Four Tips for Retaining New Associates

Hourly employee turnover cost is 16 percent of their salary. It costs roughly $4,659 to replace a $14/hr employee


Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics reports indicate that the unemployment rate is 3 percent with Tennessee experiencing a monthly average job growth rate of 1.6 percent.

While this is great news, one statistic that I find more interesting is the average turnover rate for Tennessee manufacturers. Based on my daily interactions with manufacturing companies, I would say that rate is around 30% with an average “quit rate” of two to three percent. There are many things that contribute to high turnover rates; what is important is the ones you can control.

When hiring manufacturing associates, getting them up to speed with the company’s way of working becomes critical. The typical company does not take the time to properly onboard and train new operators which damages productivity, quality, and morale and increases costs.

Successfully converting a new hire to long term employee requires a robust process. Think about the first day a new hire experiences your company. How often do you have the associate watch a safety video, sign some paperwork, then leave them with a supervisor who puts them on the floor with minimal training? How successful is this process? Anyone ever left after first break?

Below are some key, but simple, tips to improve your new hire integration process and increase your retention rate.

Provide a pre-boarding welcome package. Give the new associate some information on company history, organizational structure, expectations, best practices, and a list of FAQs’. The goal is to enhance the new hires’ understanding of your company and get them excited to be a part of the great work you do. If you primarily use a temporary agency to manage new hires, you can provide this information through them.

Make sure you give them a full plant tour so they can see the product from start to finish. Help them understand and appreciate the impact of the job they will do. An employee that knows why their work is important and how it impacts the end user is more likely to be engaged.

Pair them with a mentor or buddy.  Someone besides their supervisor. New employees need to know that it is okay to ask questions and they need someone other than a “boss” to help them understand the culture.  

Show them a development pathway. Your goal is to maintain your investment; their goal is to support their lifestyle and develop their skills. Help them see the possibilities of a career by showing them how they will be trained, what they will be given the chance to learn and the timeline. Knowing that there are chances for growth and upward progress can help motivate a new hire to stay.


"Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough
so they don't want to."
- Richard Branson


Achieving growth and career success requires a robust training program. Many companies train new hires by having them “shadow” an experienced associate. This process can work in some situations but is typically not very effective.

The experienced associate may be a great employee and very productive but has likely not been “taught” how to train someone new. It is also difficult for the experienced associate to communicate what we call “tribal knowledge” – those hints, tricks, tips that are learned over time. Without a structured training process, the experienced worker may end up teaching the new hire his/her own version of how to perform the job – negating any standard work that was designed to maintain quality and productivity.


How to Train Your Trainers

A very popular program that UT CIS can provide to small and medium sized manufacturers is Training Within Industry (TWI).

TWI is a leadership development program designed to provide supervisors and team leaders with the ability to lead, instruct, and improve the methods of their jobs.

The TWI program addresses three core components: Job Instruction (JI), Job Methods (JM), and Job Relations (JR) with each being based on a four-step learning process: Preparation, Presentation, Application, and Testing.

The TWI Job Instruction model is the perfect tool to develop a structured training approach for new hires while gaining benefits in other aspects of your operations. Originally targeted toward the supervisor level, TWI Job Instruction will benefit anyone that has responsibility to train others.

TWI JI is a simple approach that integrates all three teaching methods – hearing, seeing, and touching (doing). Research behind the development of the TWI JI module indicates that all three teaching methods must be present to achieve learning retention – showing a new hire their job and telling them how to do it are not enough.

UT CIS can help stabilize and improve your processes, analyze and prioritize
training needs as related to TWI JI and develop "onboarding" programs
for associate level new hires.

The “train the trainer’ process behind the TWI JI module requires that your company have a very good understanding of current processes – they must be consistent and have some form of standard work developed. In implementing the program, your team will develop training timetables, job breakdown sheets, and lists of training tools and materials needed for each process.

Developing the job breakdown sheets is a vital part of the process and leads to numerous small improvements resulting in productivity improvements before you even begin training. It is not uncommon to reduce cycle times and defect rates by half during this part of the process.

The benefits of a structured training program are many:

  • Get more done with less equipment and manpower
  • Improve quality and reduce errors
  • Decrease training time, especially for temporary associates
  • Transfer valuable knowledge from your skilled workforce quickly and efficiently

The hard, customer reported impacts are impressive:

  • Training times reduced from two months to two weeks
  • Defects reduced by 96 percent
  • Inventory reductions up to 50 percent
  • Cycle time reductions up to 64 percent
  • Overall asset utilization increases up to 25 percent


Companies that have implemented TWI have reported improvements of 25 percent and more in increased production, reduced training time, reduced scrap and reduced labor-hours.

Contact your local Solutions Consultant for more information about how you can train new hires quickly and effectively with the TWI JI program.

Tags Workforce Development