leadership incorporated blog

August 22, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Why New Hires Fail 46% of the Time

An associate of mine was meeting with a business owner whose business was struggling.

He mentioned how onboarding principles might help her. She paused for a second, gave him a strange look, and asked, “Does it really work?”. He replied emphatically that it does. She then asked, “Do you use it with all the employees?” He responded that he requires onboarding of everyone in the company now, and they love it! “They do???” she asked, seemingly stunned.

At this point my associate looked at her right hand man who had his head down and was shaking it back and forth. He said, “Eric, she thought you said water boarding.”

She wasn’t alone in not understanding the meaning of the term onboarding. I often find that people who have years of business experience have never heard of this practice of supporting a hire or promotion in making a successful transition into their new position.

So, it’s not surprising that 46% of new hires fail within 18 months. Only 19%  achieve unequivocal success. The training most people receive upon starting a new position tends to focus on procedures and technical skills. But only 11% of people are let go because they lack technical skills. Competence doesn’t even make the top 8 list of reasons people fail.

How about you?

In your career, have you ever been let go less than 18 months into a job?

Have you ever been in a position without quite fitting in or figuring it all out?

Or perhaps you’ve been the one who hired a disappointment, but you put up with the situation anyway, perhaps for years?

What was the cost to you? To others? To the organization?

  • Financially?
  • Emotionally?
  • In lost productivity?
  • In lost opportunity?

Onboarding makes a significant difference in helping people avoid the main causes of failure: (note many new hires fail for more than one of the reasons below)

  • 75% of new hires fail because they don’t fit in with the organizational culture
  • 52% of new hires fail because they are unable to build a support team around themselves
  • 33% of new hires fail because they don’t understand expectations and prioritize accordingly
  • 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback
  • 25% fail because they lack political savvy
  • 23% of new hires fail because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions
  • 17% of new hires fail because they lack the necessary motivation to excel
  • 15% of new hires fail because they have the wrong temperament for the job

Most people don’t just naturally know how to manage change and transitions well. And most managers don’t know how to help others transition effectively, either. Many companies have no process in place for the successful assimilation of employees into the company.

Onboarding is about shortening the learning curve. Being brought onboard to an organization (or any new situation, really) in a deliberate and thoughtful way. Onboarding takes into account all aspects of the experience ahead. It supports both organization and individual by planning for success and anticipating breakdowns. It addresses the building of emotional intelligence, communication skills, relationship development and early and consistent wins, to name just a few of the areas generally overlooked in hiring.

And it compares very favorably with waterboarding as a tool for leading change.

*Statistics come from: 1) a Leadership IQ study of 5,247 hiring managers from 312 public, private,
business and healthcare organizations. Collectively these managers hired more than 20,000 employees
during the study period. 2) a Manchester Inc. Study of executives in Fortune 1000 companies
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