“How could we have been so wrong?” he asked. “I was excited about Amanda’s potential and really enthusiastic to get her on the team. The interview process went great. She had all the skills and knowledge we wanted. She even appeared to be extremely enthusiastic. Overall, Amanda seemed like a perfect fit for us. But, now that she’s here, she’s not producing the work we’d hoped for. In fact, she’s nowhere near what we expected. Add to that, she actually seems really unhappy and disconnected. It’s been four months since Amanda started, and something isn’t clicking. What can I do?”
That’s how a recent conversation went with our friend Michael. He is an IT manager who recently had to recruit a new hire for a development project. And, as much as we empathize with Michael’s confusion and self-doubt, his experience is not unique. In fact, most managers will tell you that Michael’s experience is quite common. Nearly all the leaders we’ve talked to over the years say they’ve experienced, at one point or another, a disconnect between how a candidate appears in the interview process and their true self, once they join the team in the office.
“I don’t want to go through the recruiting and hiring process again. Is there anything I can do at this point to see if Amanda will work out?” Michael asked. “How can I confirm that Amanda is getting all the support she needs? And how can I ensure that next time, I monitor a new hire’s success from the beginning?” To help Michael out, we devised a simple four-step test. Learn to apply it the next time you hire new talent.
1. Check for team fit first.
Ask any seasoned manager, or dig into research, and you’ll quickly discover that the very first step in determining whether a new hire will succeed in your organization is seeing how they interact with, and cooperate with, your existing team. Hopefully, your hiring process discovers a new hire who is intrinsically a perfect fit, both for your organizational culture and your team dynamics. But don’t just check the “good fit” box when they’re hired. Remember to keep a lookout once the individual is in the office whether they truly fit with the team, or if they’re an outsider. Ideally, they’ll work well within their role and contribute new insights and ideas to the team. Be patient, though. Everyone takes a few weeks to get settled in, and feel part of the group—particularly if they’re an introvert. Make sure that your new hire feels welcomed and appreciated from day one. It will ease their anxiety and boost their chances of success.
2. Focus on 45.
Did you know that up to 20% of employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment? This is why it’s crucial to check in with a new employee often through that 45-day mark. If, in that time, they seem well acclimated and happy in your team, you’ve done some things right. If they feel comfortable asking questions and reaching out to mentors and peers, they’re settling in nicely. However, if they’re still struggling with the business perspective, the industry knowledge, or the company policies they need to know to succeed, then as their leader, your responsibility is to pay more attention to their needs and adjust accordingly. Check in and assess at the 45-day mark. It’s a crucial time for leaders to assure the happiness and loyalty of a new hire, which requires some consistent attention. And, although each new hire will be different, it’s a good idea to create a checklist to ensure you’re doing your best to engage them.
3. Watch for the J curve.
The J curve, typically, represents how investments perform. At first, for example, an investment’s income is negative because the investor must spend money in order to research, develop, and distribute a great product. However, as the product grows in popularity, the initial investment pays off and creates income. When graphed out, the curve looks like the letter J: first it drops and then it curves upward into a slope. That same idea, as described by Inc., also applies to new hires. New hires begin by absorbing expertise, knowledge, and advice from the team. In order to succeed, they require up-front investments of both time and money. And it’s expected that they take some time to get over the downward learning curve as they get to know your team and your processes. But as the manager, your job is to observe and ensure that your new hire doesn’t get stuck at the bottom of the J’s dip. Educate them, empower them, and encourage them. Leave your door open for questions. Whichever method best fits your culture, devise a plan to help your new hire continue growing and learning. Your ultimate goal is to help them reach the upward value-producing slope where their work drives business outcomes.
4. See them go from good to great.
When an employee goes from doing something good to producing something great, it’s more than just a great result—it’s a fundamental shift. It’s the difference between simply following directions and truly innovating—pushing the boundaries, and delivering a difference. That’s the shift between good and great work. It’s that little piece of magic you had hoped for when you hired the person—that they would bring something extra special to the role. And that shift, from doing good, following directions, and just meeting expectations to producing something great, isn’t just good for the company—it’s key for the new hire, too. Employees of all ages report that one of their top priorities in the workplace is really making a difference with their work. Better business outcomes plus employee satisfaction? There’s no better formula for a new hire’s success.
We gave Michael our advice, and he went back to his team. A few weeks later, he called us to let us know what had happened with Amanda. “You know,” he said, “I wish I’d talked to you guys sooner. Amanda hadn’t risen up the J curve or started producing difference-making work, so I talked to her. And it turns out, she was having significant problems with another member of our team—but since I hadn’t really checked in since the first few weeks, and I’d completely blown off the 45-day benchmark, I didn’t know. We talked about the problem in a group setting, and resolved it. And now, she’s doing much better. She seems excited to do great things. That’s the woman I met in the interview—someone who was excited to make a difference in our team.”
Michael’s story shows that a new hire’s success isn’t a destination—it’s a process. Use these four steps to guide you as you help new team members get on their feet so they can produce the great work your team and company are counting on.
This post was originally published on Forbes.