Engaging New Recruits
Building and Maintaining Motivation
Have you ever hired a promising new team member, only to see her enthusiasm and engagement fall away as the months pass?
This disengagement is often easy to spot, once you know what to look for. Your new hire starts taking longer lunches, her ideas and participation in meetings taper off, her productivity and enthusiasm drop, and you see a distinct downward shift in her mood.
Many organizations find it hard to keep new recruits engaged; and the cost of failing to do so is high, in terms of lost performance and increased staff turnover. In this article, we'll look at how you can keep your new recruits engaged, starting from day one.
The High Cost of Disengagement
The Gallup Organization estimates that employee disengagement costs the U.S. economy more than $350 billion a year in lost productivity. In the U.K., disengagement costs organizations an estimated £44 billion each year.
However, these are only the financial costs of disengagement. Disengaged employees lower the morale of the people they interact with. They can be consistently negative, unproductive, and unwilling to help solve problems. They may also be absent more often than their colleagues.
By contrast, when people are truly engaged and are passionate about their work, they can transform their team with their positivity, commitment, and enthusiasm. According to the Kingston Employee Engagement Consortium Project, engaged employees have the following traits:
- They perform better.
- They rate more positively on performance appraisals.
- They are more likely to stay with their employer in the long term.
- They are more likely to perceive their workload to be sustainable (leading to lower stress levels and greater personal happiness).
Engaged employees care about the organization and its long-term future, and they solve problems because they're genuinely interested in helping out.
Many employees start out actively engaged with their organization; after all, we all want to love what we do and feel passionate about the organization that we work for. Over time, that initial enthusiasm and motivation can fade; and this is often because of unpleasant relationships, bad employment practices, or poor conditions within the company.
However, some new recruits may start out with only a negligible amount of engagement and motivation. Perhaps they took the job because they needed it, not because it's a role that they want to stick with long-term. These employees can quickly become actively disengaged, and they may end up doing more harm than good, if you don't take steps to engage and motivate them.
The Human Capital Institute states that 70 percent of new recruits decide to stay with, or leave, an organization within the first six months. When you successfully engage new recruits and maintain that engagement throughout their early months (as well as throughout their career), you will lower turnover and its associated costs, and develop a workforce that's committed and motivated.
Engaging New Recruits
Engagement takes time and effort: people need more than an effective induction to feel engaged, especially as they settle into their new role. As such, there are several things that you can do to ensure that your new recruits feel engaged.
1. Begin Immediately
Once you've officially hired your new recruits, start building engagement. Send them a personal letter welcoming them to the organization; and consider including a welcome pack that talks about the organization's history, mission, values, strategy, hierarchy, and structure. Your new hires should have a good sense of how the organization is set up, and what it cares about most, before their first day.
Send any paperwork that your new recruits need to fill out in advance: this will allow them to spend their first day meeting their new team, not completing forms.
If there is a significant time lapse between their job acceptance and their first day, keep communication lines open. Check in every week or two with a phone call or email to see if they have any questions or concerns. This personal attention will communicate the kind of leader you're going to be when they arrive.
Some organizations are starting to use social networking to introduce new employees to the organization, its culture, and the rest of the team before their first day. They set up dedicated “Welcome Walls” on their intranet, where new employees can upload pictures and share personal information. The rest of the team can then send welcome messages and share their own profiles, and they can start to develop relationships early on.
2. Match Task to Personality
A leading cause of disengagement is a mismatch between a person and his or her role. Use tools such as Schein's Career Anchors, the Big Five Personality Traits Model, and the Four Dimensions of Relational Work to make sure that your new recruits' personality and skills will fit well in the role you want them to perform.
If you suspect that there might be a mismatch, use job crafting strategies to customize the role to better fit your new hires' skills and interests.
3. Set Goals and Define Purpose
When your new recruits aren't sure what their goals and priorities are, they don't know where to invest their time and energy. This can quickly dampen their enthusiasm.
Set SMART goals early on, and explain why these goals are so important. Include both short- and long-term goals.
Also, everyone wants to know that their work is making a difference. Help your new recruits develop a sense of purpose in their work. Explain how their efforts are helping the team, the organization, and the community. And, when they do something that makes a positive difference, say thank you for their hard work.
4. Discover Motivators
Often, you'll need to take a different approach to engagement with each new recruit. Everyone has different motivators that make work meaningful and rewarding. When you're managing a team, it's essential to understand what these motivators are.
Use Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors model to understand what drives employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction; and then use McClelland's Human Motivation Theory and Sirota's Three-Factor Theory to identify what your new hires care most about. This information will help you make changes that increase engagement – for new recruits and for other members of your team.
Build motivation by helping people achieve small wins early on. These small wins build confidence and engagement, and they create a sense of momentum that's important for motivation.
In your new recruits' first few weeks, have a one-on-one meeting to discuss their personal and career goals. Write these down, and brainstorm how you can help them achieve these goals. Discuss what you can do to help them, and come up with a plan together.
This shows your new hires that you truly care about their long-term success, and it will, in turn, help them to feel committed to both you and the organization.
5. Accommodate Generational Differences
Although every person is different, there are often common traits found within people of the same generation.
For example, Generation Y professionals often care deeply about life balance and about doing meaningful work, and they may need more feedback and coaching than a Generation X professional. In addition, they may care less about hierarchy and authority, and more about autonomy, flexibility, and freedom. (Be careful with these generalizations – they won't always hold.)
You can use these common characteristics to your advantage; when you understand what members of a particular generation want and need from their leaders, you're in a better position to meet those needs. When you do this, you'll increase the chance that new hires stay engaged and enthusiastic.
6. Provide Support
Once your new recruits are up to speed, give them the support that they need to thrive and succeed. Regularly ask whether they have the resources they need to do the job. (These resources can include training, equipment, supplies, knowledge, and other people's help.)
Regular feedback also shows your support. New recruits need consistent feedback to determine whether they're on the right track, so that they know where they can improve. This feedback doesn't have to be part of a formal review process; a quick email or a chat over lunch can provide important input and guidance.
Support also means providing a good work environment. Your work environment affects your engagement; after all, you're going to be happier to come into a well-lit, comfortable office than one that's dark, cold, and uncomfortable. Make sure that your new recruits' personal workspace, and the rest of the office, meets their physical and psychological needs.
7. Acknowledge Your Own Role
You play an important part in the engagement of your team. Leaders who think positively and who are enthusiastic and engaged usually have the most highly engaged teams. Don't forget that your team members are constantly watching you and gauging your own levels of passion and engagement.
With this in mind, make sure that you lead by example. Communicate how much you love your job, and let people know why your work is meaningful. Show your excitement when your team achieves a win. The more open and transparent you are with your team members, the more enthusiastic they're going to be about working with you. After all, working for a great boss is an essential element in engagement.
While many recruits start a new job with plenty of excitement and engagement, some need extra help to stay motivated. This is why it's important to put time and effort in to build and maintain engagement.
Engaged employees are more productive, have fewer absences, and stay with their organization much longer than disengaged employees.
To build engagement with new recruits, take the following steps.
- Begin immediately.
- Match tasks to personality.
- Set goals and define purpose.
- Discover people's motivators.
- Accommodate generational differences.
- Provide support.
- Acknowledge your role.
Successfully engaging new recruits should take place over months and years, not days or weeks. Don't forget that you play an important role in your team members' engagement: communicate why their work is meaningful, and show your enthusiasm when they achieve a win.