How to jump-start a new hire

The first 45 days of a new hire’s job are the most important.

05/15/2013


Welcome to the company. We know it’s your first day and all, but we’ve been busy with deadlines for a major project and we’re not quite ready for you. Your office will be down the hall to your right, but for now, it’s in a storage closet we cleared out next to the restroom. And your computer is on order, I think; check with Francine—that’s her in giant the office with the window. See John to order business cards, after he comes back from vacation next week. We’ll have a keycard for you after John gets back—he does those, too, plus network access! To get you started on your project, we’ve left a stack of plans and documentation on your desk. There’s also an employee handbook with a form in the back you need to sign after you’ve “read” it (wink wink). Any questions? As your new boss, I’m here to help. 

Although the concept of onboarding has evolved through the years, painful scenarios like the one above are common. So is a new hire leaving a company in short order because he or she wasn’t made to feel welcome or valued. Research tells us the average turnover, a new hire actually leaving the firm, within the first year of employment is 13% (Stein & Christiansen, 2010). For the second year, new-hire turnover more than doubles to 33%. The Wynhurst Group, an HR consulting firm in Arlington, Va., informs us that 22% of staff turnover really begins in the first 45 days of employment, when new employees start planning their exit after having a negative experience.

Given the high cost of hiring a professional engineer, that amount of churn is incredibly expensive, and it can diminish the reputation of the firm. A quality onboarding program, however, significantly reduces new-hire turnover rates. Wynhurst reports, “New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.”

What used to be “new-hire orientation” has evolved into a more formal process of integrating new employees into the culture and workplace of a new organization (Sette, 2009). What does a quality onboarding program look like? That’s too much to cover here, but here are three steps to developing an onboarding program or supplementing one your HR department might have.

  1. Know the goals: There are three main objectives to any onboarding effort: build confidence and enthusiasm in new employees; impart organizational mission, vision, and culture; and decrease time it takes employees to be fully engaged and productive (Giacalone, 2009).
  2. Check that HR is on the ball with all the minutiae a new hire needs, as described in the scenario starting off this column. You might ask to review HR’s onboarding program so you can ensure it has everything in order. (See the online version of this article for more information.)
  3. As a leader, realize that you know the culture, working norms, deadlines, deliverables, customers, and personalities of your own team better than anyone (Allen, 2006). So, be an organizational mentor to your new hire, or set one up and check that that the relationship is working out daily and then weekly for the first two months.

Keeping good people is hard; blowing it in a new hire’s first 45 days is easy.


Amy Smith is an associate professor at Concordia University Chicago. She has more than 20 years of experience in management and leadership. She was a presenter at the 2012 Career Smart Engineers Conference.


References

Allen, D.G. (2006). Do organizational socialization tactics influence newcomer embeddedness and turnover? Journal of Management, 32(2), pp. 237-256.

Giacalone, K. (June 2009). Making new employees successful in any economy. ASTD. American Society for Training and Development.

Sette, S. (July-Sept. 2009). Is your onboarding process optimal or AWOL? Healthcare Financial Management Association.

Snow, S. (April 27, 2012). You’re Hired. Now Figure Things Out (With the Help of This Whimsical Handbook). Fastcompany.com

Stein, M. and Christiansen, L. (2010). Successful onboarding: Strategies to unlock hidden value within your organization. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.



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