There’s Too Much at Stake to Leave it Up to “Dwight”


Did you know that 22% of turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment, according to The Wynhurst Group?

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the description of the job in posting and the interview was not a realistic portrayal of the realities of the job. Some people adapt. Most feel disappointed or even betrayed, and these are the ones that begin their search for another opportunity pretty quickly. If they stay with you for more than 45 day, you can bet you don’t have their full engagement.

Another reason for this turnover rate is the lack of a structured on-boarding process. The Wynhurst Group study indicates that new employees who went through a structured on-boarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.

I understand that you are busy and your plate is full, but seriously, showing a new hire their desk, getting IT to set them up on the computer, giving them a key card to the door, and having them sit through an orientation session does not qualify as effective on-boarding.

The definition of a high performance culture is SHARED vision, values, purpose and expectations. How do we expect a new hire to acclimate to “our way” of doing things if we don’t have a structured process for getting them to that point?

I often ask managers how new employees gain their perceptions of them as managers. Most of the time they say they gain it over time by observation. Then I point out to them the psychological truth, that people buy with their emotions and justify with facts. Without a structured onboarding process a leader is allowing others in the organization to shape the new hire’s emotions about them and about the organization. Once those emotions are shaped, whether positively or negatively, the new person will begin to see or interpret “facts” to justify their conclusions.

Consider this. I come to work as a new employee in your company. I don’t know anyone, but I have gone through the typical unstructured onboarding and orientation process. I mean, I sat through a full day of meetings with person after person parading in front of a group of new hires telling us about everything from culture to benefits. I even had lunch with a bunch of other new hires that I am likely to never work with again.

So the next day I come to work with my new key card and computer log-in information and sit down and muddle my way through the morning.

Lunchtime roles around and most of us newbies are outta of there, headed for the nearest taco truck where we can get some space.   But not me. I was actually hoping that you would offer to take me to lunch to further our onboarding, but that would have been expecting too much. So, I am courageous enough to head to the break room and get my lunch out of the fridge. I don’t know a soul and it feels a little like the first day at a new junior high. I am feeling a little awkward and out of place, but I gut it up and try to make it through.

And then, Dwight comes along and plops his lunch down at my table, introduces himself and asks if I mind if he sits with me. And I’m thinking, “Whew! Finally someone who will rescue me from this awkwardness.” So Dwight sits down and begins telling me about who he is and what he does. He even asks about me and my new job and what brought me to the company. As the conversation proceeds, Dwight says, “It’s a good thing we met. You’re gonna need someone to show you the ropes.” And he proceeds to give me his perspective on everything from the CEO, to the benefits, to you, my new manager whom he has heard about through the grapevine.

If you are lucky, Dwight is a person who enjoys his job, feels productive, has embraced the mission and vision of the company. If you’re lucky. If you’re not so lucky, Dwight has been through the same onboarding process that I went through. On top of that, the job he was hired for hasn’t turned out to meet his expectations and his supervisor tends to be a little low on the EQ side of the equation.

What you may not understand is that Dwight may very well be my new best friend at work. Think about it. He is the only person who had good enough taste to sit down with me at lunch. But even if he is not my new best friend, he is now beginning to shape my emotions and perceptions. While I may still give you the benefit of the doubt, I will certainly be keeping my eyes open for anything that may reinforce what Dwight has told me. And there are always plenty of things that can be interpreted either way. For example, you may actually be on your way to a very important meeting when I meet you in the hall and you blow me off as if you hardly know who I am. And there it is, the beginning of the reinforcement of my emotional connection to my new friend. And there you are, without a clue as to what just happened.

By the way, this is not the only way people gain their perceptions of you as their new manager. Remember, they have had managers before you. If they were poor managers, like Dwight’s manager, then their perceptions of managers in general may be negative. They have also had other authority figures in their lives, such as parents and teachers and principals and police officers. These experiences serve to shape how they perceive and interact with people in positions of authority.

With so much at stake, why leave it to Dwight or to luck? Make sure the first 30 to 60 days of a new hire’s experience with you is fully structured with interactions, training and instructions from the people that you want to be shaping their perceptions and emotional connections to you and to your company.

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