Over dinner, I asked my friend about how her new job was going. Unfortunately, she responded with a somewhat pained look indicating that “it was a job.” Not nearly the excitement I anticipated considering the new opportunity seemed to have a lot to offer while she was in the interview process. And, she’s not the first person I’ve known to start a new job with much anticipation only to find themselves wondering if they’ve made a huge mistake.
Engaging new hires--and not just employing them--is a strategic imperative, especially given the fact that unemployment rates in Kentucky are at a slim 5% and in the United States are only 4.1%. These conditions coupled with an average turnover rate within companies, according to SHRM, at 19%, make it evident that employees have choices. Choices including--leaving their job for something closer to home, better hours, more flexibility, a higher salary or just a better supervisor. And, many times, they’re making those decisions quickly—within the first year of employment in a new company. According to Danny Nelms, President of the Work Institute, in his conversations with employers, he’s finding that first year turnover is, in fact, the biggest driver of overall employee turnover.
So, given this landscape, where can you be putting your limited time and resources that will result in more of your top talent staying versus looking for the greener pasture elsewhere? With the average cost to fill a position being close to $4,200 and cost to replace an entry level employee at over $40,000, it is worth it--on purely a financial level--to ensure that you’re protecting your investment by paying attention to the experience your new hires are having.
Most companies do a fairly good job at the tactics of getting a new employee on board, including even automating the process to make it more efficient for the new team member and the hiring manager. But, what about the nuances, things that might not be as obvious, that could really make a difference in the experience of that new employee. Three specific things—that if not present— tend to affect an employee’s decision to bolt quickly:
Nothing is more frustrating than an employee not meeting expectations. And if you’ve ever been that employee who didn’t know what the expectations were, you know that’s equally frustrating. Clearly defining expectations from the outset is critical to the new team member being able to achieve them. Many times, hiring managers shy away from communicating what’s expected because they don’t want to micromanage, they are too busy or they simply don’t recognize the importance of it.
Think Big to Think Small. In a survey by Robert Half Management Resources, roughly one third of CFOs said their company’s employees were basically unaware of their firm’s strategic objectives. It’s important when creating clarity around expectations that new employees have the big picture of what the organization is trying to accomplish. And, likely you will have to communicate this beyond new hire orientation. Continue to find ways to help the new team member understand the vision and goals for the organization and in so doing, connect what they do day to day to that overall vision. Then, help connect your department’s goals to the overall organization vision. And from there, become even more granular by connecting your new hire’s role to all of it. When people know why they’re doing what they do, they’re likely to do it with more zest.
Not in These Parts. New team members also need to understand how things get done around the workplace--including team norms for behavior. Is it common to communicate over the water cooler or are more formalized meetings the way work gets done? Do people come and go as they please while getting their work done or is there an expectation to be in the office by a certain time. By not understanding these things ahead of time, employees often step in a hole that is hard to get out of, simply by behaving in a way that doesn’t fit with the company culture.
Relationships at work are more important than you may give them credit. A Gallup study says that having a best friend at work can increase engagement seven times. And, we know when people are engaged at work, they are more likely to stay. Yet, in an increasingly mobile, diversified workforce, making connections at work is not as easy as it may have once been.
Beyond the Team
Oftentimes, we ensure that people know each other in their specific work group but we don’t always help to facilitate connections beyond that. I once worked in a job where I sat in an open, cubicle type environment. New people would start all the time--yet short of me going over and introducing myself--I might not have ever known who was sitting around me. Many times, I wondered why their boss didn’t make it a little easier on everyone by making the introduction? If you as a leader aren’t comfortable, find someone on the team who is and can help the new hire widen their network.
Hi, My Name Is…is a Start
An introduction is great but consider what your new hire needs to know and what they might like to know when making introductions. If you know they’re new to the area and are looking for a running club, maybe you introduce them to the colleague you know just ran a half marathon? Or, perhaps they’re joining you from a competitor company. Facilitate an introduction to others who have come from the same company—even if they’re not on your team. Think about what you know about the new hire and about others in the company and shorten the connection period for your new hire by being the conduit for those connections.
Ever been the new hire who sees their boss on the first day and then not again for some time? Getting someone new on board likely takes more communication in the beginning than it will once they’ve gotten in a groove. So, it’s important to set up intentional touchpoints and also to get feedback along the way on how things are going.
It’s Me Again. In the early days, weeks AND months, it’s important to have MANY connection points with your new team member. And be strategic about when they take place. Are there key projects that your new hire will have responsibility for? Incorporate check points along the way—prior to the deadline- -to allow for questions and opportunity to give feedback. Don’t minimize the importance of casual communication. Grab your new hire on the way to get some coffee for a quick chat or make a short phone call if they’re remote just to say a hello. The more times you are communicating, the more likely it is that you become comfortable with each other, trust begins to build and the real working relationship can take shape.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Just like when you have a bad cell phone connection and you stop to ask if the other party can hear you, so too should you be checking in to make sure that your new hire is still there (figuratively, of course). Are they absorbing their new work world around them, how are they feeling about what they’re accomplishing, is there anything missing that would help them do their job or simply enjoy their work more. It’s your responsibility as a leader to elicit feedback AND to take action on that feedback— even if the action is explaining why something your new hire requested is not possible. Nothing can be more frustrating to a new employee than to provide feedback and feel that it’s not heard. Do you part to check yourself and make sure you’re asking for feedback and truly listening to what your new hire says.
Retain the great talent you’ve spent time and money hiring by accelerating your new team member’s acclimation and heightening their ability to have impact. Ensure this is a year of growth and progress for your company by accelerating your new team member’s acclimation and heightening their ability to have impact. By focusing on clear expectations, connection and communication, you will have happier, more productive employees…..who stay around longer too!
Lisa Seay is the founder of element c, a consulting firm focused on the employee experience, ranging from the new hire to the exiting veteran. With over 25 years in Human Resources for companies such as Yum Brands, she has onboarded thousands of employees and assisted organizations in leveraging their most important asset—their people—from day one and beyond. She can be reached at Lisa@theeelementc.com.