Retention Challenges

HALF OR MORE of new employees quit a new position within the first seven months. While there can be many reasons people quit, one reason often given is, “The job wasn’t what I expected.” Anyone who has experienced the time and expense required to hire someone, only to have them quit a short time later, knows the frustration and costs involved. If this is a recurring theme, it may be time to re-examine your hiring process.

Unnecessary turnover can be avoided by setting realistic expectations — think full disclosure — from the beginning to the end of the hiring process. Establishing clear, realistic expectations is critical to a successful boss-employee relationship — and retaining talent. In contrast, disgruntled employees and turnover are highly disruptive to workplace performance.

Research shows many applicants know little about the jobs they are applying for or have inaccurate perceptions of the job. In an effort to reduce turnover, some companies are developing “Realistic Job Previews,” or RJPs, in the form of videos such as, “A day in the life of a … caseworker.” Home Depot, for example, has made it easy for potential applicants to preview the realities of sales associate positions via an online video on its Web site. The video features sales associates describing their jobs, including pluses such as career advancement and in-depth knowledge of products to challenges such as heavy lifting and working in a hectic, fast-paced environment on your feet all day. Likewise, PetSmart shows potential job applicants a 10-minute video that it believes screens out about 15 percent of applicants.

Frankly, examples like these are rare. Most managers simply do not invest enough time clarifying expectations upfront.

Here are a few things those hiring can do:

  • Most employees dislike job surprises. During the hiring process, paint a realistic picture of what the person’s average workday would entail. This includes attention to details, including where the workspace is located (having a window or office versus a cubicle can matter a great deal to some), physical demands such as heavy lifting, required travel time and schedule flexibility. It’s also a good idea to discuss weekend/holiday requirements and the amount of autonomy and responsibility people will be given. Identify any pending changes, such as work space or office relocations. Your objective in hiring should be more about finding the right fit for the open position versus trying to sell the job.
  • Address and describe your company culture in the interview process. Cover areas including expected hours of work (including crunch times), policies regarding Internet computer use, expected attendance at after-hour events, schedule flexibility and whether the culture is conservative, laid back or high pressure.
  • Write accurate and complete job descriptions and update them regularly. Ask the person leaving what they would add or delete given their experience in the position.
  • During the interview process specifically explore with the candidate why and how he or she sees the position as a fit. Explore any areas of concern. As the hiring manager, it’s your responsibility to assess if this is the right person for the job.
  • Cover the pros and cons of the job. All jobs have challenges. You won’t be doing the candidate, yourself or your team any favors by sugarcoating reality, particularly around known challenges and unaddressed issues for the person who last held the position. If long hours, tedious, mundane computer work or limited supervision/support is a job reality, inform the candidate upfront (including how he or she will be rewarded). In the end, you want to weed out those who won’t last vs. those who will flourish.
  • Lastly, consider this happiness equation: Happiness = Expectations — Delivery, and yes in the employer/employee relationship this applies both ways! Employees are more likely to respect, trust and be loyal to those bosses who were upfront with them from the get-go.

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