Hiring is time consuming and expensive, but why do so many new employees leave?
Statistically a new employee is more than 3 times as likely to leave as an employee with 2 years or more. What can employers do to reduce this statistic? With 14 years experience providing HR support to employers, we’ve learnt a thing or two about how to retain new employees, and we share our top tips and observations here.
Most employers assume that once the offer has been accepted and their new employee walks through the door, that’s end of the recruitment process. This could not be more wrong. Your new employee has been through a process, probably not just with you but with several other prospective employers. You won the initial race but the other runners are still there, with disappointingly empty outcomes. The reality is that new employees are extremely vulnerable to counter offers, and if the ‘first day at school’ (actually it’s more like the first 6 months at school) isn’t going well they are much more likely to accept an alternative.
The reality is you have to keep on ‘recruiting’ a new employee for a good six months after they’ve come through the door. It takes at least 6 months for new employees to start to feel settled and a failure to attend carefully to their needs during this period could and often does result in new employees moving on.
So our golden rule for retaining a new employee:
Regard the first 6 months as an extended recruitment phase – catch up regularly with the employee, find out what’s good and bad about being a new person in your organisation and work with the employee and their managers and team to address the ‘bad’.
In our experience, aside from employers failing to appreciate the six month vulnerability issue, these are the reasons why new employees leave early in their career:
The job wasn't what they'd expected.
Insecurity over what they should be delivering/uncertainty about whether they’re doing a good job
Insufficient coaching or feedback.
Poor/difficult relationship with boss or colleagues.
IT and systems difficulties.
Poor work/life balance
It’s important to ensure an accurate picture of the job is presented at recruitment stage and to be honest with candidates about the ‘warts and all’. An effective and well thought out induction will help to ensure that your new recruit understands the tech, local rules and regulations and to build a good understanding of who does what in the organisation.
Beyond the start date and induction the most important thing is to ensure regular 1:1 meetings with the employee and provide the opportunity for two way feedback – this level of honesty is essential to developing the relationship and the time to establish it can be substantial, but compared to the time and expense necessary to re-advertise the role it is insignificant.
At the root of most of early employee turnover though is that too many employers simply fail to appreciate the importance of the first 6 months of the employment relationship and assume that once an employee has joined, the recruitment process is over. Our experience has shown that far from being over, the first day is still very early in the recruitment process.
Employers who are experiencing high levels of new recruit exits should take a serious look at the reasons why. Exit interviews (myHRdept conducts these for premium plus clients on request) can paint a picture, but the reasons are normally pretty obvious if an employer is honest enough to confront them. Unsupportive ‘cold’ colleagues and overcomplicated systems combined with uncertainty about the role and objectives are likely to be behind the majority of early exits.
If the employer wishes to change these things then it will need to look at its values and culture, look at what it wants it to be (and be perceived as) in comparison to what it actually is – and then put in place a plan to achieve it. Some smaller employers will sneer at ‘culture change’ as the domain of the larger corporates. We call it sound business sense, and smaller employers who are unable or unwilling to address cultural issues (or take them seriously) will be destined to continuous spiral of recruitment and talent departure, low or slow growth, a lack of new ideas or strategies and high stress on overburdened colleagues. Creating a supportive accommodating environment takes time, and being too busy with the day job is an easy cop out.
Bill Larke was HR Director UK Operations at Coca-Cola Enterprises. Today he supports smaller businesses via myHRdept.co.uk in their mission to create stable, rewarding and profitable businesses.
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