Attracting rock star employees is a challenge for most companies. There are good people out there, but with the unemployment rate just 3.8% and approaching what economists consider "full employment," 1,2 finding the right people is more challenging than ever.
Harder still is what happens after employees start a new job. As leaders, we must ask ourselves: How can we retain the best and the brightest and keep them engaged at work? That’s never been more critical, especially in companies where customer service is key.
In financial services, I am reminded of this every day. It’s exciting—and sometimes challenging—that no two days are the same when training and supporting employees in our regional centers. They provide important guidance to customers who call in with questions about their accounts. And when there is market volatility, our customers are especially eager for information and support from our associates. These conversations are so important that our senior leadership listens to recordings so they can be tuned into customer interests and concerns. Working in our regional center is a big responsibility—and my team feels that.
My job is to make sure new recruits have the training and ongoing support they need to learn the ropes. I’ve found there are a few vital tips to keeping new employees focused and committed to sticking around, especially during those first 90 days, which are so critical.
1. Be present. It sounds simple, but so much of making sure new employees thrive is checking in with them. A couple years back I was making my rounds and noticed one of our regional center associates looking up at me with misty eyes. Instead of having her take another call, I took her to a nearby room to talk.
She had just gotten off a call with a customer who faced a serious medical issue. It was a sensitive situation to navigate, particularly on a busy day when there was market volatility. My colleague handled the decision well, but she needed to share her experience and get a little reassurance. It helped her navigate emotional conversations from then on: Just a week later she let me know she’d had another sensitive call but that it had gone well, thanks to our chat. That five-minute conversation made a substantial difference.
Sometimes that’s all it takes. Regardless of the time commitment involved, what matters is that managers are present, physically and mentally.
2. Preach resilience. We all go through stretches where we feel a little lost or like we're hitting a wall. Perhaps, like our regional center associate, we were feeling down after a tough phone call or interaction. That's especially common when starting a new job. There’s a lot to learn and you lack the certainty that comes from experience. There may even be lingering doubts about succeeding in that new position—or whether accepting it in the first place was the right choice.
Having tons of support and encouragement can help. If everyone's pretending that everything's perfect all the time, or if no one mentions the downs that often go with the ups, the dips can be even harder. If you preach resilience and acknowledge that there will be difficulties, people will push through those moments, as long as they know they have a team behind them.
3. Help them find their purpose. It's so important for everyone to know why they come to work every day. That's true at the personal level and at the organizational level. Without knowing what drives you, it can be easy to drift or lose focus.
We often ask folks to make a list in response to the question: What do you want to do? The answers don't have to be work-related, and often they aren't, but making a list helps uncover what people value. Once a person knows what those things are, it's easier for them to visualize what personal success looks like. Maybe they want to travel or attain a certain position at work. Big goals can be broken down into smaller milestones that can seem much more doable day-to-day. Hit enough of those bite-sized achievements and both employee and employer are happier for it.
The first few months at a new job are always difficult. Don't expect every new employee to feel comfortable right away in a new environment, facing new responsibilities. But as onboarding leaders, it's our job to give them the attention and tools that they need to find value and passion in their work. Once they settle in—that's when they'll really start to shine.
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917