Have you ever started a new job that turns out to be nothing like you expected? A recent survey of 2,054 U.S. workers commissioned by Glassdoor found that 6 in 10 American workers say they’ve found aspects of their new job to not align with their initial expectations. In this survey, the disparity between expectations and reality occurred across a number of work characteristics, including job responsibilities, hours expected to work and company culture. While that particular study didn’t indicate whether the discrepancy resulted from deliberate or accidental actions, the outcome is the same – the new hire is immediately smacked with a sense of regret related to taking the new job, along with negative expectations about the future. Of course, starting on a negative note makes training, collaboration and assimilation all the more difficult. In short, from day one, trust has been compromised and you are engaged in an uphill battle to retain and engage your new hire.
So how does one avoid the potential disconnect between the job and the new hire’s experience? Some solutions can be extremely simple, while others can impact not only new hires, but the overall direction of the company.
- Understand the Reality of the Job – Before setting expectations, your company must know what to expect. Have you defined what it takes to be successful in the job? Do you know what individuals like and dislike about the job? Beginning with a clear understanding of the reality of the job is essential – and can be done by interviewing job incumbents, creating competency models and surveying your employee base. The key is to be honest about what the job experience is actually. If you don’t like the experience, change it. Whether you are engaging or retaining your workforce, you must recognize that you are matching individuals to the real job experience, and it is the quality of this experience that will determine how difficult it is for you to staff.
- Be Intentional and Knowledgeable about Your Culture – A common reason new hires feel misinformed about a job is that your “aspirational culture” is different than your “actual culture.” Avoiding this issue is a matter of not only documenting the detailed aspects of what makes your culture unique, but also teaching and reinforcing it to ensure reality matches intent. The details are essential. Employees must be able to understand your organizational values and beliefs, their promises to each other and stakeholders, and how this relates to the success of the organization. While this might sound like a substantial task to undertake, the benefits extend far beyond new hire expectations, and are essential to protecting your brand as a whole.
- Communicate a Clear, Engaging and Consistent Message – Once you understand the reality of the job and your culture, it is essential to ensure messaging to new hires is accurate and consistent with it. One of the best ways to do this is to document your understanding, then create formal opportunities to share the information with candidates and new hires. The key here is that the message is clear, engaging and consistent. Is documentation of the job written in terms everyone can understand? Many job descriptions are long and read like a laundry list of tasks. Is the information presented in a way that is engaging? Without interest, understanding is likely to be lacking. Look for ways to create clarity through presenting the material in a way that individuals will want to understand it. Lastly, it is important to ensure, despite the methods you use to communicate this – whether it be through one-on-ones, onboarding materials or automated communication – that the message is consistently delivered. If you are using people to share the message, be sure they fully understand it themselves and discuss it in a similar way.
- Start Early and Reinforce the Message – If you are waiting until after you have hired an employee to start talking about expectations and the culture, you’ve already failed. This should start with the candidate’s first exposure to your organization, as early in the hiring process as possible. The benefits here are two-fold – you attract candidates that will fit from the start, while repelling those who don’t, and you save time by eliminating candidates early on. This can be done by leveraging technology and/or creating formal steps during the hiring process to share the reality of the job through a clear, engaging, and consistent message. For example, Corvirtus uses Realistic Job Previews early in hiring to share information with candidates about benefits of working with your organization, expectations that might be unique or difficult, and characteristics of your culture. The communication does not stop there, however, it must continue throughout onboarding and the daily experience of the job. As a result, rewards, performance evaluations, development, etc. should all relate back to the message you originally conveyed about what will be expected on the job and what the culture is like. This ensures your message is not only consistent, but also that it becomes the reality of the job.
As we learned earlier, over half of a recent group surveyed didn’t feel that the job matched the expectations that were outlined about the job. Now you know that this doesn’t need to be the case, and by taking steps to avoid a potential mismatch, you will protect your brand and improve the experience for all employees.
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 SHRM.org. “Majority of New Hires Say Job Is Not What They Expected.” Steve Bates. May 28, 2013.