In my post on this blog on 3 October, I explained what JAC Recruitment’s research had shown to be the most common reasons for new hires going wrong – poor performance, mismatch of expectations and relationship issues.

In this second piece, I will consider some steps which hirers can take to reduce these risks.  Some of these may sound too obvious, but our experience has been that the most simple steps can be the most essential, though often overlooked on account of their simplicity.

For performance management, the sensible step would not be accepting a candidate’s technical and practical capabilities on the back of a good interview only.  If a particular skill is crucial to your role, then test it specifically. This is true whether the skill is detailed subject knowledge, the ability to prepare a polished written document, or simply to meet-and-greet in an open and upbeat manner.  Of course, role-play as a method of testing may come over as slightly artificial, but the results will be helpful. They will make sure that you get the people best equipped to meet your needs, and may also help you to justify not hiring the unsuccessful candidates.  You should keep written reasons of test outcomes for at least six months afterwards in case your decisions are challenged.

Addressing expectation discrepancies is more complicated.  It requires the employer to understand what the potential employee is looking for in the job, and the potential employee to understand what the employer is offering.  Therefore, if there are conceivably unpopular aspects to the role (lots of travel, overtime in busy periods, short-notice deadlines, etc.) then it is better to put these on the table at the start of the process. For a more in-depth check however, it can be desirable to include line management or other current staff who will be working closely with the role to provide a more knowledgeable on-the-ground impression. They can also check the candidate’s expectations from a non-HR perspective. It goes without saying that caution should be taken (especially when the more knowledgeable person is the one being replaced) to avoid putting off good candidates, which I touched on in the first piece. The right “guest” interviewer, on the other hand, can provide a more accessible sense of the role to the interviewee, as well as insight into the interviewee’s “fit” with the company.

“Fit” is a key determinant of whether internal relationships will make or break the success of a new hire. It is hard to assess objectively, but the employer can obtain some valuable feedback by allowing some existing staff to join the interview panel. Once employed, when poor internal relationships lead to an early leaver, the signs tend to come too late to attempt a recovery.  Often the first sign is the letter of resignation itself. Therefore, encouragement to socialise early on, such as hosting a “getting to know you/welcome to the team” event, can make all the difference. Getting away from the office for a meal or some drinks will quickly help form the bonds necessary for a good team; this is no guarantee for all staff to get along, but will help those who do, do so more so. Where nights out are not your company’s style or philosophy, more official feedback meetings early on and during probation may help nip negative issues in the bud. Giving encouraging feedback during these meetings also can help cultivate commitment where otherwise the new employee may be left feeling negative and better off elsewhere.