“The job wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.” – An employee’s exit interview.

How many people are lost and how many thousands of recruitment and training dollars wasted because new employees didn’t realize what they were getting into?

It’s worth thinking about – especially when you consider that 4% of employees walk out their first day on the job, and an estimated half of all workers quit within six months. Unmet expectations are to blame for a lot of this turnover.

If you’d like to cut down on the “failure to thrive” rate of new employees in your organization, here are five techniques you may want to try:

1. Make maximum use of your best candidate pools
Who’s least likely to have unrealistic or inflated ideas about the position they’re getting into? People who have been around it already.

When you set out to fill a vacancy, think about such potential candidates as interns and part-timers who have done the job – or part of it – in the past or are doing it now.

Depending on your policy on rehiring ex-employees, you may want to reach out to someone who left for greener pastures but found them dry and yellow. Also, current employees who may not know the particular job, but do know the culture of the company, are good bets.

If you do promote or transfer someone like this, though, bear in mind that they still need a realistic preview of what the job will be like. (See #3.)

2. Encourage and use employee referrals
Other than promoting a current employee, this is the surest way to beat the rosy expectations trap.

First year turnover rate for those hired through co-worker referrals is much lower than for those who come in “over the transom.” It’s simple: The referring employee doesn’t want to lose a friend or alienate the employer. And so he or she plays the role of “honest broker,” explaining the job fully to the new person and leveling with the company about the person’s skills and attitude.

Try either cash incentives or prizes for employees who bring in “keepers.”

3. Preview the job with the candidate in a realistic way
Sometimes you may be hesitant to let applicants know what it’s really like to do the job, for fear they’ll be overwhelmed and turn it down.

Trust us: If a lifelike preview makes someone refuse a job, he or she probably would have quit anyway when they hit the rough spots you smoothed over.

Some of the previewing we’re talking about can take place in the interview(s). Don’t go overboard on the negatives, but let people know if, for example, your culture favors frank and frequent feedback. You may also want to let candidates spend an hour or so observing the job, if it’s safe and appropriate.

You may even be able to create a simulated experience of a particularly hard or tricky aspect of the job. One bank had teller candidates watch a DVD of an angry customer approaching with a complaint. The interviewer would freeze the frame and ask the applicant how he or she would respond.

4. Have team members interview candidates, too
No matter how honest the interviewer has been, a candidate will usually want to get the “straight dope” from a peer. You can take advantage of this instinct. Get a couple of members of the team or department involved in interviewing the most serious candidates after you’ve done so. Have them vote “yea” or “nay” on each candidate, giving solid reasons. (Tip: Don’t accept vague likes or dislikes.)

You’ll reap at least three benefits:
• The candidate will have a clearer idea of what the job is really like.
• You’ll send a message to team members that their opinions count.
• Close-knit teams won’t feel blindsided by the sudden arrival of a stranger.

5. Talk to new hires before it’s too late
Don’t wait until that new hire is suddenly on the way out to find out, in an exit interview, what went wrong. Consider interviewing or surveying all new hires after 30 or 60 days on the job.

You’ll learn how you could better manage expectations in the future, and your intervention may keep the person on board if they’ve been feeling misled.

Source: “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave,” by Leigh Branham

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