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Holding on to bright new talent

Alison Coleman

Alison Coleman on getting and keeping the right candidates

Talent acquisition is back on the agenda for a growing number of organisations, but attracting good candidates in a competitive market is only one of the challenges they face.Retaining them beyond the first few weeks could pose even greater challenges, as new research suggests that as many as one in five employees leave their new job within the first 45 days.

The alarming statistic from HR consultancy Wynhurst Group is the result of a flawed recruitment process. But, as many HR experts suspect, it could also reflect a failure on the part of the employer to help new recruits engage emotionally with their job, their colleagues and the company culture. People often leave because the gap between expectation and reality is too great, says Penny de Valk, managing director of Penna’s talent practice.

“Businesses can do a great job of marketing themselves and a new job opportunity, but all too often the reality of working there is quite different. This is particularly relevant to Gen Y; if they feel they’ve somehow been mis-sold they will completely lose trust in a brand. Businesses must be careful not to oversell the ‘sizzle’ or risk losing people early on,” she says.

Roger Philby, CEO of The Chemistry Group, believes that the seeds of a premature decision to leave are sown on Day One and says that employers need to focus on increasing their ‘stickiness’ to the organisation by engaging them before their start date.

He explains: “At Chemistry, for example, we send out a welcome box out to the new employee a month before they start, which includes their laptop, pens, notepads, a card from the entire team saying ‘Hi’, an expectations document outlining what we expect from you, their Development Book detailing how they will develop in their role, and two books we require them to read before they start.” Measures should also be in place around the induction and onboarding processes to help new employees engage more quickly.

Cable & Wireless operate a first day process that involves the new employee sitting down with their line manager and HR and using the information gathered during the recruitment process, establishing their first 90-day objectives based on their strengths and weaknesses. Philby adds: “One organisation we have worked with sends the line manager and the new employee a feedback survey after thirty, sixty and ninety days, which basically asks compared with what you thought you were getting yourself in to how is it going? They use this as the safety net to catch issues early.”

Increasingly, job seekers are seeking out organisations with a friendly, sociable culture, so demonstrating an attractive work social scene during the interview process can help. Encouraging new recruits to take breaks, and organising lunchtime activities, such as running clubs and fitness classes, will help team bonding and could result in a more productive workforce in the afternoon. However, as crucial as it is to engage new recruits quickly, particularly those identified as high potential, managers must be equally adept at deciding who they would less concerned about losing early on in their tenure.

Zappos for example, offers its new customer service employees $3,000 to quit, on the premise that if they value the $3,000 more than the job they are not right for the organisation. But not every employer will want to emulate Zappos. Iain Moffat, product strategy director at MidlandHR, suggests that more use could be made of the data generated by HR, often in greater amounts than any other business area, and frequently under-utilised.

“Analytical tools can make use of data on absence, payroll, training and learning activity and productivity. Using these stats, firms can quickly identify those employees that are performing at their optimum, and those whose performance may be a cause for concern,” he says.

Meanwhile, managers will find it easier to spot potential early ‘jumpers' among those new recruits who they don’t want to lose if they know what signs to look for. Steve Sutherland, director at Manchester-based social activity and events company Social Circle, says: “Staying at their desk for prolonged periods of time, not taking a lunch break, a lack of conversation with neighbouring colleagues, frequently using a mobile device during work time, and leaving without saying goodbye at the end of the day, are all indications that a new employee may not be engaged in the workplace.”

But it is also important to find out why new recruits are so ready to move so soon after joining a firm? Growing confidence in the job market is undoubtedly a contributory factor, but it could also be linked to problems with a particular manager who has a track record of losing new recruits within a quick timeframe that needs investigating and addressing.

Simon Conington, managing director of recruitment agency BPS believes it may simply be a generational factor. “The findings of a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey of 4,364 university graduates born between 1980 and 2000 highlighted the expectations of both Gen Y and Gen Z towards their employers, with over a quarter of current millennials expecting to have six employers or more, compared with just 10% in 2008.”  




  • Geoff Ashton

    Whilst increased longevity will itself create an expectation of multiple jobs over the life course, a more fundamental reason for rapid staff turnover relates to young people not considering the kind of work, or the environment in which, they will be most productive and fulfilled. Currently, most of my clients are people in their late 20's on their second or third job, unhappy with what they are doing but with no framework through which to identify a clear career path. You may be a great employer, working hard with your staff, but if the recruit has never worked out what they want to do in their career at a fundamental value level, there is the danger that they will come to work with the nagging doubt that maybe they were born for something else.

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