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Abigail Hirshman: Why does this job matter?

Monday 12 September 2016

Abigail Hirshman, Senior Adviser at Acas discusses how to get recruitment right.

Abigail Hirshman Abigail Hirshman

Abigail is an Acas Senior Adviser based in Birmingham.




After years of schooling, many of us have a conditioned sense of restlessness and anxiety at the start of September.

Cast your mind back to that first day of school, and the simple information you needed to make it through the day: the location of the toilets, the kids to avoid, the best place to sit, the way to wear your tie, the most generous dinner lady etc, etc. And that was before you even started to think about the actual lessons and learning stuff!

Autumn is often a time for change at work as well, with many people entering the job market for the first time. The worrying news is that 40% of these new starters leave in their first year. Research tells us that they either get a better offer or don't like the work environment.

So here's what you can do to ensure an enthusiastic interviewee and a motivated new recruit becomes an engaged and effective long term employee:

  1. Start with the basics and check your recruitment processes attract the right candidate. Make sure you provide sufficient information about the job, organisation and the terms and conditions of employment. This way the candidate can make an informed choice and won't receive any surprises once in post.
  2. The assessment method will depend on the type of role but it is recommended where possible to have two people sift through the applications and be responsible for the interview itself.
  3. Leave sufficient time: when you are under pressure or have a lot of information to deal with, you are more likely to make snap decisions based on unconscious bias. A systematic approach to interviewing will avoid some of these pitfalls.

Fast forward six weeks. Your new employee turns up for work, shiny new packed lunch box to hand and eager to get started. Your recruitment selection process has paid off and it's all systems go. However, three months later things are starting to go awry.

Given this was a great candidate, your HR team are competent and you are a fair and reasonable manager, what can have gone wrong? It can often be the result of a well-intentioned but limited induction process.

In the workplace, new employees need to assimilate a wealth of information and this will not all be absorbed in the first few weeks or months even. Make sure you give that new starter a real chance by developing an induction programme that details not just how to do the job but answers the following questions:

  • Why does this job matter?
  • Where does it fit in the wider organisation?
  • Who are the rest of the team?
  • What are the key priorities?

And, most importantly:

  • When is it going home time? 

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