Welcome! Goodbye...?

Posted 03 January 2014 by
Anna Czaplewska, Support Consultant, OPP; and Betsy Kendall, COO and Head of Professional Services, OPP
How do you stop your new recruits jumping ship?

Finally! After the months of searching, countless interviews and spending a substantial amount on recruitment, you’ve found your perfect new hire! She’s starting next month, so you can relax until her arrival. Now you have more important things to focus on... If only you knew that those “more important things” will mean little in a few months’ time, when your new employee decides to leave due to your lack of preparation for her arrival, and you have to start recruiting all over again.

According to research, almost half of all new hires are unsuccessful or leave their new roles within the first 18 months. Although most companies understand the importance of an effective selection process, they often don’t fully appreciate that getting the right candidate to sign on the dotted line is not the end of the journey. Research conducted in 2012 by Hays indicated that the majority of companies fail to get the return on the small fortune they invested in recruitment, due to lack of effective onboarding practice.

Onboarding can be defined as the process of introducing an employee to their new organisation, and supporting their transition into the new role. It starts with the job offer and continues for approximately 9–12 months. Unfortunately, this is not how some employers understand it. Many mistake onboarding with induction, thinking that as long as they have someone taking the new hire to a lunch on their first day, have their laptop running and fill their calendar with meetings and training, their job will be done. Certainly, all these practices are essential, however they are not nearly enough. Although induction and orientation are facets of onboarding, they miss out on some crucial parts of this process. Really effective onboarding focuses more on the development of behaviours, vision and relationships that will help the individual truly succeed in their new role. 

Research has shown that newcomers develop their attitude towards an organisation very early, with 90% of new employees deciding on whether they will stay in their new job within their first six months in the role. The early treatment they receive determines how valued and welcome they feel in their 'new home'. Additionally, researchers from the University of California, Berkley, estimated that costs associated with such turnover can be as high as 150% of that employee’s salary. Even more alarmingly, Institute for Management Development’s report showed that employees who remain in an organisation without understanding their roles fully cost employers billions of pounds. These rather large sums could be saved with a few simple onboarding practices. 

One of the common mistakes made by companies is lack of focus on culture fit and teamwork. Although newcomers tend to learn about the company’s vision and values in their early days, there is usually little support in helping the person work on the behaviours that demonstrate those ideals. There is little help from managers to fully bring the new person into the team and explicitly introduce its culture. Team colleagues, busy with their everyday tasks and not seeing others lead by example, remain politely friendly to the newcomer, but rarely take a proactive approach to making the individual feel part of the team right away. 

In the worse scenario, the arrival of the new person may change the dynamic in the team or make some members of the team feel resentful or insecure. A short teambuilding workshop using a tool such as the MBTI framework could easily mitigate this. The positive language inherent in the MBTI concepts ensures that everyone is shown to be effectively contributing to the team’s success, while on the interpersonal level it promotes understanding and facilitates successful cooperation. 

Another lesson many business learn the hard way is to adjust the learning process to the individual. As the MBTI system demonstrates, some people prefer to learn by reading and having time to reflect, while others prefer a hands-on approach. While one person may need detailed instructions, another will feel overwhelmed if presented with a very detailed outline of their responsibilities early on. In their first months in the new organisation, employees are expected to take on large volumes of information on structures, processes, relationships, clients, products and policies. They often experience stress associated with change, new responsibilities and the unknown. Unless newcomers receive targeted and adequate support, they are likely to enter the spiral of stress, leading to poor performance, health problems, absenteeism etc. This in turn is likely to further diminish their chances to succeed, while incurring losses to the employer. 

We invest in recruitment, we spend thousands on training, yet without a complete onboarding strategy, those sunk costs are likely to be wasted. With a few easy steps to engage them as outlined above, we can improve things significantly. Great employees are hard to find. Don’t let yours slip away. 

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