10 Questions to Ask New Hires In Your Employee Onboarding Surveys

Want to know how your new hires feel about employee onboarding? Here are 10 science-backed employee survey questions to help you improve your onboarding process.

What would you do if you found out your company was burning money?

You walk in one morning, coffee in hand, and find a report sitting on your desk where you learned that your company withdrew tens of thousands of dollars in cash and burned it in a courtyard bonfire on a quarterly basis?

As a literal example, this may sound ludicrous but figuratively, it happens in almost every company.

Companies have built impressive recruitment machines for finding, interviewing, and hiring great talent.

This is especially true in tech companies where the competition for talent is fierce.

But an alarming thing happens once these candidates enter the workforce. They’re largely forgotten.

It’s expected that they’ll easily find their footing without any guidance from the company.

Gone are the days of corporate training. Today’s motto is to throw the newbies in the deep end and let them figure it out.

Well, if the goal is to hire great people and keep them over the long run, this method isn’t working out so well.

Half of employees quit an organization within the first three months of joining. That’s a shame considering the cost of replacing an employee.

Some experts say it costs about 33% of an employee’s annual salary to replace them while others put the number at 100% to 300% of their salary.

Why do so many employees quit so soon? One major cause is a poor onboarding process. An onboarding process consists of:

  • introducing a new employee to the organization and their team
  • integrating them into the company culture and dynamics
  • giving them a clear understanding of what’s expected of them in the first few months
  • giving them the tools and information they need to hit the ground running

Often, companies think an orientation process is an onboarding process. An orientation process gathers employees in a central location on the first day, gives them a computer, and hands over a few HR forms. This usually takes a day, if not half a day.

On the other hand, an onboarding process can take up to a year. Employees have a seamless transition into their role and they’re given the guidance they need on everything from setting up their IT to setting their goals and objectives.

When employees join a new company, they’re entering the unknown. Any source of friction – not having the right IT set up to not knowing who the key people on their team are – can make them nostalgic about their old, familiar work environment and more likely to return.

Losing 50% of employees to anything is unacceptable. So how do you prevent your company from becoming a victim to this statistic?

You can start by identifying whether you have an onboarding problem and then drilling deeper to find the sources of your onboarding problem using an onboarding survey.

Here are 10 questions you can ask to assess the quality of your company’s onboarding experience.

Questions about job expectations

Questions about training

Questions about commitment

General questions on onboarding

Questions about job expectations

My role so far matches the role description provided to me.

Talent acquisition teams are fighting a full-blown talent war. It’s tempting to try and lure in candidates with pumped up job descriptions and colourful pictures of what their job will entail.

These may seem like harmless marketing tactics in the short-term, but in the long-term, they can feel like a bait-and-switch for candidates.

For instance, telling a candidate they’ll be working on creative or strategic roles only to give them purely administrative tasks when they arrive is a recipe for quick turnover.

And this unpleasant experience can have further ramifications on your recruitment experience.

These candidates are more likely to share their experience with others, either through one-to-one conversations or on social media.

Pose this survey question to determine whether your company is doing a good job of explaining what a role entails.

This will save you the time and expense of recruiting and onboarding people who will quickly quit once they realize the job doesn’t meet their expectations.

A job “bait-and-switch” can be:

  • telling a candidate they’ll play an active role in contributing to projects strategically and creatively only to give them a mainly administrative or project management role
  • adding additional job duties that weren’t included in the job description such as scheduling and inventory management
  • changing the candidate’s entire role soon after they’re hired

Should employees be flexible and adaptable? Absolutely.

At the same time, changing the job requirements soon after they’re hired gives a bad impression.

It implies that your company is either dishonest or disorganized, and neither is the kind of company employees want to attach themselves to over the long term.

I’m satisfied with my job’s level of challenge.

New employees will be hyper-aware of their job duties.

Since they have a recent job to compare it to, they will be constantly assessing how interesting the work is, whether it’s too challenging, or whether it’s challenging enough.

Of course, no two jobs are the same, and new employees will undergo an adjustment period. This question helps you collect data on whether you’re doing well, for the most part, or if your organization needs to re-assess how it structures roles.

If people strongly disagree with this statement, this is an opportunity to dig deeper in future pulse surveys.

