How to get new recruits up to speed… fast!

In a lively employment market, and at a time when skills shortages are becoming a real issue, employers need to make sure they keep hold of their best talent. But research suggests that many businesses are finding hanging onto their Generation Y workers, for any substantial length of time, a real challenge.

A recent study from Ashridge found the average job tenure for today’s ‘digital natives’ is just two years, while press reports suggest that at tech companies like Google and Amazon, it can be as little as twelve months. Job-hopping may be becoming more prevalent among Generation Y, who are hungry for early responsibility, public praise and fast progression – but the retention problem isn’t a new one. A PwC report says nearly one in three newly-hired employees leave their companies, either voluntarily or involuntarily, before the end of first year.

Of course there are a whole host of reasons why people decide to part company with their employer – the job didn’t turn out as expected, they can’t stand their boss, or they’ve had a better offer. But a carefully planned induction programme (or on-boarding process as it is now known) can help settle people in and find their feet, as well as avoiding the huge waste of time, money and energy expended on recruitment that doesn’t work out.

So what can employers do to get new people up to speed and fully productive as quickly as possible?

1. Plan for new arrivals

In a pressurised working environment, managers often feel they simply don’t have the time to sort out a detailed induction programme for new recruits. They give them a whistle-stop tour on the first day, introduce them to a few key folk, and then leave them to get on with it. The trouble with this approach is that it leaves people feeling lost, disorientated and unsure of what’s expected of them. It’s worth investing time in drawing up a thorough induction process for a new arrival’s first few weeks. Make sure it covers off all the essential information and people they need to know, but try not to pack too much into the first few days. Joining a new company can be bewildering and people will only be able to retain a certain amount of information, so spread the meetings and appointments out so they have time to breathe and give them bits of work to do in between so they feel they are achieving something.

2. Be clear about roles and responsibilities

People won’t settle into a new role quickly if they are unsure about exactly what it is they are supposed to be doing, who can help them and how success will be measured. The first few days is a great time to sit down with a new employee and be really clear about the remit of their role and what you want them to achieve on the grander scale, as well as to set some detailed objectives or targets for their first few weeks and months. Make sure people are clear about where to go for help and advice if they need it, and set up regular, informal ‘check-ins’ where they can report on progress and ask any burning questions. The key to setting people up for success (and happiness in their role) is open, honest communication with their manager, clarity about what’s expected and reassurance that people are available to support them.

3. Give people the tools to do the job

You’d be surprised how often new recruits show up for their first day at work to find they haven’t been given a computer, an email address or a security pass to get into the building. Make sure all the basics have been sorted out in advance so people at least feel that they are expected. New employees also need to be clear about company rules and policies, the procedures for logging sickness or booking holidays and whether they can access information about their pay and benefits. If you have an up-to-date HR software solution, they will be able to get up-to-speed quickly by logging into the central portal where this kind of information is housed – but if not, they need an induction with HR or at the very least a copy of the staff handbook. It’s also useful to give people a quick tour of the building so they know where to find a photocopier, where they can replenish their stationery and where the toilets are. It may sound trivial, but paying attention to these small details can make a real difference to how comfortable people feel in the early days.

4. Help new recruits build strong internal networks

People are likely to be much happier at work if they are quickly able to build a strong internal network – and that can be as much about having someone to go to lunch with as about knowing who can support you on a project or answer your questions. Its important people feel welcome from day one, so make sure their manager or a close colleague is available to look after them on their starting date and send an all staff email around announcing their arrival and encouraging others to come and say hello. Some companies allocate new recruits with a buddy to guide them through their first few weeks, although be careful not to pair them with a disengaged employee who will dampen their enthusiasm with a stream of gossip and complaints. Once they’ve settled in, provide plenty of opportunity for new recruits to get to know people from across the business as well as those they will be directly working with. The internal social portals that come as an integral part of modern HR systems are a great way for people to easily find out who’s who, thanks to organisational charts and ‘chat’ facilities that allow staff to connect and collaborate informally. Failure to establish connections and build strong inter-personal relationships is one of the key reasons people leave their jobs, so allowing time for people to build their network and immerse themselves in the company culture is well worthwhile.

5. Provide training

If people are to feel confident and be quickly effective in a new role, they need proper training. The exact nature of the training will vary depending on the role and type of business, but at the very least new recruits will need a thorough introduction to any internal software systems or databases you use. It’s also worth spending time familiarising people with the things that aren’t necessarily formal or written down anywhere, like some of the jargon or acronyms that are used or how decisions are made in the business. If specific skills training has been promised at interview, make sure this is organised straight away so that people are properly equipped to do their job. The first few weeks is also a good time to emphasise the importance the business places on developing its staff – a key factor in many employees’ decision on whether to stay with a company or go elsewhere. Make sure people are aware of any training programmes that are available internally and be open to discussing other less formal ways, such as job shadowing or stretch projects, they could use to develop their careers.

One action to take this week: Find out what your retention rate is like for new hires. Think about what small measures you can put in place immediately to improve the chances of people staying.

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