A single recruit can cost a company more than $100,000, and employers are at risk of squandering that investment if the new hire doesn't feel "attached", says Sork HC managing director, Anthony Sork.
"Though there is less recruitment occurring in the current market, it is still occurring," Sork told HR Daily.
Demand for talent might be down, he says, but an individual recruit still costs an employer at least $50,000 in direct expenses - through attraction, recruitment, induction and training - before the employee is up to minimum performance standards, and a further $50,000, or more, in indirect costs, due to low contribution and lost opportunities (while he or she gets up to speed).
"In any market this is a significant investment," Sork says. In the current economic climate, the "pain" of failing to get a return on that investment can be severe.
He says it can take up to 18 months for an employee to "pay back" the $100,000 (based on average profit contribution), and adds that if the worker leaves prior to this point or is disengaged, then a loss is incurred and the process must be repeated.
Ensuring return on investment, Sork says, hinges on employee attachment. "Attachment is the foundation of engagement."
He says that inducting and onboarding has, historically, been "considered and measured from an employer-centric perspective", but that the employee's perspective has a greater impact on retention and performance.
"If employees have perceptions that cause them to feel a low level of security, acceptance, trust and belonging, then the risk of attrition prior to the ROI goes up and the level of effort they apply while they are working tends towards minimum performance rather than maximum capability."
First few months critical
"Attachment theory is nothing new," Sork says. "In fact the phenomenon is as old as life itself."
It is the survival instinct that connects an offspring to its primary carer and the primary carer to the offspring, he says, and can be observed and measured in any context where a new member joins an existing social structure.
The critical attachment period (CAP) in a workplace structure, he says, is the first 120 days of employment. After that time, the ability to influence "perceptions of attachment" ends.
"It is like slow setting concrete. On day one perceptions are fluid and malleable, but gradually they harden."
But if an emotional and intellectual bond is formed within the CAP then engagement is likely to be high, Sork says.
"If an employer can achieve a high level of attachment, they will improve retention and achieve higher levels of effort and performance from their people.
"This takes an organisation from a double-loss to a double-gain scenario - if it can be achieved."
Measure before it's too late
Sork says that it is critical to measure attachment by the 90th day of employment. This gives employers a one-month window to take action should attachment levels be low.
The primary carer - or immediate manager - has a significant impact on the perceptions of attachment formed by the employee, he notes, so that measuring attachment can also be used to determine the effectiveness of leaders and devise strategies to improve attachment.
Underpinning the core perceptions of security, trust, acceptance and belonging, Sork says, are 20 attachment drivers, which new employees consciously and subconsciously assess throughout the 120-day period, and can be measured to gauge and act on employee commitment.
These drivers include:
recruitment and selection - the level of efficiency and professionalism associated with the recruitment process and how it impacts on the perception of operating standards;
pre-employment - the way or extent to which the new employee is encouraged to feel secure and excited about their new position and employer;
orientation - the way the organisation welcomes the new employee in the first days of employment, including the initiation of relationships with their immediate team, business managers and senior leaders;
central messages - core messages and knowledge associated with the company's structure, philosophy and values, as articulated by leaders and general staff;
incremental learning - staged and progressive learning in line with business demands for the skills and competencies required to achieve minimum performance standards;
accuracy of job representation - the difference between the way the job is represented in the recruitment process and first-hand experience;
manager alignment and accessibility - the frequency and nature of contact with the hiring manager;
learning path - the perception of formal and informal and internal and external learning opportunities;
senior leadership - the visibility and presence of the wider business regarded as being responsible for setting the organisation's strategy; and
work/life balance - the proportional investment of time, energy and emotion into work, relative to activities, interests or relationships beyond the workplace.
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