The first option is that the role is too challenging. Your follow-up surveys will help you determine whether:

  • it’s more challenging than they expected the role to be
  • they have enough support, in terms of management and resources, to do their work

If it’s more challenging than they expected the role to be, there are a couple of possible causes:

  • their skill level and experience were not properly evaluated during the hiring process
  • the advertised job description does not match the work they’re currently doing

If they report that they don’t have enough support, then there’s an opportunity to take a closer look at whether too many responsibilities have been consolidated into a single role for one person.

It’s also an opportunity to look for better tools to support that employee’s work.

I feel like this is a great role for me.

At first, this may sound like a shallow question. Work is work, after all. So long as employees are paid, treated well, and have the tools they need, how much does it matter how they feel about the role?

It matters quite a lot. Today’s employees seek jobs with meaning. Work is no longer simply a way to earn a paycheque. Employees want to take pride in what they do and how they do it.

This is especially true for in-demand candidates who are well compensated and have the luxury of choice.

In fact, 9 out of 10 people are willing to make less money in order to do more meaningful work.

This makes sense when you consider that after a certain point (around $105,000 a year) money doesn’t buy much more happiness, so other elements like family, community, and of course, purpose, become more important.

So what does this mean for employers? It means that they need to clearly articulate the company’s mission, vision, and values.

They also need to link individual roles to the company’s larger business goals and purpose. This way, employees can understand why what they do matters and why they occupy a great role.

Linking individual roles to a larger purpose takes work. It takes more than making grand speeches or sending out lengthy emails. The most effective ways to instill a sense of purpose into employees are:

  • Making it personal and emotions-driven: How does the work your employees do impact the lives of others? Will the code they write make it easier for people to access mental health care professionals and get the help they need when they need it? Does your app make it easier for small business owners to expand into e-commerce? Communicate this through different channels.
  • Making it authentic: Your employees are smart. They’ll see whether your actions support your words. If you pump up your purpose in your communications, but fail to mention it in your weekly meetings or quarterly reviews, these grand statements about helping others will sound hollow.
  • Making it perpetual: Consistent action over time builds trust. If you routinely demonstrate your company’s commitment to fulfilling its purpose, whether that’s through sharing customer stories or rewarding employees whose efforts align with the mission, your employees will believe it’s real and not just a temporary PR exercise.

Questions about training

I am provided the information I need to do my job well.

Today’s employers expect employees to learn by doing.

This is good in some instances, but it can be unhelpful when everything is brand new and employees don’t have any context.

Nothing is more frustrating than knowing you could do a good job, if you were simply given the tools and information to do so.

In companies where there isn’t documented information, formal training, or a smooth onboarding process, new employees rely on the luck of the draw.

They either wind up with a hands-on and invested manager who shares their knowledge and gives them the guidance they need.

Or they wind up with a manager who’s too busy or too disinterested to provide the necessary direction.

Identifying that you have a problem in this area can be challenging, since new employees may not feel comfortable speaking up to say they need help. They may simply leave the company.

But this is a problem that can have negative ramifications both on your turnover and on your long-term growth.

Limited information sharing impacts your turnover for obvious reasons. Employees feel frustrated or they underperform due to lack of training and they choose to leave, costing your money – both in terms of the cost to recruit them and the cost to replace them.

This also impacts your long-term growth. Relying on a few superstar managers to effectively share information is unsustainable.

These individuals may leave or not have the bandwidth to support everyone.

As a result, new employees don’t receive the context and information they need to thrive, limiting their ability to hit the ground running.

Companies can solve this problem by:

  • taking documentation seriously and creating training guides with step-by-step instructions for common processes
  • recording all calls and meetings and saving them in an easily accessible, organized library that new employees can browse to get up to speed on a particular project

I have a good idea about what I still need to learn to perform even better.

Set clear expectations for your new hires from the start. The first few weeks at a new job are full of uncertainty. Without a clear understanding of your expectations, it’s easy to feel self-conscious or uncertain about your contributions.

Without clear goals, your employees may struggle to find their place or identify where they can be most effective.

If they have a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound) they can channel their initiative and resourcefulness in a useful direction.

Examples of SMART goals for the first month on a job include:

  • Getting up to speed on a high priority project by reviewing all 50 videos and reports related to a specific project by the end of the second week
  • Scheduling and holding introductory meetings with a list of 10 key colleagues by the end of the third week to understand their role, what their job is within your team or while working with your team, their preferred communication style, and more

If your new hire works in a job that’s less project-based and more task-based, you can set a specific number of items they’re expected to complete per day and how that number will change as they acquire more experience.

