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Ent Note

By JANE BRIGHT

How many times have you hired a promising executive or an ambitious administrator only to find within a few weeks that the individual bears no professional resemblance to the person you hired?

When my clients consult with me about hiring errors I always ask, “What’s different about this person? What’s changed from the day he or she first came on board?”

Sometimes it’s the employee who’s changed. Regardless of their level, the first few weeks are usually a honeymoon period, when new employees work very hard to impress us. However, most employees give us clear signals early in the employment relationship what we can expect from them.

I know an executive who faxed his signed six-figure employment acceptance letter to my client’s main fax machine. This was a distinct signal. He remained with the company only five months.

Most early hiring blunders are less obvious. To pick up on these signals, it is necessary to be tuned in to new employees from the day they join the company.

We all make hiring mistakes. Applicants are very savvy when it comes to preparing their resumes and answering interview questions. However, sometimes when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because the employer has failed to take adequate time to help adapt the new hire to the organization.

Years ago, my mentor advised me that when I hire and train someone, I should nurture him or her through the process. It was sensible advice. The word “nurture” is not used much in business; we tend to use “mentor” or “coach.” Whatever term you prefer, this mentoring process is crucial to a new employee’s success in the organization.

By mentoring, we help guide that person’s successful movement within our organization. This is difficult. It requires commitment. It requires interest on the part of the employee. Mentoring is a steering process; it is how we bring people along, show them the ropes, and coach them in the development of the corporate communication skills they need to fit in with the organization.

Companies that foster a nurturing and committed atmosphere are able to attract and retain competent employees. Their employees become loyal, long term and valuable. This is an extremely cost-effective way to do business when you calculate the immense cost of hiring and training new people.

A recent survey of CEOs showed the majority felt work attitudes were more important than work aptitudes. An employee’s attitude toward the company is formed within the first 30 to 60 days. As we are busy evaluating our new employee, that person is also assessing us. Whatever our thoughts and concerns about the person, he or she is on the same page when it comes to us as supervisors and representatives of the company.

As a prominent person in this new employee’s career path, we have a great deal of power. Each new employee is like a fresh canvas, an opportunity to develop a team member who will reflect the positive culture of the company. So often, we hire people, then turn them loose assuming as professionals they will know what to ask and where to get the answers. I call this the “sink or swim” style of management.

What these people need is a leader who will take interest in their success, be there to answer questions, and listen to their concerns.

When mentoring new employees, it is important to be available. Be accessible and supportive without micro-managing their work. Elicit feedback whenever possible. Ask questions. Seek your new employee’s opinion, and welcome his or her ideas and concerns. When employees know they are heard, it creates a feeling of respect, and generates creativity.

Setting guidelines for new employees clearly communicates the company’s goals, objectives, and policies. Make sure you regulate the new hire’s workload; learning curves vary from person to person. Don’t assign so much work that it will overwhelm the person, but don’t assign too little, or you’ll leave your new employee questioning why he or she was hired.

Be aware of your new employee’s progress. When your new hire is off and running, you will see desired results, confident responses, and critical thinking that yields results. Don’t forget that the employment relationship will last as long as you have people working for you. Create an environment that allows you to mentor and coach your employees well past the introductory period.

Management success is demonstrated by the ability to hire, train, and retain quality employees. To do this, we must demonstrate to our new hires that their success is important, that they are truly part of the corporate equation, and that we will work with them to help them reach their goals.

Employees will work long hours for less money as long as they know they are part of a team that respects, trusts and accepts them.

Jane Bright is president of the Bright Group, a consulting firm specializing in employee recruiting, training, and retention. Her e-mail address is jbright580@aol.com.

Entrepreneur’s Notebook is a regular column contributed by EC2, The Annenberg Incubator Project, a center for multimedia and electronic communications at the University of Southern California. Contact James Klein at (213) 743-1941 with feedback and topic suggestions.

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