Everybody has had at least one work experience wherein it was evident from the beginning that it was not going to be a good experience. And how did they know that? Easy! Early on, they felt lost, alienated, and like they didn’t fit with the organization’s culture or their new colleagues. Additionally, they experienced, whether perceived or real, barriers to getting the support they needed to be successful. While this situation can be described in many and varied terms, the crux of it is generally consistent across organizations: EMPLOYEES LEAVE WHEN THEY FEEL LIKE THEY ARE NOT GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL whether due to people problems or a mismatch in expectations.
As a supervisor or manager, you want to keep your team in tact and growing when possible. Too much turnover is likely an indictment of how your organization treats people and a drain on the bottom-line. Therefore, it is to your benefit to review your organization’s practices, to seek out the feedback of people who actually leave, and to make the necessary changes to become a place where people really want to work. Below, are a few simple steps you can take to begin the process.
1. Develop an on-boarding procedure.
The number of organizations that do not have an on-boarding process (in more archaic terms, “orientation”), is larger than it should be. While it is catchy to advertise for employees who “catch on fast”, nothing replaces the value of having an opportunity to review various organizational norms, expectations, and roles. Some employees grasp onto certain aspects of the job quickly, but figure out other things rather slowly. By providing guiding information early on, managers and supervisors also get a clear idea about how long it takes to have an employee fully onboard and performing well. Frankly, the longer an employee feels lost, the greater the likelihood that he or she will feel like a failure and will have a shorter tenure with the organization.
2. Say something!
When you observe a new, or relatively new employee, doing something that is wrong, tell them. Bear in mind that such should be done tactfully, but watching a person repeatedly make the same mistakes is never useful. It is also quite damaging if the person thinks everything is going well. Finally, the longer it takes for them to become aware of their wrong-doings, the more humiliation they experience. Supervisors can tactfully alert new-comers to their mistakes by regularly checking in with them to see if they have questions or by sharing with them how certain situations are usually addressed in a manner that lets the person know that this manner is preferable. Some organizations help new hires successfully transition into the organization by assigning to them mentors who are responsible for checking in on them. Organizations that assign mentors often assign 2 – 3 current employees to a new hire to insure that existing employees are not overwhelmed and to give the new person a boost in establishing immediate work-place relationships.
3. Lay out all of the expectations they are expected to meet.
In order properly lay out all of the expectations an employee will be held accountable for, managers must first inventory the position being filled. It is not uncommon for managers and supervisors to be unfamiliar with various aspects of the work done by people who report to them; thus, when someone leaves, gaps are created. But how can the new person be held accountable for these gaps? No assumptions should be made that the employee should “just know” or that they are to blame is something is not going well. Oftentimes, gaps are revealed by problems and questions. For example, after an employee leaves an organization and subsequently there is often not enough of a much needed material necessary for the department or organization to function, it might be reasonably assumed that the former employee took care of that issue even if that obligation was not formerly assigned to him or her. Thus, organization’s leaders must take responsibility for knowing who does what and deciding if such should be continued by the successor.
After becoming clear about the responsibilities of the role, the obligations should be communicated to the new hire orally and in written form. A tremendous amount of information is directed toward new hires which makes it foreseeable that they could become overwhelmed and lose sight of certain information. By the same token, accountability is easier when you clearly explain and document what is required and offer an opportunity (or opportunities) for clarification. Last, but not least, in those instances when a new employee does not perform well, and this step helps you review your actions before making employment decisions.
4. Offer on-going praise and set timelines for feedback.
New employees experience a tremendous amount of anxiety. Amid all the new expectations specific to actual job performance, they are also adjusting to a new organization culture and figuring out new colleagues. Thus, the opportunity to have feedback about their early strengths and weaknesses is invaluable. It helps the person make needed corrections before an annual review that could affect income or before their reputation suffers in the eyes of their peers and superiors. This step is at once invaluable to the employees and represents an additional time-obligation to already over-burdened managers. Despite the time-constraint, it is important because it will ward off additional time-constraints caused by turnover or poor morale. Finally, the process used to evaluate new employees should be similar to the process used evaluate all employees which is a vital part of effective organization management.
5. Help the newbie to set goals.
It is tempting to say that a new employee has enough on his or her plate in terms of mastering the learning curve, so there is no need to set additional goals early on. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Goal-setting should be on the calendar during one of the praise and feedback opportunities. By sharing with an employee what his or her requirements are and which benchmarks represent excellence, you give them something to which to aspire. More importantly, you give them more independence by giving them a mechanism to rate their own performance. When employees become confident that they are performing adequately or surpassing expectations, they are more likely to venture out beyond the tasks to which they are explicitly assigned and make stronger contributions to the total organization.
Each of these steps, while simple, represents an investment of time. Thus, since time is money, it behooves organizations to see them as investments in long term stability. By incorporating these simple steps and sharing these philosophies across your organization, you begin the mental and cultural transition necessary to make these steps something more than words on paper.