Plus, you’ll want to schedule regular check-ins with your new hire, so they have an opportunity to ask questions and seek guidance on areas of improvement.

Use these one-on-one conversations to understand how they’re managing the workload and to provide reassurances and advice if there are minor issues.

A great employee will thrive with these one-to-one meetings. because they’ll have a chance to learn what they need to improve on and make the necessary changes.

I understand how my role contributes to the organizational goals of our organization.

Do your employees know how their role contributes to the organization’s larger objectives?

When it’s unclear how a task makes a difference, there’s little incentive to take pride in its completion.

On the other hand, if you know that your task has an impact on someone’s life, there’s a greater sense of responsibility.

For instance, a claims representative in an insurtech company can view their job in one of two ways: as a miserable guest starring role in customers’ bad days or as the person helping to make customers’ bad days better and in turn supporting the organization’s larger goal of excellent customer service.

Of course, it’s not enough to just say how employees’ roles connect to the company’s larger organizational goals.

It’s important to do things that back that up.

In the case of the claims representative, an organization can support their words by incentivizing representatives that demonstrate outstanding customer service when dealing with difficult calls or providing training on how to deal with challenging cases.

Questions about commitment

I feel a sense of belonging at this organization.

Do your employees feel included at your organization? If a significant number of respondents highly disagree with this statement, there are several factors that can be causing this sense of exclusion.

One common roadblock to inclusiveness or belonging is microaggressions.

Psychology professor Kevin Nadal defines microaggression as “the everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups.”

An offhand comment here or an inappropriate joke there add up to create a work environment where people don’t feel like they belong.

This can cause them to avoid opening up with co-workers out of fear that something they say will reinforce a stereotype.

This is an issue since informal connections about family, shared interests, and life outside of work are an important way to build the internal networks required to advance within an organization.

There are several ways employers can create a greater sense of belonging within their organizations such as:

  • promoting psychological safety
  • conducting training to recognize and combat unconscious biases
  • providing multiple ways for employees to contribute to conversations (e.g. sending their ideas via email if they are introverted)
  • asking for employees’ input through satisfaction surveys and pulse surveys
  • encouraging employees to start resource groups for underrepresented groups and supporting their efforts

I can see myself working at this company 3 years from now.

Want to know whether your new hires plan on sticking around? Just ask them.

First, this helps you determine whether your new hires are happy overall.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, it helps you identify a possible retention issue while your employees are still here.

If your data shows you that most new hires don’t see themselves working at your company in three years, then this is an opportunity to dive deeper using follow up deep-dive surveys, identify the cause, and put a plan in place to change this.

Identifying causes of turnover early – and engaging your new hires early – can save your organization a fortune in turnover costs.

Millennials, who hold 50% of jobs, are less willing to stick with an organization over the long term.

In one survey, only half of millennials said they planned to be with their current organization in a year.

Figuring out how to retain this massive cohort of professionals, particularly during the onboarding process, represents a significant potential competitive advantage for companies.

General questions on onboarding

I am feeling welcomed by my colleagues.

Starting a new role is intimidating, because of the new responsibilities and the new people.

Feeling welcomed and supported can make a positive impact on a new hire’s early employee experience.

Your teams can make new hires feel welcome through special gestures or just day-to-day support. Generally speaking, supportive colleagues who are helpful and answer a new hire’s questions go a long way towards making them feel included.

There are also one-off gestures you can make such as:

  • having a new hire lunch at the end of the week that gives the new hire a chance to socialize with the other members of their team
  • putting together a welcome kit with supplies, company swag, and snacks
  • organizing introductory meetings between the new hire, other members of their team, and colleagues from other teams that they’ll work with often

What can we do better to improve your experience at this organization?

Unsure how to improve the employee experience? Ask.

Getting insight directly from your employees helps you focus your efforts on onboarding improvements that will have an actual impact.

Instead of guessing and plugging money into onboarding improvements that aren’t helpful, you can implement meaningful programs and then measure their impact through future onboarding surveys.

Easily distribute onboarding surveys to new hires

An onboarding process can take anywhere from 3 months to a full year. A smart way to keep your onboarding process running smoothly is to regularly distribute onboarding surveys to help understand how your new hires are feeling.

Sparkbay’s engagement platform automatically syncs with your human resources information system (HRIS), so you can automatically distribute onboarding surveys to your new hires and continue distributing them at a regular cadence.

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