By Lizzy Mottern.

Your search was successful, and you have hired an amazing new member of your team — congratulations! Now you want them to stay. Retaining employees requires thought, planning, and creativity — and has dramatic payoffs. One is financial: it costs about 33% of a new hire’s salary to replace an employee, and for highly skilled jobs, costs may be up to 150% of the annual salary (source: the Society for Human Resource Management). Finances are just one type of cost: employee turnover can mean lost momentum on projects, your organization’s inability to accept new work, and a toll on morale as other employees step in to cover duties of a vacant position.

Once you find a person who makes your organization shine, take two proactive steps that help them choose to stay for a while: onboarding and engagement.


Onboarding integrates a new employee into your organization, and gives them the opportunity to learn more about the meaningful reasons why your organization does its work. Help new employees see your mission in action in as many ways as possible. When creating or enhancing onboarding processes, consider the following, as outlined by the Harvard Business Review:

  • Onboarding should last at least 90 days, and often takes 12 months.
  • Investing in appropriate onboarding results in 50% greater retention after three years, and 62% greater productivity.


As of March, there were 1.9 jobs for every unemployed worker. Gone are the days when we could count on a flood of employees to fill empty jobs! Once a new employee has been sufficiently onboarded, invest in them by providing opportunities for engagement:

  • Develop growth opportunities that are specific to an employee’s level.
  • Communicate feedback, and provide autonomy and the resources needed to accomplish goals.
  • Conduct “stay interviews” so you can learn what keeps employees engaged and motivated, to identify problem areas, and to proactively address concerns before it is too late. If you realize someone is planning to leave, you will be able to work on a succession plan.

Engagement supports onboarding, and both support retention. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but focusing on what drew an employee to your organization is a good place to start.

Transitions are stressful, but they can be an opportunity to rework processes, consider new professional development opportunities, and build stronger teams.

Call on us if you need a partner to support your search process, provide staff coverage during a vacancy, build out a new position or re-think an existing position, or guide an onboarding process. We can step in with creative, experienced approaches to staff transitions. We are here to help strengthen your nonprofit in fulfilling its mission.