The chances of losing an employee within their first year of employment are higher than you would think.
One common strategy to address and mitigate this is a structured and systematic onboarding process. After implementing, you can measure the effectiveness of your program by tracking your new employee's "time to productivity"--the point at which they're contributing to the organization.
But there's a problem. Depending upon the complexity of the job, establishing "productivity" could take anywhere from six months to two years. If employees are turning over as quickly as the stats suggest, then focusing solely on contribution levels doesn't work. Even the best managers and onboarding programs fail at yielding max productivity in this short window.
My theory is that new employees are basing their decision to stay or leave on emotional factors. The organizations that address these four factors are able to beat the odds:
1. A sense of security
I don't mean physical or financial safety. Let's assume you provide a safe work environment and a competitive offer. I'm talking about emotional security--a concept best understood by putting yourself in the shoes of your new hire.
It's day one of your new job and you're driving to the office. All of a sudden, you're hit with a wave of emotions and doubt.
Questions like, "Did I make the right choice?", "Will people like me?", and "Will I like my manager?" are coursing through your mind. Even though the new job seems better than the last, the truth is, you took a chance and left a stable environment based on hypothetical promises.
These questions make new employees apprehensive. The best thing we can do is to be mindful of these insecurities and reaffirm our new employees of their decision to join the organization.
Be prepared for their arrival, make introductions, schedule regular meetings to discuss their experiences and feedback, and help them establish a professional identity. More than anything else, make sure you deliver on the promises you made during the recruiting phase.
2. A sense of control
Control is a deeply rooted psychological need. This doesn't mean new employees need to be in control all the time. It means that they need to feel a sense of control.
This comes from understanding how things work, which requires transparency and inclusion. According to SDT (Self-determination Theory), autonomy/control is an essential psychological need that results in increased initiative, energy, performance, and persistence.
Allow them to have a voice, be a part of the process, and have a sense of ownership from day one.
3. Feeling connected to others
We're inherently social creatures--there's a reason solitary confinement is used as a form of punishment. We naturally seek out friendships and connection, just as we do food and water. So it makes sense that our happiness at work would depend on our ability to develop meaningful relationships.
Great relationships are built on trust, respect, open communication, and vulnerability. The most important relationship for our new employees will be with their manager. Managers aren't going to like this, but developing a relationship takes time.
Let's face it: People attribute significance and importance with attention. Thoughtfulness, appreciation, and time spent become key contributors to whether or not a new employee feels like a priority.
We've all been in conversations where the other person seems distracted, rushed or just plain inconvenienced. It doesn't feel good. It immediately sparks feelings of frustration and inspires insecurity.
4. A sense of status
Finding your spot in the pecking order is a struggle. Job titles and org charts are supposed to be black and white. But, reality tends to be different when you factor in the acknowledgment of opinions, needs, and feelings. This is where the real sense of status comes into play--people's ability to be relevant and feel helpful.
You can accomplish this by valuing their opinions, soliciting their ideas, and assigning them work that builds their confidence.
The sense of status is also why we have to be careful about performance reviews and evaluations. The problem isn't that employees can't handle feedback. It's the natural tendency that we all have to take it personally. It's dealing with the idea that our sense of status and relevance just dropped.
UCLA professor Naomi Eisenberger's research shows that feeling socially omitted activates some of the same neurological reactions as physical pain. If you want to create an onboarding experience that fulfills your employee's emotional needs, then creating an environment where they feel important and involved is critical.