40%, 30%, 1 in 4. Touch, Pause...Engage.

They are all statistics I’ve read recently concerning the percentage, or proportion, of employees leaving their jobs within the first six months.

Of course, whatever statistic is correct, and most relevant to the sector or region you operate in is open to interpretation. However, one thing is for certain, the risk of new hires leaving within a short period of time is a major issue for business – not only from an operating or financial perspective, but also from an employer branding perspective. If people leave your company soon after joining, don’t assume it’s them, because it’s probably you.

You could introduce new benefits packages, flexible working, or, like Google, offer napping pods to keep your employees engaged. Or you could pay more, offer unlimited free fruit and implement unheard of Virgin-esque benefits like 12 months paid parental leave. But what happens if you don’t have the budget? Or, even more importantly, the all-important stakeholder buy-in to implement whole-of-organisation changes like these?

To help, I’ve listed some practical, low-cost changes you can do right now but that will benefit you for years to come.

Start right: recruit, engage and onboard
It might sound obvious, but getting your recruitment process right is key. If you’re not hiring the right people, they’re never going to last. Properly assessing not only skills, but also behavioural factors, key drivers, organisational fit and long-term motivations are essential to making sure you hire right.

And so is getting onboarding, and pre-onboarding right. A massive proportion of companies offer a job, receive an acceptance and do nothing else except wait for their new employee to start. Why is that wrong? Because it creates a time vacuum which allows doubts to multiply. Your new employee may start, but will they start in the best frame of mind? Meeting them for lunch, or even a coffee, just a couple of times during their notice period could make a massive difference.

Google’s Head of People Operations believes, from their data, that people that receive a warm welcome from their peers are likely to be more productive, and more likely to stay. That’s why, in Google, people receive proper introductions on arrival. And not rushed, “it’s so good to see you, take a seat, I’ll be with you in a minute”, but a proper welcome with full, focused attention.

Understand the differences between short-term motivation and long-term motivation
Prizes are short-term motivations. So are gimmicky office competitions, and duvet days. While they have their place, relying on these as incentives for people to stay is foolishly short sighted. Understanding that new recruits, especially millennials, place much more focus on what’s in for them in the long-term is vital to establishing a good retention strategy. Clearly articulating career paths, communicating purpose and meaning in the work and allowing for autonomy is essential.

Big UP your communication strategy
There isn’t such a thing as over-communication for new recruits. Where businesses commonly fall down is they overload new recruits with information on how the company works, who people are, their objectives in the first few weeks, and then leave them to it. A consistent communication strategy that extends beyond the first couple of days, and doesn’t let important, but not readily available, information slide is a really important factor in assimilating people into organisational culture.

Being nice won’t cut it: be a leader
It’s natural to want to be nice to new recruits. However, there is overwhelming evidence that making employees “happy” is the not the key to making them stay, and it’s also not the key to making them the most productive. In one of HBR’s interview series “The Science Behind The Smile”, Daniel Gilbert suggests that created, or “synthetic” happiness is fleeting, relative and moreover, not likely to have the best results. He suggests that employees are happiest when they are trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach. Focusing on setting carefully considered stretch goals, and using “pull” techniques to keep new employees meaningfully engaged in the challenge at hand will work far better making them feel “comfortable.”

Don’t finish: never stop ‘inducting’
Finally, never assume you’ve got it in the bag. Even if your new hire seems to be settling in well, don’t switch to it seems like you’ve been here forever! mode. You may feel that, but it’s likely that your new hire is wondering when their next structured career session, training session or “check-in” might be. Elongating induction periods to ensure that there are still development touch points for the new hire to focus on beyond the first few weeks is vital – as is being crystal clear on future training or educational opportunities, recommended leadership development options and assimilation into standard organisational performance management cycles. Demonstrating a clearly articulated people framework will provide reassurance to the new hire in your leadership, and that they are in the best place they can be, right now, to continue progressing their career.

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