Don’t Give Your New Hires a Honeymoon Hangover

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Finding a long-term partner is a huge investment: online dating alone is a $2 billion dollar industry, and people can spend years dating and fine-tuning their preferences in a partner. When looking for a long-term partner it’s common to spend time with that person in a variety of contexts to see if you share the same goals and preferences. We want a realistic preview of what life with this person would be like. We spend time with each other’s families, explore common interests and hobbies, and share chores and obligations together.

Following marriage and commitment, there is an initial period of elation and bliss known as the honeymoon phase. After a while, however, there is frequently a period of reduced satisfaction as couples become too keenly aware of their partner’s unique behaviors  and preferences. This is the honeymoon hangover.

If we apply what we know about relationships to the job search, we see a similar effect – only new hires have far less information than newly committed couples. Finding and selecting a job is a demanding process that requires significant investment. For full-time employment, we are determining where we will spend the majority of our waking life.  When people make a major decision they want to believe they made the right choice, but when limited information is available they often exaggerate the positives and remain unaware of the challenges. New hires frequently begin jobs with little knowledge of the difficulties they are about to face, whether it’s juggling a heavy workload, or navigating the company culture. It’s also normal for new hires to bring their A-game for the first couple months on a job, doing everything possible to be an A-Player and perhaps suppressing their natural personality. After a few weeks or months on the job, satisfaction and engagement can plummet resulting in poor performance and turnover – the honeymoon hangover.

A Realistic Job Preview (RJP)

This is one tool companies can use to avoid the hangover. It gives an introduction to what it is actually like to work in a specific position within the organization. A good RJP should include the task-related, interpersonal, and cultural aspects of job performance – both the positives and the potential negatives. An RJP should not sugarcoat things or present only the “glamorous” aspects of the job or organization. All jobs have less-than-attractive features. A good RJP will be objective, specific, candid, and highly representative of the actual work environment and your culture.

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RJPs are often used as a self-select out screening tool. That is, potential job candidates are provided with enough information about the organization and their potential roles to make the decision as to whether to continue on in the hiring process. RJPs should be administered before any other hiring tools and before a candidate formally enters the selection process. RJPs can be videos, detailed descriptions, or even scored assessments. RJPs, when well-designed and used effectively, can help reduce turnover, increase candidate quality and fit, enhance employee commitment and job satisfaction, and improve training success rates. While most prospective candidates will not select themselves out of the hiring process, rest assured, the small percentage (i.e., 5% to 10%) that do would have certainly been at high risk for turnover, job dissatisfaction, and poor socialization if hired.

Does your company “keep it real” and provide candidates with a realistic picture of what life is like?  Have you seen improvements in retention when new hires have more knowledge about the job and your company?  Check out our next RJP blog, “What?! You didn’t tell me that was part of my job!” where we discuss how an RJP can build your employment brand and improve the candidate experience.

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