Why your new hires quit (and how to stop it)



Read time
6 mins

While some hires are destined to never work out, there’s lots that employers can do to make sure that the best new recruits stay for the long term.

Hiring is a high-pressure, high-stakes process: employers need to fill vacancies as quickly as possible, with people who have the right skills, aptitude and personality to fit into an organisation.

Jobseekers are often looking for roles that have the perfect mix of challenge and ease, in a suitable location, that pay a fair wage for their experience, skills and responsibilities.

Inevitably, some new working relationships just don’t work out, or employees just don’t like the new job. In 2017, HR Dive reported that more than a quarter of employees are willing to quit a new job within their first 90 days, according to a study by Robert Half and Associates.

Meanwhile, in a 2017 survey of UK HR decision-makers by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), 85% admitted that their organisation had made a bad hire.

Fortunately, there are some common, easy-to-avoid reasons why new employees quit their new organisations – and simple solutions for improving your recruitment and onboarding processes. 

Five reasons why new hires quit

1. Workers know it’s a candidate’s market

The UK labour market has been tight for several years, and indications are this lack of labour supply is set to continue for the foreseeable future – particularly in certain sectors. Nearly half (43%) of employers surveyed for the autumn 2019 CIPD Labour Market Outlook said that it’s become more difficult to fill vacancies over the previous 12 months. Nearly two-thirds (67%) of employers that are actively hiring said that some of their vacancies are proving hard to fill – rising to 75% of employers in public healthcare, and 71% in public administration and defence. 

2. Roles are ‘mis-sold’ or change significantly after workers start

The rapidity of business change means that it’s inevitable that roles evolve and change over time. But if, when a hire joins your organisation, they quickly find that their role is significantly different to that advertised and discussed at interview – and it’s not one that they want to or are able to perform.

Such a profound shifting of boundaries right away indicates that there was a lack of transparency and thought behind the hiring process, and that the vacancy was not well thought-through. It might even suggest a deliberate intention to mis-lead candidates, in the hope of filling an unattractive vacancy.

Whatever the reason, it’s a significant issue: 43% of job-seekers who have left a job within 90 days of starting said they did so because their day-to-day role wasn’t what they expected and was a big reason to leave a job.

3. They don’t like their line manager

It might be a cliché, but it’s true: “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”. In fact, research by CV-Library has found that 69% of workers feel their boss plays an important part in how much they like or dislike their new job.

A manager’s personality or leadership style can, for a multitude of reasons, jar with a new hire.

It can feel easier to leave a company rather than confront a manager head-on – particularly during the first few months, when an employee might lack the confidence to have a difficult conversation, and not be emotionally invested enough in the organisation to want to work through the problem.

 4. The onboarding experience is poor

The onus is on employers, HR teams and line managers to put together an onboarding programme that welcomes a new starter into the organisation, gives them the information and connections they need to succeed, and eases them into their new role at an appropriate speed. If there is no induction programme in place – and employees are left to find their own way and figure out their purpose on their own – there’s a significant risk that they will feel overwhelmed and unmotivated.

 5. They’re given too much autonomy – or not enough

While autonomy is crucial for employee performance and engagement in the long-term, during the first few weeks and months every new starter will need additional support. This might involve extra check-ins, training sessions and closer supervision of their day-to-day tasks than might be needed once they have settled in.

But it’s important that managers strike the right balance and provide the optimum level of help without leaving their new hire feeling unsupported or micromanaged. Managers will want to take particular care with people they’ve recruited for their potential, rather than for their skills, and ensure appropriate training plans are put in place – and actioned – swiftly, so these workers can obtain the relevant know-how without delay. 

Three ways to retain employees

1. Create a comprehensive onboarding process – and follow it consistently

A great onboarding process will help you keep new starters engaged during that vital gap between accepting an offer and actually starting a new role, as well as help them embed themselves into the organisation once they start. Specialist HR and onboarding software, such as Ciphr’s, will help you design and deliver a great experience for new starters – who’ll appreciate the flexibility of an online system, and the ability to read policies before their first day – as well as streamline HR activities, thanks to automatic reminders and notifications.

A portal will also ensure your organisation follows a consistent onboarding process every time, while offering the scope to tailor the programme depending on a new starter’s location and role, for example. 

2. Establish a positive organisational culture

Is your organisation welcoming to new starters? Are employees friendly, welcoming and helpful – or do they avoid new workers’ requests for support?

If your culture leaves a lot to be desired, and you have a history of employees quitting after one week, consider if your organisation’s values are still appropriate, and if the behaviours that staff demonstrate are in tune with these values.

Addressing any challenges will take hard work at every level of your organisation, but should pay off in the long run in terms of greater staff retention and engagement.

 3. Offer managers training and support

Being a great manager takes a lot of work, and all too often people are promoted to line management roles without the necessary training and support. HR teams therefore have a pivotal role to play in improving the capability of an organisation’s line managers through ‘soft skills’ training, helping them develop their levels of emotional intelligence, and providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to manage a team of remote workers.

If you have a significant volume of new line managers rising through the ranks, you might find it valuable to invest in a tailored management development programme and help retain employees. 

This article was first published in November 2015. It was updated for freshness, clarity and accuracy in October 2022.