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Retaining Mid-level Employees: Engagement Beyond the Onboarding Experience


As an employer, you know that the first year is a critical time for engaging and retaining new employees.

You may have invested considerable time and money into your new hire onboarding process. But does all that attention go away after your employee’s first anniversary with the company? If so, you are probably losing “mid-level” employees, those who have been with you for 18 to 36 months. It’s time to understand how your mid-level employee experience may be costing you.

Why Focus on Mid-level Employees?

Many companies measure first-year turnover as a critical success metric. So the emphasis and investments tend to focus on the first-year employee experience (where results are measured). A lot of what we’re seeing, especially in the healthcare sector, is that there’s less emphasis on the mid-level employee experience. Mid-level employees start to feel slighted.

By way of analogy, think of cell phone plans. Wireless carriers often tout big incentives to lure new customers: free phones, discounted service, bonus subscriptions, and more. After customers hit the two-year mark, they feel forgotten. “Why don’t I get a new phone?” they ask. “Why am I paying more than new customers for the same services?” Competitors swoop in with a more competitive offer—and the promise of making them feel valued again. Your mid-level employees are likely leaving for the same reasons. They feel undervalued or neglected. They want a better deal.

Probe More Deeply on Feedback from Mid-level Employees

When things are going well in an organization, employees say, “We love working here. This is amazing!” Unfortunately, they’ll tell you the same thing if they hate working there and don’t trust you. If you have a company culture that’s not open, people don’t feel safe to tell the truth. Instead, they say whatever they think you want to hear while they plan their escape.

Don’t Trust Exit Interviews

Too often, companies rely on exit interviews as their primary data point for turnover. But departing employees may not share— or even truly know—why they’re dissatisfied with their jobs. They’ll tell you about better pay, hours, benefits, or opportunities available elsewhere. In fact, career sites commonly advise people to “lie like hell” in the exit interview.

To understand why people leave, you need to know why they were looking for a new job in the first place. What made them dissatisfied enough to explore or consider those other opportunities?

Adjust and Trust Your Metrics

Because we manage what we can measure, it’s important to have metrics that reflect your goals. Just as you track first-year turnover, you’ll need to track turnover in Years 1 to 3 (or Years 1 to 5). Knowing when people leave can help you discover why they leave.

You can also use this data to spot trends over time. Overlay your “moments of truth” with your turnover data in a timeline. For example, you may see that a change initiative or the retirement of a beloved executive was followed by higher turnover. Or you may find that a new employee engagement program drove an improvement in retention for several months.

Take an Honest Look at Your Turnover

Are you seeing people leave at certain inflection points? Or are you seeing more people leave than you have in the past? Try to narrow down who is leaving, and at what point in their employment.

Remember, you can gather more valuable insights and data if you’re talking to people before they are thinking of leaving by conducting “stay interviews” and holding effective one-on-one conversations.

If you feel like employees are holding back, engage an outside firm like Collabo XD to conduct employee listening sessions. An objective third party, skilled in listening and facilitation, can help you get to the stories behind your data. Reach out to us now and schedule a free consultation call!



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