I had a call from a client recently whose new hire quit after less than 90 days. This had happened three times in the past 18 months. Confused and frustrated, he asked me, "What am I doing wrong?" Most companies have new hire orientations or onboarding programs. BEWARE! While these are great first steps, they may also offer a false sense of security. Let’s look at the most common reasons new hires become unhappy and the employer mistakes that contribute to it.
New Hire: The Job Was Really Different Than I Thought It Would Be
Employer Mistake: Setting Vague Expectations
Many employers hire with a general idea of what the job is (marketing manager) and what the new employee will be doing (marketing stuff). Keeping it vague means that you have room to maneuver as things change, right? WRONG! A lack of expectations creates a vacuum and new hires can get very creative in filling that vacuum with their own hopes of what the job should be like. Setting some 30-60-90 day check points and goals for what will be learned will help keep things on track and ensure that expectations are aligned.
New Hire: The Company Wasn’t as Described
Employer Mistake: Portraying Wishes vs. Reality
When interviewing a prospective hire, it’s human nature to put things in their most positive light or talk about what you wish were true versus an accurate reflection of the status quo. Based on what you told this person, he left a great job or may have even uprooted his family for you. “That’s not what they told me,” is a horrible phrase that we hear all too often from disillusioned employees. Be honest and talk to your candidates about how they can address issues with the status quo and turn them around—and possibly even score a promotion down the road. Armed with reasonable expectations, most people can handle big challenges.
New Hire: They Didn’t Seem Ready for a New Person
Employer Mistake: Failing First Impressions
Your new employee has spent hours thinking about her first day—choosing an outfit, rehearsing a handshake, researching co-workers—all intended to help put her best foot forward. If her preparation is entirely unmatched—no one meets her, her computer isn’t ready, you’re in a meeting when she arrives, she has to eat lunch alone—she may really start questioning whether she’s should have accepted your offer. You can’t get those first impressions back…make it clear that you really wanted her on your team and do special things to welcome her over the first few weeks as she gets settled. The time invested will likely pay dividends in loyalty and effort later.
New Hire: I Never Really Clicked With My Co-Workers
Employer Mistake: Not Encouraging Friendships
According to the Gallup Group’s famous G12 work, having a friend at work strongly correlates to productivity, safety, customer loyalty, and profitability and is more important to employees than even pay or benefits. Though most employers plan for a first day lunch for new employees, there is much more that can be done to encourage employees to form attachments to one another through mentoring, project assignments, task groups, buddy systems and the like.
New Hire: No One Told Me How I Was Doing
Employer Mistake: Forgetting Feedback is a Gift
Especially during times of steep learning, it’s easy for a newbie to lose confidence. This is true even for the most senior executive who is operating outside of a familiar comfort zone. Regular feedback is important, but more important is remembering the adage: “Success Breeds Success!” This means giving positive, regular feedback early on and then ramping up expectations as your new hire demonstrates that he is confident and comfortably settled into his new role.
You’ve made a significant investment in hiring a new employee and it’s tempting to take your foot off the gas and place responsibility on him to figure things out. You don’t have time to deal with it, right? While that’s one approach, our experience shows that taking the time to welcome your new employee, set expectations, give feedback, and support new relationships creates a foundation that builds momentum, loyalty, and performance—and this is worth the investment.
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