Report: "Onboarding" helps retain employees

A process called “onboarding” is one of the best ways for federal agencies to retain new employees once they start work, according to a new report from the Partnership for Public and Booz Allen Hamilton.

In “Getting on Board: A Model for Integrating and Engaging New Employees,” issued May 13, researchers concluded that successfully integrating new employees into the workplace, or onboarding, during their first year increases retention by up to 25 percent.

“What agencies do or don’t do has a large impact on a new worker’s view of government service,” said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service. “And ultimately that will impact how effective agencies are at getting the job done.”

First impressions have effects; 90 percent of new employees decide in the first six months on the job whether they will stay or go, according to the study. It cites one case of unsuccessful onboarding in which a federal employee spent his first day at work counting the change left in his desk drawer because he had no computer and nothing to do.

The researchers found there is no consistent approach to onboarding in the federal government and that when onboarding initiatives are deployed, they often lack focus on the agency’s mission, vision and culture.

The study recommended that agencies implement a four-part onboarding model to help new employees.



  • Defining principles to ensure the onboarding process is aligned to an agency's mission.



  • Identifying specific onboarding roles for agency personnel and new employees.



  • Implementing specific phases and activities to integrate new employees.



  • Measuring and reporting on onboarding outcomes.



Researchers developed the model from best practices in the private sector and lessons learned from focus groups with federal employees and interviews with agency managers.

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