Candidates are promised a fulfilling, new job, and work on exciting projects. They are lured by advancement opportunities and the positive appraisal from the team that they will join. In short, they are promised the world.
During a new employee’s first week, he’s on a honeymoon. We present him to the team, show him how to work the coffee machine, and everyone invites him out to lunch. Then, we assign his first tasks, nothing too complicated, so he can familiarize himself with his new job. After a few months, once he has established a routine, our recruit becomes disillusioned. In the end, the projects are not as “exciting” as promised, tensions in the team arise, and then, more often than not, he is asked to work overtime.
The Honeymoon-Hangover effect
This familiar scenario is what human resources experts have coined the Honeymoon-Hangover Effect. “The higher you are; the harder you fall.” States Kathleen Bentein, professor in the Organizational and Human Resources Department at UQÀM who researches contributing factors to the retention of new employees.
Often, the Honeymoon-Hangover Effect precedes a new employee’s premature departure (less than six months after being hired).
These premature departures are problematic for businesses; employees who resign in under six months is costly. According to some studies, each resigned employee costs $4000 in the banking industry. Even more so, Bentein states,“ . . . when a team must welcome new employees every three months only to watch them leave . . . they risk being less invested in welcoming the next recruit . . . ”
Is there a hangover cure?
A psychological contract
“The employee and organization should spontaneously establish a ‘contract’ during the hiring process (from the new job offer to training).” Bentein explains, “What does an employee need to bring to the table and what does the organization offer in return? Once set in stone, if an employee believes an employer didn’t live up to their end of the deal, they might consider this a betrayal. The employee resigns and performance takes a nosedive.”
The right moment
In the event of a labour shortage, it’s not rare that organizations will overplay the attraction card. Employers can lose candidates’ respect if they cannot fulfill their expectations. On the other hand, research shows that when organizations are honest from the start, and don’t discourage interested candidates, they retain more recruits.
Addressing social uncertainty
The socializing process is an important element to consider after hiring a new employee. Bentein states, “Too often, an organization will put a lot of effort into integrating a recruit into the team, those efforts progressively decline and then, before six months, the euphoria ends.”
The socializing process often lets them better address what experts call social uncertainty.
“When new employees find themselves in a team that, for example, is understaffed, the team finds it difficult to fully welcome them, to make them feel like a member of the team.” Bentein states, “It is subtle, but what happens in someone’s immediate environment can push them to resign. A new employee’s relationship to his colleagues should be addressed before technical uncertainties (related to tasks, software used, and more).”