One of the companies I work with just fell victim to a recruiting problem that I’ve encountered more times than I want to remember – losing a newly hired employee before their start date. Most often, this seems to happen out of ignorance, sometimes because of lack of bandwidth and once in a while, out of sheer hubris. In any event, it’s something that can almost always be avoided by recognizing what’s going on and paying a little attention to it.
When companies recruit the best person available for a position, it is a rare occasion when they’re not competing with other companies that desperately want to hire that same person. They are also likely competing with the target’s current employer who anxiously wants to keep that person working for them as well. It’s truly great to be loved and the really great people out there get a lotta love.
Since there’s so much competition for these key individuals, it’s likely that you have to put a lot of effort into recruiting them. You focus on them every day, talk with them frequently, try to address any concern they have in a proactive manner and sell, sell, sell. Just like everyone else who wants them does.
The problem starts when the recruit agrees to take the position that you have offered. You quietly do your little Tiger Woods fist pumping thing to celebrate, agree on a start date with your new employee, then move on to your next most important task at hand. Meanwhile, the competition for your new recruit redoubles their efforts to try to entice him/her to change their mind about their decision before they’re escorted to their new cubicle. There are no rules of engagement here that state that it’s unethical to steal people away in the period between the hiring and start dates. Just because you’ve won the battle doesn’t mean that the competition has given up the war.
After all, they have nothing to lose, the recruit is likely suffering from at least a small amount of buyer’s remorse and, if you’re like most managers out there, the huge amount of communication that took place prior to the agreement to join has virtually evaporated. It’s just not unusual to see no real communication between a new employee and his/her employer during the time between closing the deal and the new employee’s first day. These facts make the no-man’s-land right before the new employee starts the time when he/she is most vulnerable and most susceptible to the potential of other offers.
Now, perhaps you’re not staying in touch because you’re busy. Maybe you’re thinking that everyone else will back off since you’ve won the battle or, maybe you think that you’re so great, everyone wants to work for you and you don’t need to do anything extra. If you fall into any of these camps, you’re open to some potential hiring pain.
So, how do you optimize your chances to remove bumps in the hiring road? Show the people you hire that you’re interested in them, not only their skills. Make it personal. Here are some ideas:
- On the evening of the day they sign up, give your new employee a call at home. Tell them how much you’re looking forward to working with them and how much you’ve enjoyed talking with them so far.
- Soon after they agree to join, give them a call and set a date for dinner during an evening prior to their start date. Even better if you invite their spouse along.
- If they’re a hire for a distant location – get on a plane and go shake their hand. And don’t forget the dinner thing.
- Send a hand written letter to their home telling them how excited you are about what they will accomplish in their new role (email is OK, but the old-fashioned way is much better for this purpose)
- Have people they will be working with send them a quick email sharing their excitement about what they’re working on and the prospect for future work together.
- A couple of days before they are scheduled to start, contact them and ask if there’s anything special they’ll need when they first come in.
- Stay in touch by any means up until the very last day. That doesn’t mean every day, but every few days is not unreasonable
I guarantee you that others are going to be doing the best job they possibly can to convince your new employee that they made a terrible mistake by joining your company. If you keep in mind that the hiring process doesn’t end until a new employee shows up on a daily basis, you can counteract siren song offered by other would-be employers. It’s a small amount of effort to save an awful lot of pain.