Employee Engagement

90 Day-Rule: The Magic Window For Employee Retention

The current labor market appears to be the tightest it has been in decades, which is making it more difficult for businesses to recruit and retain qualified employees. Companies are reevaluating traditional retention policies to keep pace with the evolving needs of the new workforce. 

The 90-day rule is one indicator of long-term employment that is gaining traction among HR professionals. The theory is that if a new employee stays for at least three months, they are far more likely to remain with the company for at least their first year. Three months is usually enough time for employees to settle into a new job, develop a consistent routine, and establish relationships with new coworkers.

The 90-day rule: If a new employee stays for at least three months, they are far more likely to remain with the company for at least their first year.

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal explores the practical application of the 90-day concept by interviewing a variety of companies that are experimenting with new strategies to reduce so-called “quick quits.” A few of the more creative ideas include: 

  • Dedicated onboarding coordinator: In the first three months of the year, Aerospace manufacturing company TAT Limco lost one of every 45 employees it hired. After hiring an onboarding coordinator to oversee every new employee’s entry into the company, turnover shrank by 21% over a 7-month period.
  • Buddy system: Waste Management Inc. found that a “buddy system” was particularly effective in keeping new staffers as they learned their roles. The trash and recycling hauler pairs new hires with more experienced staffers to guide them through the onboarding period.
  • Financial incentives: CVS and some franchises for McDonald’s and Wendy’s have opted for financial incentives, advertising bonuses of up to $1,000 for workers who stay on the job for three months.

Although we can learn from each of these examples, companies need to develop personalized retention strategies for each organization’s unique culture to consistently get new hires to exceed that 90-day mark.

How To Get New Hires Past 90-Day Threshold

If the primary goal is to retain employees for at least the first 90 days, policies need to deliberately address the most common challenges that workers face during the hiring and onboarding periods: 

  1. Clarify job expectations immediately. When hiring, paint a precise and accurate picture of the position. Be descriptive about the unique company culture, job responsibilities, work environment, and any career development opportunities. A realistic description will encourage strong participation in the job from the start and reduce the potential for surprise or suspicion if expectations are not realized.
  2. Support and amplify employee voices. Encourage your new staff to express their problems, thoughts, and suggestions for change by engaging them in open conversations. Make modifications based on their feedback and foster a climate that encourages employee participation. Employee voice-supporting organizations are more likely to retain talent and inspire actions that enhance overall company performance and job satisfaction.
  3. Plan weekly 1on1 chats. Talk to new hires frequently. A regularly scheduled check-in enables private engagement to improve relationships, define expectations, and exchange feedback. Talk about what is working and what is not; if small issues are ignored, they can fester and grow into larger ones if left unattended. The needs of a worker with only 30 days’ experience can be quite different from those of a worker with several months on the job.
  4. Lead by example. Give instructions to others through actions as well as words. A best practice is to influence others to imitate your behavior. Modern workers expect managers to act in accordance with their words and pick up on inconsistencies and contradictions in leaders quickly. Being a genuine and authentic leader is all about aligning behaviors with values.
  5. Acknowledge employee skills and achievements. Inform new hires that their hard work is appreciated. Recognize specific contributions that are valued. Spend some time writing a thank-you note to demonstrate appreciation. Many times, people feel happier and more supported when they receive genuine recognition for their work.

Implementing one or all of these policies can positively impact your new hire experience, extend employee retention, and improve your organization’s culture. 

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