Top 10 hiring mistakes - #4 - on-boarding stuff-ups

Let’s get these statistics out there straight away: candidates / new employees who do not have an effective on-boarding process to go through with their employer are 22% more likely to leave within 6 weeks of starting (from a study by the US-based The Wynhurst Group). If, then, the role is more senior, that figure leads into 50% failure in the first 18 months. Additionally, the cost to an employer of losing a new employee in the first 12 months has been estimated at least three times the salary. Phew!

If you have gone through the process of advertising, screening and background-checking a candidate only to have them leave after 6 weeks because you didn’t have a good on-boarding plan for them, well, you really only have yourself to blame. You have not finished the hiring process, and the fact that the large majority of businesses fail at this final step suggests there is a real problem happening.

One role I started many years ago, in my first year of recruitment, had an on-boarding system that consisted of being shown (very quickly, mind you) the CRM used to record leads and candidates, told the KPI’s to deliver and was then given the yellow pages and told to go for it. This sink-or-swim approach was a shock to the system and though I quickly picked everything up, I was feeling very confused and really started to question if I had made a mistake in accepting the role.

Unfortunately this scene is repeated daily in business across Australia and around the world and it smacks of an unprofessional business. Why wreck a full hiring process because there is no structured on-boarding process and no orientation to the business? Why make a candidate which you have taken through the hiring process suddenly feel regretful and uncertain because you have left out a critical element?

And, no, on-boarding is never: ‘Here’s the kitchen, here’s the toilets, here’s your desk, here’s your colleagues, good luck’. That. Is. Lazy.

How in the world is the candidate going to know

  • Their role
  • Their team
  • Their place in the overall business

If they have never been properly introduced to it? How are they going to understand anything about the culture and environment if they do not feel a part of it from day one? By giving them the equivalent of the Yellow Pages and a phone and told to ‘go for it’, you might as well show them where the exit is, because sure as night follows day they will be looking at it forlornly wishing they can escape…and usually they do.

Again, this is the result of complacency. The majority of employers who see an offer of employment has been accepted fall into the trap of thinking everything is super. The candidate will start, they will be happy and they will fit in like a glove. Allowing this complacency to drift into your hiring strategy is a fatal move, because your hiring strategy reaches its most critical point now!

How you handle the next week / fortnight / month and beyond is so incredibly important.

Don’t do what a media company (who shall remain nameless) did: over a period of 6 weeks they hired a total of 30 (count them) salespeople. Let’s put aside the astronomical hiring costs to embark on such a churn for one moment – their on-boarding process consisted of forcing them to find 1-3 new sales (depending on how generous they felt) within the first couple of days or they were fired. When I saw this, I was flabbergasted! You cannot achieve an engaged candidate if you on-boarding process involves forcing them to fend for their career on the first day. It is simply illogical, and any company that indulges in this sort of behaviour frankly deserves losing as much money as possible.

What to Do

Like the way a decent hiring plan should be implemented, time is the key here.

  • Allow the new employee to settle in
  • Give them tasks to do from day one
  • Don’t introduce KPI’s immediately
  • Properly introduce them to the team and to the Director / CEO
  • Offer constant feedback with regular ‘catch-ups’ to see how they are fitting in

Above all remember: the on-boarding process is your first step toward employee engagement and retention. Treat it that way.

Only then will the on-boarding system start to resemble something that is likely to make the new employee comfortable, less anxious and happy they made the right decision. That is what you are after to make sure you have not wasted an entire hiring process only to stuff it up at the end.


Scott Brown

Scott Brown

Principal at Scott Brown Recruitment

Hi, I'm Scott. I am a recruitment expert and small business hiring consultant with over 14 years industry experience. I started my business in 2009 as a pure recruiter, but have morphed it into a consultancy on internal hiring. I love small business and I love what I do, as it really sits well with my passion for the people side of any business. On top of that I am a blogger / writer and speaker on hiring within small businesses.

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Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang , Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

It's so true that on boarding is important. It's not just about the informational side of knowing the "ropes" as they say but it also makes you feel more valued when your new company puts in some effort into making you feel welcome. Just like you don't fine dine on your first date (the interview) then go straight to Maccas on the 2nd (here's your job, good luck). That would be a rude shock to the system!

Scott Brown

Scott Brown , Principal at Scott Brown Recruitment

Love the analogy of first and second dates, Wendy! Very true!