Sink or Swim: How to Stop Sabotaging New Hires

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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.

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