How to Interpret Your Onboarding Survey Results

This guide is intended to help Admin users interpret aggregate feedback collected in your organization's onboarding survey(s)

In this article: 


Onboarding surveys, also referred to as new hire surveys, are a great way to understand the experience of your newest hires. Unlike engagement surveys or other point-in-time surveys, onboarding surveys are “always-on” and accrue new responses as employees join your organization.

We recommend reviewing your onboarding survey data regularly.  If your organization is consistently growing (e.g., you have cohorts of new employees start and onboard together or new hires join you nearly every week) a monthly or bi-monthly review makes sense. If your organization is growing more modestly, reviewing your results once per quarter may be sufficient.

Following the steps below can ensure you’re spotting important insights and getting value from this important feedback. 

A Note about Onboarding Surveys

If you’re reading this article, you have likely already designed and launched your onboarding survey. If you haven’t launched your onboarding survey yet, please note that Quantum Workplace offers two distinct onboarding survey approaches:

  1. A single survey approach is typically launched either at 60 days or 90 days tenure. This approach is common if you are just getting started with gathering employee feedback or if you have a small HR team that is heavily involved in employee onboarding and has a lot on its plate.
  2. A multi-survey approach in which feedback is collected at 1 week, 30 days, 90 days, and 180 days tenure (or a combination of some of these). This approach is common if managers play a heavy role in employee onboarding (the surveys can help drive manager accountability and give HR insight into the coaching or resources that managers need to onboard their employees more effectively), if you trying to revamp employee onboarding to be more engaging and effective, or if you know that you have high turnover or low employee engagement early in tenure.

Depending on your organization’s approach, you may be analyzing analytics for a single onboarding survey or for multiple onboarding surveys using the guidance below.

Part 1: Understand the Overall Themes

1.1: Review your Response Rate

While response rates for onboarding surveys vary by organization, your response rate will largely depend on how well information about the survey is communicated. Response rates are often higher if employees know when their feedback will be collected and understand that the organization uses their feedback to improve the employee onboarding experience. 

Organizations should strive for a response rate of 75% or higher for their onboarding survey(s). If your response rate falls below this threshold, ensure that you have a solid communication plan about the survey and that you are intentionally integrating the survey into the employee onboarding process.

1.2: Understand Perceptions

If you’re using Quantum Workplace’s recommended onboarding survey(s), or a version similar to it, new employees are asked questions to assess their initial experiences. Is their manager spending appropriate time getting to know them and helping them be successful? Are their team members welcoming and helpful? Do they have what they need (e.g. materials, equipment, information, training)? Is the job, and the holistic experience, aligning with what they expected when they accepted the job?

It’s common for new employees to be more favorable on many topics compared to tenured employees thanks to the honeymoon effect. If this isn’t the case in your organization, this is an immediate red flag. What specific perceptions are less favorable among new hires compared to more tenured employees, and how can those gaps be addressed? Here are two examples to bring this to life:

  • An organization found that new hires consistently responded less favorably to the item “I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job well,” relative to the organization overall. After reviewing employee comments left in the survey for more context, they realized that while employees received their company computer prior to Day 1, many of the software programs employees needed were not installed. This meant that new employees needed to reach out to IT for help, and this occurred each time they realized another program was needed, which created unnecessary frustration among new hires and kept them from hitting the ground running in their new roles. This data uncovered a “quick win”—by ensuring that new hires had all the appropriate programs installed on their work computers on Day 1, the organization greatly reduced friction in the new hire experience.
  • A company with a heavily remote workforce found that new hires didn’t feel connected to other team members within the first 180 days of tenure and didn’t consistently feel that they were valued members of the team. They also saw a higher-than-healthy turnover rate among new hires. The company executed on several ideas to strengthen inclusion and accelerate relationship building, such as introducing “Culture Coaches” (a mentor from another team to help the employee get familiar with the culture, people, and rituals of the organization) and having team members play a more involved role in a new hire’s onboarding experience.

