Why Your Employee’s First 90 Days Are Key to Retention

Here’s what some companies are doing to help employees to reach that critical three-month milestone.

October 24, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Companies are standing behind the common 90-day rule to keep employees long term, reports Wall Street Journal.

Executives and human resource specialists tell the Journal that if a worker can stick with the company through their first three months on the job, that person is more likely to stay with the company longer term, which they define as a year or more. With that knowledge, businesses are offering 90-day bonuses and new programs to keep employees on board for the first three months.

Marissa Andrada, chief people officer at Chipotle, told the Journal that “if you see someone hit the three-month mark, the reality is, they’re going to be here for at least a year.” Chipotle offers its employees consistent scheduling and gives new hires a clear explanation of company operations and benefits, according to Andrada. The tactics are designed to help employees be comfortable in its restaurants and motivated to stay, she said.

CVS offers a $1,000 bonus to some warehouse workers if they stay for 90 days, while McDonald’s and Wendy’s, among others, advertise new-hire bonuses of hundreds of dollars after three months on the job. Heating and air-conditioning company Carrier partners their new hires with a more experienced “buddy.”

A major factor in whether a person sticks around for the first three months is their connection with the company, executives told the Journal. Intercom, a software company in San Francisco, asks its new hires to complete a “listening tour,” which allows them to understand the company’s operations and meet as many other employees as possible. The listening tours range from two to six weeks, depending on the employee’s position.

“The first 90 days is almost like an extended interview process by the employee of the company,” L. David Kingsley, Intercom’s chief people officer, told the Journal. “Those are the critical moments where someone is truly deciding.”

Some companies, including workplace software provider Envoy, have hired employees who check in with hiring managers and new workers to look at the hiring process from all angles.

“That first 90 days are when you have people that either say, ‘This was the best thing I ever did,’ or ‘I made a mistake because it’s not what I thought it was going to be,’” Annette Reavis, Envoy’s chief people officer, explained to the Journal.

Waste Management soon will have a tool allowing new hires as well as veteran employees to leave anonymous comments about their work and the company. Managers will be able to get real-time feedback.

“You’re going to get tidbits from your folks,” John Morris, Waste Management’s chief operating officer, told the Journal. “It’s going to be, ‘Hey, this is what my group is telling me what’s on their minds.’”

Some companies are starting with the hiring process to improve employee retention. TXB Stores Inc. recently overhauled its hiring process from one that took five days from interview to starting on the job to another that has an employee interviewed, onboarded and started in two days flat. TXB completes the interview, background, hiring and onboarding in one day.

“When [a new employee] leaves, we hand [them] a schedule,” said Nathan Graham, director of human resources, TXB, at the 2022 HR Forum.

Graham says that every TXB store that has implemented this hiring process has seen a reduction in turnover. Overall, the company has seen a 12% decrease in turnover over the past six months.

Tech hospitality company SevenRooms offers a “Fresh Start” policy, which allows its new hires to take two weeks of paid time off plus health care coverage before they start their job at the company. The company’s HR executive said that the plan was born out of hearing about many employees being burned out soon after hiring. Not everyone can take time off without getting paid, so making sure people can take time for themselves, and not go into financial strain to do so, is something employers can help with.

Other companies believe innovative scheduling is the key. One Chick-fil-A in Miami has been using a three-day work week to recruit and retain employees, and it’s working. The shortened work week began in January, and according to the store operator, employee retention is at 100%, and a recent job posting for the store received 429 applications within a week of posting. Fast-casual restaurant chain Dig is testing a four-day workweek with its full-time staff.

NACS hosted three webinars this summer that discussed innovative ways to address the labor shortage facing the convenience retailing industry, including flexible and innovative scheduling.

NACS has partnered with The Good Jobs Institute on how c-store operators can provide “good jobs,” which meet people’s basic needs and offer conditions for engagement and motivation. The Good Jobs Calculator, designed exclusively for NACS members and the convenience industry, allows retailers to use their own data and customized assumptions about the amount of improvement or uplift achievable, enabling executives to run scenarios on the bottom-line impact of a Good Jobs system.

Revisit “Understanding Your Local Labor Landscape” in the December 2021 issue of NACS Magazine for tips on building an effective employee value proposition and how to gain an edge when competing for candidates.