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4. The Lasting Impression Counts
5. Why does it take so long?


Don Andersson


If you wait until the first day your newly hired employees come on board, you may already be too late to orient them for success. More than likely, you've inadvertently set them up to fail.

With today's marketplace shortage of available and qualified personnel, that's especially true. You want each new hire to make a productive entrance, get some initial results, assimilate easily and contribute to both your short-term and long-term success. But even before casting your net, this is what you must do

Know your target before you start your hunt

Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? However, one can often be tempted to make a flawed assumption. Just dust off an existing job description, tweak it a little, focus on needed technical skills - and start looking. That's a common way to begin search efforts. Unfortunately, yielding to such a tempting shortcut can result in an extremely costly turnover rate averaging more than forty percent within 18 to 24 months.

Some of your new hires may eventually be enticed by a better offer. Some may leave because of a change in direction by your organization. Rarely will the turnover of your new hires result from a lack of technical skills. More often they will fail because they simply don't fit into your organization. That critical possibility is often overlooked in the initial steps taken to fill a position.

To be successful, one definitely needs technical capabilities - but that's not enough. Your new hire must also possess a range of specific interpersonal, team and strategic attitudes and aptitudes to successfully meet your company's unique requirements. You've got to take the initiative to clarify all the position-specific skills required. Searching before you have specifically defined your target can be disastrous.

Provide a road map

A review of benefits, a few scattered introductions and a wish for good luck - these typical components of many orientation programs fall short of hiring for success. From CEO to first-line supervisor - whatever the level - new hires need more information. Specifically, they need to know the nuances of what it takes to get things done in your organization.

You may have used trial and error to learn your company's priorities, values, how it makes decisions and where its real centers of influence are hidden. None of these elements are revealed on an organizational chart, yet this is knowledge critical to navigating the path toward success. It's also knowledge frequently assumed and taken for granted. Remember, however, it's completely alien to your new hires. Without a road map, they will not quickly capture it.

The path they travel possesses multiple opportunities for them to succeed or fail so you need to explain the challenges and obstacles confronting them. If you don't give them this road map, who will? Without such a guide, how long will it take them to succeed?


Identify position customers

Getting started in any new position can be overwhelming. There's so much to learn - so many things to do. With the best of intentions it's possible for new hires to get caught up in activities and forget their real objective is to provide a service or a product for one of their customers.

Each position has several customers - some obvious, some not. They include the person to whom the position reports, peers, direct reports and selected others within your organization as well as external customers. No new hires can meet their own criteria for success unless supplied with information about customers that they need.

Sure, they will quickly spot their obvious customers. But the dependency of other customers on them may be so subtle it goes unnoticed. The more clearly you can describe each individual customer associated with the position, the more intentional the activities of your new hires can be.

Recognize that every customer will expect something different

Depending on the relationship to your new hires, each customer will have different expectations. Some of their expectations will be mutually exclusive. Some will be shaped by past experiences - good and bad - with the person who formerly held the position. Most expectations will be poorly defined.

Poorly defined or not, certain products and/or services are needed by each customer to meet their critical success factors. Having those needs met will be taken for granted. Failing to have them met will be a cause of disgruntlement. But don't assume your new hires will know what's needed or that their customers will automatically define needs for them.

At least make a significant attempt at clarification. Focus your new hires' attention on the need to service their customers. Let them know what you have identified as needed. Emphasize the importance of further clarification. Encourage them to position themselves as a resource who takes great satisfaction in possessing those aptitudes and attitudes that deliver great customer service.

It's never easy to live up to everyone's expectations. It's even more difficult if one doesn't know what they are.

Benefit from the ROI of fresh eyes

When one has been working a certain way over a period of time, it's possible to take things for granted. A rutted routine rarely gets questioned - it simply exists and draws others into it.

New hires may have habits of their own but at least they are not limited by your existing habits. They will challenge what you take for granted and perhaps evoke defensive resistance. That's understandable. Challenge may indicate a need to change and, because it might lead to losing a sense of stability, it can also pose a perceived threat.

If you really want to maximize the orientation process, however, this challenge needs to be accepted not as a threat but as an opportunity. The perspective every new hire brings to your organization and how it works can open all kinds of new doors.

That's particularly true throughout the first ninety days they work in your company. Gradually, however, they become acclimated and stop asking key questions from which they and you can benefit. So, from the very beginning, it's important to provide a vehicle for listening and responding to the issues they raise. Remember that fresh eyes can produce great insight. And you can all benefit from what they see.

Attracting and retaining new hires is especially difficult in these days of limited and often less-than-qualified supply. It necessitates stepping beyond traditional practices. It will require you to avoid easily made assumptions. It will cost you time and effort.

You'll be tempted to avoid the challenge required. Time is of the essence - but so is doing it right. Focus on providing these essential ingredients, each of which will contribute to the success of your organization:


  • clarity of target,
  • a transitional road map,
  • complete descriptions of customers and their unique expectations,
  • openness to a new perspective brought in by fresh eyes.

Either you make an initial investment to establish a right relationship from the beginning or you'll keep on magnifying your investment until you do. The choice is yours.


"Reprinted from, a provider of human resources business leadership wisdom. All rights are reserved by the author."




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