Home > Exclusive Articles, Staffing > Recruiting as a good marriage… the courtship continues…

Recruiting as a good marriage… the courtship continues…


by David Bush
Professor at Villanova University
Read more about this author on the HR Performance Sites website

When we hire a new employee to fill a key role, the hiring process has “only just begun”. It is not enough to create a financial transaction with legalistic documents that explain mutual responsibilities.  There is a process that sociologists call acculturation in which the new hire goes through a period of learning the culture and policies and procedures of his or her new workplace. When it is done well, a long and fruitful relationship may develop, characterize by trust and mutual respect and high productivity.  When it is done poorly, both the employer and the employee may feel betrayed and begin the unpleasant steps toward either voluntary or involuntary termination of the relationship: the employment version of divorce.

In the Dilbert cartoon, the female HR administrator is handing large yellow binders toward the new hire and says, “Stand in the hallway and read these binders. If you learn anything, forget it, because knowledge isn’t rewarded around here.”  Such a scene is guaranteed to elevate turnover.  And unfortunately, many organizations who have invested tens of thousands of dollars in identifying and “courting” a top talent with great potential to increase corporate productivity routinely destroy the relationship that your company has so carefully created.

Those of you who have invested in the struggle for top talent realize that the loss of that prize potential can be very costly whether in the first 6 months or in the fifth year.  Brad Smart asserts that the replacement cost can be as much as 14 times the first year’s annual compensation.

The courtship with the talented employee enters the on boarding phase as soon as the offer is accepted, although any device used to preview the position can be seen as the start of learning about the culture and the citizens of the organization.  It is the start of relationship development that leads to inclusion and engagement, that sense of belongingness that was important in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

An example of such a technique is the four-minute video produced by an HR leader at the Cheesecake Factory.  Job seekers are viewing the four-minute video at a rate of about 40,000 per year. At this delightful restaurant chain this is the beginning of the courtship.  In 4 minutes a candidate has some basic idea of the work culture.

The video also introduces a number of the key people in the organization and gives some background on the origins of the business.

A model for excellence in the development of on boarding can be found at the Ritz-Carleton Hotel Chain.   They have received recognition from the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and from Stephen R. Covey of Seven Habits fame, this benchmark organization for on boarding and its customer service culture has a division that will provide on boarding for other organizations. I have long been impressed with their simple statement that: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”

The ROI for these on boarding efforts should be a rather straightforward calculation using Jack Phillip’s procedures.  The payoffs are a higher percentage of very engaged employees and acceleration to high levels of productivity.

Insure that the on boarding process includes (1) openly addressing potential employee concerns, (2) plenty of time to insure thorough coverage of all issues, (3) lots of material on corporate web sites that include e-learning modules that allow access from home and encourage family members to learn about the company as well, (4) have all managers deeply trained in coaching and mentoring skills and provided with development plans for the initial two months, and (5) track the mentoring progress for the first quarter of employment.

Successful courtship, however, must go beyond the honeymoon described above.  Whether we call it mentoring or coaching, the support and guidance of company leaders will insure that optimal development of our valuable talent will maximize the retention of that which we have selected so carefully. Our goal should be to retain and develop high quality people.  In doing so our employees will become assets in which we have invested and from which we can compute the return on that investment.  And if we do it well we will be rewarded with a long and mutually satisfying relationship.

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