Ever search for a new job ... on the job? According to Lilith Christiansen (Com ’95), management consultant, and co-author of the book Successful Onboarding, almost one third of new hires start looking for a different job within their first six months of employment. “When you consider that the average American company turns over nearly half of its workforce every 36 months, and all the time it takes to re-hire, that’s a ton of productivity down the drain,” Christiansen says.
A few years ago, she noticed that less successful corporations were giving their employees the same boilerplate orientation: nothing more than a site tour and benefits package review. “And it just wasn’t working for them,” she says. “The first few months of employment are a critical time for talent development—it’s a time to gain exposure to the culture and strategy of the company, to start providing early career support and establishing networks.
“The principles in the book can apply to people in any organization,” says Christiansen, “from a Rotary club, to a church group, to the PTA.” Anticipating a new member’s first experiences will make her feel welcome and supported, and hopefully translate to a long and happy tenure.
Christiansen returns to UVA every fall for football games and to recruit for her company. “I am always astonished by the difference between UVA recruits and those who come from other schools,” she says. “UVA kids are poised, prepared and professional.” She attributes this, in large part, to the invaluable resources provided by the Career Services Office. “When I was a student, I was in there every chance I got, learning how to write a résumé, what a ‘case study’ interview was—it made a huge difference.
“Writing a book was definitely a process,” says Christiansen, “I routinely woke up two hours before anyone else in my house, and sacrificed my weekends to meet deadlines.” But it felt worth it this past summer when she and co-author Mark A. Stein attended a professional conference, where one of their clients won a big award. “We got some time at the McGraw Hill booth, and people actually stood in line just to get my signature. For a brief moment, I felt a little bit like Dave Matthews.”
She offers some tips for managers who want to get the most out of their employees’ first years, and for new hires themselves. “The book not only helps companies plan a better orientation strategy, but it lets anybody who’s ever been the new kid on the job know what their experience can and should be.”
Think Water Fountain, Not Fire Hose
“One mistake we see managers make is throwing a million un-contextualized bits of company history and information at their new hires. Taking it all in is like trying to drink from a fire hose,” says Christiansen.
New Hires are People, Too
“Professional conflicts aren’t the only reasons people leave a company,” says Christiansen, “employees have to feel socially supported, too.” A smart company takes a close look at who a new employee is on a personal level and helps new hires find what they need.
Create a Stakeholder Map
Establishing a supportive network for new employees is important. Christiansen suggests making a chart of the company’s key players, their role in the organization, and when and how they might help a new hire. “Think about all the ‘firsts’ an employee will have—first time closing on a sale, calling in sick, speaking at a meeting—the people involved in those milestones are responsible for shaping an employee’s first year, and a new hire should know who can address particular concerns.”
Welcome Them with Open Ears
Every company needs to hold in-depth conversations with new hires about its overall strategy and direction. But employees should know early on that these are two-way conversations, and managers should actively solicit their ideas. “This is true for employees of all levels,” says Christiansen, “if people with good ideas don’t think they’re being heard, they leave.”—Rachel Quimby
For more career resources, visit the Alumni Career Services Center website.