The One Year Itch: How to Lose New Employees in Their First Year

Every year, another crop of determined new employees enters the workforce, and your organization, for the first time.  They’re smart, they’re energized, and they’re ready to change the world.


And then…reality sets in.


The hours are longer and the projects aren’t quite as exciting as they expected.  Their manager doesn’t seem to appreciate their “brilliance” and there’s minimal focus on career planning.


Enter the attrition cliff.  Whether one, two, or three years in, companies are seeing their early career employees flee the premises in record numbers.  The post-recession job market is rapidly heating up and with the cost of replacing professional talent hovering around $50,000 per employee; organizations are starting to pay attention to the first year problem.


How do you know if you’re an offender?  Below are some of the most common mistakes organizations make while trying to retain this talent cohort:


  1. “Photoshop” your culture – Much as magazines alter the appearance of their models to remove any imperfections, companies are often guilty of doing the same when introducing new employees to their culture.  You highlight the juice bar, ping pong table and state-of-the-art gym and have them interview in the best conference room with the most engaging managers in the office.  Yet, young professionals continually report disillusion that the place they chose to work looks, and most importantly FEELS, much different than what they perceived in their interview process.
  1. Make promises you can’t keep – Career Paths, Training and Exposure to Executives. These are just a few of the dangling lures for which young professionals report having selected one company over another.  However, many of these same employees complain that once they actually entered the organization’s doors, they found that these opportunities were not available to them in their first year.
  1. Ignore mediocre people leaders – Most companies report making investments to improve the skill set of their managers. Yet, Lominger International’s research indicates that “coaching and developing others” is consistently in the bottom third of competencies rated in management 360-degree assessments.  So it’s no surprise that studies continue to report “relationship with direct supervisor” as one of primary reasons people leave jobs.  There is a direct correlation:  the less skilled your managers the higher your attrition rates will be, especially with your most talented employees.
  1. Use a “One Size Fits All” approach to training – Many companies have spent years developing tried-and-true leadership programs. They love them so much that in fact they’ve used them for decades, and fully intend to continue to do so.  While the core concepts may still be relevant, the skillset and mindset of the audience has changed, as has the way people learn and communicate.


So what’s a company to do?  Not to fret, there are simple things you can do to avoid these common mistakes and retain millennials:


  • Be authentic – Clearly explain the benefits and opportunities of working for your organization. Acknowledge the challenges (company in transformation, need to create new products, desire to up-skill managers to be better coaches) and discuss how the employee might contribute.
  • Prepare your managers – Traditional leadership programs have their place, but today’s managers need to be more coach than cop to develop and retain a new generation of employees. This means truly understanding the mindset of early career employees and focusing on bridging the gap, which may mean adjusting themselves – and the way things have always been done – along the way.
  • Segment career development – Whether you like it or not, there’s a new generation entering the workforce, they’re over 50 Million strong, and you can’t survive without them. To avoid rolling eyes and turning your culture upside down with training programs catered to generational stereotypes, think longer term and invest in training customized to their unique needs.  Provide them with development opportunities – including feedback and coaching within their first year of employment.  Created with foresight and timed correctly, a small investment can make a large impact.


Complimentary E-Guide: The New Workforce IQ: 5 Trends Impacting the Future of Your Workforce