Sink or Swim: How to Stop Sabotaging New Hires

Posted: Updated:

You've jumped through the hiring hoops and emerged with some transformational talent. Before joining your company, Joe slashed costs and doubled revenue at his previous job, and Sue is known for building record-breaking teams and product launches. It should take them no time to produce similar results in your organization, right?

In reality, Joe and Sue’s performances will hinge heavily on how you manage their post-hire assimilation: a cycle all new hires experience, lasting a full year. In today’s market, transitions are increasingly difficult, and the costs of a botched transition higher than ever, potentially derailing entire teams or colleagues along the way.

It’s worth stressing that latter point: New-hire transitions have tremendous impact on teams, either accelerating or crippling their performance, commitment and results. Transitions are even more critical in a market that demands diversity of all sorts but does little to make the new hire succeed in their new environment. With that in mind, astute leaders understand that facilitating the year-long assimilation can boost their chances of success exponentially, protecting the company, the new hire and those the new hire impacts.

Reality Check: Stressors Affecting Your New Hire’s First Year

From the employer’s side, the hiring process is fairly clinical and straightforward. The job candidate, however, goes through a whirlwind, personally and professionally, to make a job switch.

Accepting a job alone is stressful, as is resigning from their former job, changing their home routines and even family dynamics to accommodate the new role. If relocating, new employees still have to sell a house, buy a new one, pack up their lives and families — all stressors that hinder their focus.

Take it from someone who’s relocated a family to a house and community they’d never seen before, and helped countless other professionals do the same. It’s chaos for a long time: Your spouse is asking about new insurance, the kids are crying because they’re changing schools, you’re setting up utilities in the new place, rescheduling or delaying medical care, saying goodbye to friends, finding a new church… Weeks or months go by before you’re back into a steady state of tolerable stress.

Ironically, transitions in today’s world are much more difficult than in less connected times, with Millennials more anxious about life-work balance and craving meaningful connections. That balance is exceedingly hard to achieve in a new job, role or city without adequate support.

On the professional side, things aren’t much easier. Your days as the new guy or gal are filled with unfamiliarity and uncertainty as you work to understand the new work, your new team, the company culture and more. Put it all together, and we begin to understand why your new hire won’t be their best in the first several weeks.

Each of these personal and professional stressors is an added barrier to growth, or to the results you were banking on when you hired Joe and Sue. Based on our experience following new hires at various levels and industries over the last decade, we can tell you this much: Most new hires won’t find their footing for a full year. How quickly or smoothly they get there is largely up to you.

Relocation Transitions: Ensuring Your Investment

For a new hire undergoing a relocation, company-sponsored transition assistance can alleviate personal headaches that hinder work performance, ranging from buying a home to getting kids settled in new schools to finding a new dentist or helping a spouse find a job.

In that scenario, employers provide this level of support, but not directly. After all, no employee wants their employer involved in figuring out where they go to church, finding a mental health provider, or their spouse’s difficulty with making friends. (Likewise, you don’t want to assign employees to those tasks either.) It’s why a third-party concierge arrangement makes sense.

In our work helping new hires navigate relocations — we call it 365Transitions — we alleviate or eliminate those stressors so they don’t show up in the employee’s performance at work. Ultimately, that translates into the employer getting the best the employee has to offer, sooner rather than later.

Your Guaranteed Process for Success

Once the new hire is settled in his or her new neighborhood, it’s time to settle them into their new role. Your company might have a formal orientation process and that’s great, but insufficient. Orientation is about sharing information: benefits, processes, building layout, phones, who’s who in the company — all the basic information you typically dump on employees in their first few days.

Assimilation, on the other hand, is about gaining understanding of the company culture, its nuances, unspoken rules, internal jokes and politics in the organization. During this time, new hires are also learning how to best interact with their immediate team, supervisors and gate-keepers.

The tragedy is that few companies get this right. In a survey of 588 executives at the VP level and above, 80 percent reported it took them six to nine months to have full impact in their new roles, and less than a third said they received meaningful support during their transition, reported the Harvard Business Review.

That sink-or-swim approach comes at tremendous cost to your organization. On the flip side, getting the assimilation piece right could amount to a rare competitive advantage.

Ingredients of Fail-Proof Assimilations

Unsurprisingly, we’ve found newly-hired talent performs best when supported by a coordinated assimilation strategy including:

  • Detailed plan to drive engagement and comfort with people and systems within the first three weeks.

  • Expert individual and team coaching at the six-month mark, using DISC and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team tools, focused on building trust, mastering conflict, achieving commitment, embracing accountability, and focusing on results.

  • Ongoing performance and behavior monitoring in collaboration with the hiring manager, HR and peers.

This process can be managed in-house or by a trusted provider. Most organizations have a hard time shouldering this responsibility alone and opt to entrust it to a partner who already has a battle-tested process in place.

Whether you choose to manage new-hire assimilations in-house or partner with a reputable provider to manage those cycles, do have a plan to mitigate new talent stress and remove obstacles to their ability to bring you their best. You’ve spent considerable time and money to find the right talent. Don’t risk derailing them by skimping on transition support.

Tom Bratton is chief executive officer of Medallion Partners.

  • Perspectives

    • The Race for a Winning Credit Score

      It’s May in Indy and the sound of revving racecar engines signals good times to come. But try to keep your spending under the yellow flag. Overspending on credit cards during the festivities could turn that May engine roar into a dreaded credit score “dent” come June. That’s not a great way to kick off summer. Here’s what to watch out for so your credit score will be a winner! FICO Credit-Scoring System The FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) is the most...


Company Name:
Confirm Email:
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections


  • Most Popular Stories

    • New Owners Coming For Indiana Casinos

      Two Indiana casinos will soon be under new ownership. Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: PNK), which owns Ameristar Casino and Hotel in East Chicago and Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, is set to be acquired by Penn National Gaming Inc. (Nasdaq: PENN) in a $2.8 billion deal.

    • Governor Announces OMB Director Change

      Governor Eric Holcomb has named Cris Johnston Office of management and budget director. He previously served eight years for then Gov. Mitch Daniels as the executive director of the Office of Management and Budget’s division of government efficiency and later, as deputy chief of staff. Johnston will take over for Micah Vincent who is leaving the administration.
    • (photo courtesy of ArcelorMittal)

      ArcelorMittal Investing $160M at Burns Harbor

      Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal has announced plans to invest more than $160 million in its Burns Harbor steel mill. Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report the steelmaker's investment will focus on several areas within the facility over the next several years.

    • I-65 INDOT construction map

      I-65 Construction Update

      Construction work is scheduled to start next week on I-65 near downtown Indianapolis. Indiana Department of Transportation crews will begin to clean up the interstates after two years of freeze/thaw cycles. Crews will be working in segments, including patching and repaving work. INDOT crews will begin work in earnest on northbound and southbound in segments, beginning on weekend nights from April 26 through August.  

    • (photo courtesy of Reid Health)

      Reid Health To Acquire Fayette Regional Health System

      Reid Health has entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of Fayette Regional Health System of Connersville. The announcement comes after Fayette Regional filed for protection under Chapter 11 in October 2018. Specific terms will be disclosed in the bankruptcy case and will include a $12.75M payment to the bankruptcy estate of Fayette. The deal requires bankruptcy and regulatory approval and is expected to be finalized in mid-July this year.