How to Apply the 20/50/30 Rule to Onboarding

Posted by Cathy Reilly

 05.08.18 Applying the 20.50.30 Rule iStock-870244324


Over the last five years, I’ve seen onboarding take a dramatic turn by employers. Many more have come to realize the importance of an effective new hire onboarding process and the high cost when it’s lacking. But, despite how onboarding is evolving, the statistics tell us that:

  • 20% of new hires leave within the first 45 days of employment (source)

  • 50% of new hires working hourly, leave their jobs in the first 120 days (source)

  • 90% of new hires are deciding during their first six months of employment whether they’ll stay or leave. (source)

So what is happening that new hires are not staying in jobs at higher rates? What is still not working, even though we have innovative recruiting and pre-screening methods, disruptive technology, improved testing, more advanced interview processes and collaborative decision-making to hire right?

Maybe it all comes down to the concept of change.

Price Pritchett, author of You2 and one of the foremost authorities on merger and acquisition integration, change management and corporate culture has helped thousands of companies, including many Fortune 500 organizations, manage change. From his experience of over 40 years, he has developed his 20/50/30 Rule, which he says is also so predictable during organizational changes.

It works like this - when a company is going through a major change, such as a merger:

  • 20% of the employees will get onboard right away for the change. They’ll be enthusiastic about it and ready to help as needed. Positive attitudes prevail.

  • 50% of the employees will be on the fence. They’ll be neither for or against the change and will have a wait and see attitude. They’re neither helping nor hindering. Indifferent attitudes prevail.

  • 30% of the employees will be against the change. Whether seen or unseen, they will not be helping and will be filled with doubt about the change. Negative attitudes prevail.

Pritchett further explains that not only is this what happens within organizations, it also happens to us personally when faced with change. For example, let’s say we want to get into better physical shape. 20% of our self agrees and is excited about making that change. 50% of our self is not sure it will happen and is questioning whether we can really do it or not. 30% of our self is against it and feels like it will be too painful, not worth the effort or that no matter what, it just won’t work. So, we just don’t even get started.

As I look at the 20/50/30 Rule, I take it a step further and relate it to how a new hire may be looking at the major change they are facing when starting a new job.

  • 20% of the new hire is sure and excited about their new position and new company

  • 50% of the new hire is questioning whether they made the right decision and is waiting to see

  • 30% of the new hire is doubting it was the right career move or that this will work out

As we onboard new hires, incorporating the 20/50/30 Rule into how we are structuring the process can make a difference. Knowing the new hire is naturally 20% excited, 50% questioning and 30% doubting when they start their job should set the stage for some fresh considerations in onboarding.

During onboarding, focus on what the new hire is excited about in their new job. What is their 20% about? Get ongoing feedback about the positives that are contributing to make them happy and feeling great about joining your organization. Use this feedback to shape their work, goals and projects to keep them motivated and productive. Help grow their 20% to recruit over the 50% that is questioning and on the fence. As new hires continue to feel better about their job and the organization, it will help squash the 30% that is doubting their decision.

Structured onboarding programs are key to a new hire’s success. Keep their perspective in mind and stay connected to the sense that onboarding is also about managing change.

Let us help you with your onboarding and beyond. Explore the possibilities of Onboardia and talk with our HR Consulting Team. Call us at 800-771-8610, visit us at or Schedule a Demo today.

Cathy A. Reilly is the CEO & Founder of Onboardia, Inc., HR software, HR Consultant and the author of “The Temp Factor: The Complete Guide to Temporary Employment”.


Topics: Onboarding, Employee Engagement, Management, Human Resources, Corporate Culture, Employee Experience

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