During my travels as a veteran road warrior, I’ve recently encountered some rather remarkable signs of short-staffing, and employees who were (or should have been) wearing “trainee” badges, or perhaps personal flotation devices.
From a customer perspective, it’s disheartening to wait interminably for someone (anyone) to show up, check you in, take your food order, or answer the phone, and then to encounter a newbie who has obviously been prematurely dropped into the deep end of the pool with no life preserver or swimming skills. Though perhaps more readily apparent in the travel, hospitality, and retail spaces, this occurrence is by no means unique to those industries.
Through the first half of 2017, about 100,000 people left their jobs every day in the U.S. according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Marry that with data indicating that the U.S. currently has a job vacancy backlog of some 6 million open positions, and you quickly understand why recruiters’ tongues are hanging out, and so many others are gagging over the service experience. It also might say something about the abysmal levels of employee engagement and national productivity growth we’re experiencing.
On the precept that one of the cruelest things we can do to employees and customers alike is to put new teammates into a situation where they simply cannot succeed, here are three suggestions for managers:
Adjust Your Sights – Having a new person join your team is closer to the beginning of the staffing process than the end. Truth be known, your staffing duties will never be over (indeed, you should never stop recruiting), and they won’t be finished with that new teammate until the individual is competent and reasonably comfortable in their new role. So don’t go rushing off the instant after you hand someone their new employee ID card.
Get Serious About Onboarding – It’s not unusual to see half of all newly hired hourly workers leave jobs in the first 4 months, says Dr. Autumn D. Krauss in a Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology publication.
Plus, an equal portion of outside hires that are brought into the management ranks fail in the initial 18 months of service, according to Dr. Bradford Smart, author of “Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People.” Many of these failures are quite preventable, and some can no doubt be attributed to poorly designed or badly executed onboarding measures. People who aren’t made to feel welcome, taught the secret handshake, and equipped with the necessary insights and nuances of how things are done in an organization probably won’t be very successful, have much fun, or last long. Moreover, they will tell lots of people about the experience, and your employer brand will take a hit. Speaking of employer reputation, if you haven’t checked your Glassdoor rating lately, it might be a good idea.
Take a hard, end-to-end look at your onboarding process. Is the knowledge transfer properly sequenced? Is it delivered in a manner that best matches the user’s preferred learning style? Do you even know what their dominant learning style is? Is it facilitated by your best and brightest, or simply whoever is available at the time? Are you and senior leaders checking in with new hires to build rapport, personally embed bits of institutional fabric and check on progress? You should.
Adopt some “re-recruiting” measures to provide a means of checking in with recent hires over the course of their first year or so with the organization. Doing so will pay handsome dividends.
Upgrade Skills and Practice De-Selection Where Necessary – Few argue that everyone who finds their way onto an organization’s direct payroll shouldn’t have a mutually developed personal development plan, with time and other resources set aside to work that plan. With the opportunity to build skills, and yes, to bolster one’s resume – a heavy driver of engagement levels – we would do well to be more diligent about this effort.
Strange as it may seem, one of the best things you can do for your staffing situation is to actively, but humanely, de-select (remove) people who are chronic non-performers. Failing to do so is committing fraud against them, your customers, and their fellow teammates, who are likely tired of carrying more than their share of the load.
Last but not least, don’t forget to show your recruiters some love. They do important work, and don’t always get the recognition (or pay) they deserve.