A good onboarding program can prepare new hires for success and a longer, happier run with your company.

Hiring new restaurant employees can be a tricky business. But keeping them around can be even trickier. Studies show that 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment. And each departure has a cost attached to it, to the tune of up to 16% of salary for entry-level spots.

A good onboarding program can prepare your new hires for success and a longer, happier run with your company. One study shows that new employees who go through a well-structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to remain at a company up to three years. 

Human resources consultant and hiring/recruiting expert Mike Bensi, based in Indianapolis, recently addressed how good onboarding impacts employee retention at the National Restaurant Association’s HR & Risk and Safety Conference. Bensi offered big and small tips to help keep new hires happy and productive — and committed to the company.

Here are Bensi’s top onboarding tips for a successful first week.

Gap week

Consider giving your new hire a week, or at least a few days, off, before they start so they don’t go from one job to yours without a break. “The employee comes in refreshed and with new energy thanks to the time to re-set,” Bensi says. At the very least, talk to your new hire to find out what they need to accomplish before they commit to your company. “Acknowledging their life circumstances can go a long way toward a long-term relationship,” Bensi says.

Gear & garb

Make sure they have tools and a uniform on day one. “Provide the uniform in advance so they can make sure it fits,” Bensi says. Tools and workstation, locker, and other items they’ll need should be ready for them when they arrive.

Map out an itinerary

“Write down what the schedule will cover on the first day for your new hire,” Bensi advises. “Map out who they’ll be meeting and what they’ll be doing. This one simple action can put someone at ease on a potentially scary, stressful first day.”

Break bread

“This one may seem like a no-brainer but be sure to have a meal with your new hire on their first day,” Bensi says. “Eating together gives you a chance to talk, get to know each other, to share how the company works and answer questions, to relax a bit. When I talk to employees outside the restaurant industry about their first day, a common complaint is that no one ever took them out to lunch.” It’s ironic when it happens in a restaurant. Plus, it’s a good way to show them how the restaurant food should be served and share the employee meal policy.

Create a welcome committee

Give the crew a heads-up that the new hire is arriving so when they walk in on day one, they are both expected and welcomed. “How many times have we walked in to work on a Monday and seen someone standing there, looking lost?” Bensi says. “Share a photo and the name of the new hire with team; ask them to prepare a card or poster welcoming them at their station or check-in point.”

Buddy system

Pair your new hire with a buddy who can show them the ropes. “The buddy can provide background information – meals, break locations, where you keep your stuff, bathrooms, what do you need to do before you start and leave, etc.,” Bensi says. “One of my clients asks someone from outside the new hire’s department to give them a tour, take them out for coffee, check in, and otherwise lead some of the onboarding process. This grows the network for the new hire and gives them someone besides their manager to go to with questions. At the same time, the buddy gets to play a greater role within the company.”

One-on-one

Managers should meet with the new hire one-on-one at some point during the first week to check in and answer questions. “A personal meeting gives new people a greater sense of belonging and helps them connect with others faster,” Bensi says. “If you’ve ever started a job when your manager was on vacation or traveling, you know what a really big mistake that can be.”

Check in

And finally, last but hardly least, call the new hire at the end of the first week. “Find out how the onboarding team did, what could we do better,” Bensi says. “Gather feedback early.”