Companion Channel Episodes Leadership

Making talents stay: 5 essential DON’Ts

Attracting new excellent employees is difficult enough – but how to make them stay? This week’s post sheds light on some common mistakes, and how leaders can avoid them.

Congrats! Your new employee has signed the contract, the familiarization plan is worked off, your team is fond of the new colleague, and now she is burning to tackle her new tasks. Highly motivated, with dozens of creative ideas, new approaches, and convinced that she can make a meaningful contribution to your team’s and the company’s success.

Cut. Three months later, your once highly motivated employee has reduced her engagement to “work-to-rule” and is secretly searching for a new job. What happened? Here are five common reasons why onboarding fails – and how you as a leader can avoid them.

  1. No orientation. Especially for new entrants, it is essential to agree on the scope of their role and discuss mutual expectations. Jointly define first milestones to get to know each other’s way of working and to make progress visible. This enables your employee to purposefully start working and strengthen her feeling of competence by getting things done. This phase must also be used to clarify responsibilities: Which decisions can she make on her own, who needs to be involved for what? Note: This is a good occasion to question the status quo of your way of decision making and try out new ways!
  2. Decisions are delayed. Little is as frustrating as having to wait for the decisions of others in order to continue working. Make sure that important decisions are made promptly and, furthermore, in a substantiated way, to maintain your employee’s motivation and not slow her down. Help her to understand how decisions are made and create utmost transparency. The feeling of being stuck in hierarchy and depend on others undermines any feeling of autonomy and, thus, is extremely demotivating.
  3. Boredom. If for whatsoever reasons (delayed decisions, changed conditions) your employee cannot work on the project she was hired for, it is crucial to find meaningful alternative tasks. Some alibi task as presentations that are never listened to or analyses with uncountable charts that are never used will not do. Pointlessness is as demotivating as boredom. Maybe she can support related projects or use the time to connect with other teams – however, as she does not yet have a network in your organization, she will need your support to deal with this situation.
  4. No feedback.  Feedback shows your employee that you care about her work and development and acknowledge her effort. It makes sure that, from the beginning, you create a common understanding of how you want to work together. Thus, give feedback not only on results, but also on the way of working. Be aware that the worst thing you can do as a leader is not to comment at all on her work. It is known that being ignored bothers people even more than being actively attacked.
    And do not forget to ask her for feedback: How does she get along with her tasks and your leadership? How does she experience her new surrounding? Which support does she need? Which questions does she have? Take her feedback seriously and listen. New people can provide valuable fresh perspectives, even if they are sometimes uncomfortable.
  5. Lack of patience. Acclimatization does not happen overnight. It takes time to understand the pulse of an organization, and it takes time to integrate a new member. Help your employee to develop a sense of what she can question and change and what she must accept. Encourage her to try out new things, but also be clear about things that will stay as they are. When at the end of the trial period you feel that there is a serious gap between the organization’s culture and the employee’s needs, separate.

In a nutshell: Guide. Act. Support. Talk. Listen. And always be aware: Whether a new, talented employee will stay, largely depends on you as her leader.

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