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Now Boarding: The New Way Towards Employee Retention

Working remotely or in a hybrid setting is the “new normal” for companies. The trouble is that this “new normal” offers new employees little to no opportunity to connect with the company in the same way that on-site employees had just three short years ago.  Another new normal? An alarming increase in employee turnover. And what might surprise you is that the employees most vulnerable to churn are new hires within their first year of employment with a company.

First30, an HR tech company focused on employee onboarding, already had its finger on the pulse of employee retention and onboarding when Founder Amy Davies launched the company in 2019. But today, First30’s work work has arguably become even more prevalent. With proprietary software, First30 works with businesses to create an employee onboarding program that is customized, automated and repeatable. How did it all start for First30 and where is it headed next? Read on. 



Having worked as a consumer and employee researcher for large-scale and global companies like Unilever, Mars/Wrigley, Grainger and Rogers, Davies noticed that the larger the company, the more constant the state of flux, like restructuring, changing office space, and loss of independence from its U.S. parent company. She also took note of how this continual uncertainty impacted group dynamics, employee engagement, productivity and employee response and just how critical an exceptional onboarding experience is for retaining employees.  That was the pivotal moment when Davies threw her expertise behind launching First30.

First30’s “Retention Intervention” program is focused on collecting meaningful feedback (in both survey form and through one-on-one interviews) to identify where an organization is falling short and subsequently driving employee turnover and help the organization to find solutions.

While Davies had a great idea, an extensive network and a strong professional background, what she needed was experience as an entrepreneur.

“In my previous corporate roles, I didn’t have to sell anything, and that’s a big part of being an entrepreneur.” Davies says, “I recognized my strengths and also my weaknesses. I knew I needed help from experts who possessed the skills I lacked.”

Davies began working with one of Spark Centre’s Sales Advisors who encouraged Davies to apply to become a Spark Centre client.


“The most successful leaders and businesses have a Board of Directors for guidance. That’s how I saw Spark Centre: a Board of Directors of sorts who could support and encourage me and push me out of my comfort zone.”


Spark Centre not only connected Davies to its ecosystem of brilliant minds in marketing and sales for advisory but also to trusted suppliers for accounting and legal services like Finance Without Borders and Suresh Law. It also provided Davies with office space where Davies was able to engage with the Spark Centre team of professionals, fellow entrepreneurs and her advisors. 

The growth and success that First30 has built since its inception in 2019 are awe-inspiring. Not only has First30 launched its Retention Intervention and Employee Onboarding programs, it has also rolled out a series of informative webinars (with a record attendance of 200 participants) and secured its first U.S. client. Even more exciting is that First30 is the first HR tech startup to link the psychological concept of “imprinting” to companies and the onboarding of employees.

What exactly is “imprinting”? When we engage with something or someone new — be it a brand, a restaurant or, in this case, a new employer —we are highly cognitively receptive. Our first interaction with a new organization unknowingly forms a firm belief system, one that is difficult, if not impossible, to change once formed. This is why the onboarding of new employees is a critical moment in the employee’s future with that organization. A great onboarding program that gives a new employee the impression that the organization truly cares will help that organization imprint positively in an employee’s mind and therefore drive retention and reduce the cost of high turnover (and in turn, loss of productivity).

First30’s unique onboarding platform has been making a significant impact on employee retention for Canadian companies. In fact, one company has stated that prior to utilizing First30 only 57% of its new hires were satisfied with their onboarding experience. Thanks to First30’s expertise and onboarding tools, the tune of new hires has changed, with 94% responding positively about their experience. That same company is now rolling out First30’s program to their U.S. counterpart with the consideration of expanding it globally.  But First30 isn’t stopping there.

In addition to growing its presence in Canada and the U.S., First30 has its sight set on tripling business in 2023, and Davies is currently working on her second book titled What Employees Want: Proven Strategies to Attract, Engage and Retain Talent, to be released later this year.  

Though she’s nowhere near the end, Davies had this to say when asked to reflect on her entrepreneurial journey and offer her advice to aspiring startups and entrepreneurs:

“Entrepreneurship requires a lot of grit, hard work, focus and time, and you don’t realize just how difficult it is until you get started.  But if you have the desire, ability, fortitude and financial runway to do it, go for it. There’s nothing worse than seeing others accomplish what you were too afraid to do and always wondering about what could have been. Neil Peart of the band Rush said it best: “Be Your Own Hero.”


Spark Centre
Helping innovative companies start, grow and succeed. Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre is one of eighteen not-for-profit Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) that form part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). The centre works to improve competitiveness and visibility of Durham Region and Northumberland County as a world-class innovation cluster. Spark Centre works with clients to develop individualized plans for success. We connect start-ups to business and research networks, learning tools, business coaching, mentorship, and access to funding and investment.

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