," Vonderhaar says. "They may not end up being a good long-term fit for the role."

    On the other hand, Vonderhaar notes, your new hire may express solvable concerns that give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. Serve as your new hire's advocate, and address issues quickly where possible.

    The information gleaned by these questions can also help you improve your hiring process. If you find that many new hires' perceptions were out of step with reality, "that might be something you want to bring up more proactively in the hiring process so that people aren't quite so surprised next time," Vonderhaar says.

  3. "Tell me about some of your successes so far."

    Give your new hire a chance to talk about what's gone well so far. This is also a great opportunity for you to share any observations you have about what the new hire has done well, or picked up quickly.

    It's important to talk explicitly about how the new hire is (or isn't) tracking against what you would expect for someone in their shoes. If your new hire isn't sure how she is performing, she may make wrong assumptions—for example, feeling like she's failing because she's receiving so much feedback (when, in reality, you think she's pacing exactly as she should for a new hire learning a complex new role).

    To pinpoint any such gaps in perception between managers and employees, use Advisory Board's New Hire Cross-Check Tool. The tool asks new hires and their supervisors to share their perceptions about the new hire’s performance. HR leaders can review the results to pinpoint pairs of supervisors and new hires whose perceptions don't match and flag them for further help.

When to ask the 3 key questions (and who should ask them)

Asking these questions once isn't enough. Vonderhaar recommends holding three separate check-ins with new hires after 30, 60, and 90 days. This allows you to see changes in the new hire's perception over time—"Ideally, at each successive check in, they're becoming more competent and confident and you're hearing more about successes instead of just challenges."

“Ideally, at each successive check in, they're becoming more competent and confident and you're hearing more about successes instead of just challenges.”

Direct managers can host all three check-ins, or use a 30-60-90 day structure to allow different levels of management to be involved at each stage:

  1. After 30 days: "30 days in, the new hire should have a pretty good sense of the culture of the organization, the culture of the team and how they are being received by others," Vonderhaar says, "This is a great opportunity to see how things are going." She recommends that the new hire's direct manager conduct this first check-in, to allow them to really dig in to the new hire's perception of the job, any challenges they've faced, and any obvious retention risks.

  2. After 60 days: This is a good time to have the new hire meet with a director. The director, being slightly removed from the new hire's day-to-day, can detect broader themes among all new hires and guide the direct manager in how to better acculturate new people to the department. It also provides accountability to make sure the 30 day check-in happens.

  3. After 90 days: After 90 days, consider having your new hire meet with senior leadership. Usually, according to Vonderhaar, organizations will group several hires for such check-ins. This allows new hires early exposure to senior leadership, can help the senior leader provide context to new people about where the organization is heading, and helps leadership see the "view from the ground."

To get suggestions for eight other questions you should ask all new hires in their 30, 60 and 90-day check-ins—and the signals of a possible retention risk for each—be sure to download our Manager's Guide to New Hire Onboarding, which includes an editable discussion guide to jump-start meaningful conversations with new hires.

Download the Guide

Watch for next week's edition in this series to learn why regular recognition for employees is important—and the best ways for managers to build it into their daily routine.

Missed our guides to the first two conversations? Read them now.

Next, read our how-to guides for being a better manager

You can't succeed without a qualified and motivated staff. Download our "Manager's Guide" series to learn best practices for conducting interviews, onboarding new hires, and conducting performance reviews.

  • The Manager's Guide to Engaging Staff
  • The Manager's Guide to Behavioral-Based Interviewing
  • The Manager's Guide to New Hire Onboarding
  • The Manager's Guide to Accurate Evaluations