1.3: Look at Trends

Onboarding survey analytics will become more robust as new employees participate in your survey. It can be helpful to look at trends in the following ways:

Month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter (e.g. comparing data from February vs. March or from Q1 vs. Q2)

  • Does overall favorability decrease if employees are onboarding during the organization's "peak season"?
  • How do perceptions change as you make tweaks to your onboarding process?
  • Is employee feedback consistently favorable? Does it change during periods of high growth when many new employees are starting at once? 

Compare onboarding surveys from different points in tenure, if applicable (e.g. compare results from your 30-day and 90-day new hire surveys)

  • Do perceptions stay consistently favorable across the onboarding time frame?
  • Does favorability steadily rise or decline after a certain point?
  • Is there ever a sharp drop-off in favorability?

The above questions can help uncover how employee perceptions change over the course of onboarding. For example, you might notice some increases in favorability for certain items over time as employees gradually become more confident in their roles and gain clarity on expectations. If you notice that favorability around receiving sufficient feedback from managers declines over the course of the onboarding period, that may be a signal to you that there is a need for continuous coaching conversations for all employees, not just the newest hires. 

Understanding these trends can help you discern where to focus your attention within your onboarding efforts and can even influence your recruiting and hiring efforts.

1.4: Compare Groups

Some individual differences in the onboarding experience are to be expected. However, investigating group or demographic trends can help you understand if your onboarding process might require systemic changes. Here are a few valuable ways to examine your onboarding data:

  1. Location or Department: Large, dispersed organizations may onboard employees differently depending on location or department. Analyzing differences between these groups can signal if attention is needed in particular locations or departments.
  2. Key Roles: Which roles are especially hard to recruit, expensive to hire, or particularly important to your business success? Are these roles having an optimal onboarding experience that engages them and sets them up for success early on in their tenure?
  3. Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Age, or Other Personal Demographics: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion continue to grow in importance for organizations. Gaining a better understanding of how perceptions differ between women and men and how underrepresented groups feel as they enter your organization provides essential data for your DE&I efforts. 

Part 2: Level up your Analysis

2.1: Connect Onboarding Survey Feedback to Other Employee Feedback

Each type of employee survey that your organization conducts provides unique insight and value. Taken together, looking at surveys from across the employee lifecycle can provide an even more in-depth understanding of your employees' perceptions and experiences. 

Let's say that your exit survey results reveal that a lack of career development opportunities is the biggest reason why employees leave your organization. Further, let's imagine that whether or not employees see career growth opportunities for themselves has surfaced as a key driver of engagement on your employee engagement survey, meaning that career development has a larger impact on employee engagement than several of the other topics assessed. Taken together, these findings reinforce the importance of career development-- not only is it important to engagement, but it's also critical to retaining employees. 

Let's also imagine that in your employee engagement survey, you find that your top performers have less favorable views on a survey item assessing career growth and development compared to your average performers. This, combined with your exit survey and engagement survey results, could signal that top performers are at a higher risk for leaving. 

Now let’s imagine that you conduct a candidate survey that launches once a candidate accepts your job offer. The results from this survey indicate that the promise of career development opportunities was a key reason why candidates accepted your job offer-- in other words, employees enter your organization with high expectations for career growth and development based off information shared during the recruiting phase.

However, you also use an onboarding survey to hear from new hires, and based on their survey feedback, the job isn’t quite what they had pictured. Moreover, new hires are unclear on what growth opportunities exist in your organization. This is a warning sign to you that new hires may be confused or frustrated that their experience so far has differed from their expectations of the job.

In this example, data from your exit and engagement surveys make it clear that solving for career development is critical to employee engagement and retention-- especially for your top performers. Furthermore, your candidate experience and onboarding surveys indicate that high expectations for (and potential disappointment in) career development opportunities may begin as early as the recruiting and onboarding stages.

Solving this problem won't be easy, but feedback from across the employee lifecycle makes it clear that this is a business problem worth tackling. A good first step to resolving this issue may be to launch pulse surveys or individual 1-on-1 conversations to understand what types of development opportunities employees are seeking.