When I look into my Crystal Ball and See Your Employees Leaving

When I look into my Crystal Ball and See Your Employees Leaving

One of my many talents when it comes to management consulting is predicting the future. I love to use my crystal ball to shock and amaze my clients with eery premonitions of their future staffing woes.

My favorite part is when I tell them the history of their employee issues in our first meeting. Most of these scenarios are common to all business owners, and like psychological analysis, they all fit into one of only about three different storylines.

In true “name that tune” fashion, if the business owner hums a couple bars of his sad employee tune, I can usually fill in the details. That was the case recently when an ambitious business owner told me his new employee left after just a couple weeks on the job.

He thought he made a brilliant hire, luring a young professional away from an iconic company. Unfortunately, all the signs were there that she would not make it in his business, but he did not want to believe.

Recognizing Red Flags

This scenario happens all the time with small business owners. They want to hire someone with experience, so they do not have to train this person. This business owner had all the best intentions for his business and his new employee, but the situation was doomed from the beginning.

These are some pitfalls you can run into when recruiting new employees out of large companies into your small business.

Moving from the factory floor to the big office
Working in a small business is very different than working for a large organization. Some skills do not translate. Large companies have rigid structures in place to keep all of their employees organized and productive. Some of these employees long for an opportunity to stand out, and moving to a smaller company seems like the right choice. Often, though, the transition from being a line worker, one of the cogs, to running the machine without other cogs to help, proves too much.

Too much freedom too fast
Some people work well in the highly structured environment of a large company, although many people complain about the constraints of having set work hours and a specific location from where to work. Keeping your own schedule is a skill that needs guidance and practice. When employees move from a structured work environment to telecommuting, for example, there is an adjustment period. It takes time to get used to setting your own boundaries and making the most effective use of your time.

Occupying the dumping grounds
Very often, by the time a small business hires a new employee, the business has been working in crisis mode for several months or longer. As soon as you start looking for that new assistant or office manager, in your mind you see an end to the crisis. But during the hiring process, which can take months, the crisis continues. Work piles up on the new employee’s desk before she even completes the interview process. On day one for that new employee, you want the backlog of work to get cleaned up. You and your existing staff are ready for the crisis to be over. Unfortunately, no one, with any amount of skill or experience, can walk into your business and clean up a mess it took weeks or even months to accumulate in just one day. You cannot help but have unrealistic expectations for your new employee, and there is no way he can meet them.

Soles can be lonely
While work should be all about the work, you have to remember there are people involved, and we are mostly social creatures. A new employee can feel like she was sent to isolation leaving a big team to work for your small business. Most of us don’t realize how much our co-workers are part of our day until they are not there any more. Motivating yourself through the workday is a bit different when you sudden;y work alone or with few others. Most small business owners spend a good portion of their day out of the office or the shop, which is why you need good employees to manage things while you’re gone. Very often a new employee thinks he or she will be working directly with the boss only to find out it is hard to get a five minute meeting with the boss to ask a question.

How it All Goes Wrong

Although I was not in the interviews with this business owner, I can tell you exactly how they went. The potential new hire impressed the employer by listing off all the tasks she was familiar with. In turn, he wooed her with a promise of working from home, or her local coffee shop, and setting her own hours.

What needed to happen was a deeper discussion that employers seldom have during the interview process. Although this potential new hire had experience with several different tasks, she had never done any of them completely on her own or without direct supervision. She knew the buzzwords, but not the all the technical details of execution.

This is not really her fault. She was not trying to deceive anyone. She was putting her best foot forward. I’m sure she promised that she was a fast learner and could pick up any tasks she was not familiar with. In her experience at a large company, there was always someone around to lean on for help and probably plenty of formal training she could opt into. In a small business none of that exists.

I’m sure the business owner was honest with her in the interviews, too. He probably listed out all the tasks she would be responsible for. He probably even explained his vision of the future and the additional responsibilities he would like her to manage when the time came. He made it sound like a step up in her career and the open of much more professional opportunity. He was not lying. That is what he envisioned for this potential new employee.

She never understood she would have to do all of these tasks, the ones she knew about and the ones she needed to learn, at the same time. She did not envision that making her own hours would mean working through midnight to collaborate with team members in different time zones. When the boss described that part of the job, it definitely sounded more glamorous than it turned out to be.

Who is at fault?

Were both the employer and the new hire right? Or were they both wrong? I’m not a big fan of placing blame. As far as I am concerned, the post-mortem only needs to find possible solutions to the problem or ways to prevent it from happening again.

If you own a small business, you have to watch out for warning signs that you are not making a good hiring choice for your business. Remember that there are two sides to consider. When you hire someone, you are taking some responsibility for their future, too, not just your own. As an employer, you have a duty to provide employees with the support and materials they need to be successful.

Matching up skills with tasks is not the only way to make a hiring decision. You want to find an employee who will be a good fit with the rest of your team and who is well suited to the unique responsibilities of working in a small business. Keep in mind that working for you is a unique experience, and although many people might like the opportunity to try, not everyone will be able to succeed.

On-boarding Conquers Most

When it comes to hiring someone for your small business out of a large company, there are some insurmountable obstacles. If you choose the right person, though, he or she can make a successful transition. You need to provide more than a little support in the beginning, though.

How you on-board and train a new employee can help overcome the issues of transitioning to such a different job and work environment. Noticing the red flags does not mean you should not hire this person. Those red flags should be a strong warning to you that you will have to work extra hard at making the transition a little smoother.

Remember that no matter how much work experience a new employee has, he has no experience working for you. Those first several days and weeks, you need to train him in how your company works and how you expect him to complete the tasks he is assigned. Just like an entry-level employee, he will need step by step instructions, information broken down into small, easily digestible chunks, and repetition.

If you want me to look into my crystal ball and tell you how your latest employee crisis will turn out, drop some details in the comments.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *