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4 questions to ask to engage your new hires (and keep them)



Onboarding new hires is an often-missed opportunity for crucial early employee engagement.

That’s according to Tina Schust Robinson, founder of training and coaching company WorkJoy.

During a presentation at the 2023 BambooHR Virtual Conference, she said that it’s worth it to invest the effort in engagement, even in the earliest days of someone’s employment, because:

  • new hires who have a positive onboarding experience are three times as likely to feel a strong commitment to their employer, increasing the odds of retention
  • it costs up to 40% of an employee’s base salary to hire a new employee with benefits
  • it takes 36-42 days to fill the average position and then another three to nine months for a new hire to become fully productive
  • two-thirds of U.S. employees are disengaged, and
  • 51% of workers are either actively or casually looking for a new job.

In addition, she said, a survey of 1,052 workers by BambooHR in 2018 – before the Great Resignation – revealed some alarming stats:

  • 31% of workers reported quitting a job within the first six months
  • 20% quit during their first month, and
  • 17% left after their first week.

“These numbers could be influenced by our not-so-great onboarding,” Robinson said. She highlighted four questions to ask, and revisit, in order to align a new hire’s human needs with what you need from them as an employer.

4 questions to ask new hires and why

In these questions, “work” and “we” can mean the team, the company, their leaders, etc. “Work” can also refer to the specific role.

Question 1: What do you need from work to be at your best? The purpose of the question is aligning expectations and listening for potential disengagement warning signs.

Question 2: How can we optimize your strengths, skills and experience? The purpose of the question is listening for requests for development and opportunities to grow.

Question 3: How do you define the purpose of your job? This is where you find out what motivates them and how they feel they can fulfill the organization’s vision.

Question 4: What part of work excites you the most? “We, as new hires, start new jobs excited about what might happen and what could be. That motivation is lightning in a bottle. Listen for it and extend it by weaving it into your conversations,” Robinson said.

Also, be sure to ask “what else?” follow-up questions, she said. For example, when asking, “How do you define the purpose of your job?” it’s insightful to find out how that purpose aligns with the new hire’s personal purpose.

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