The New Hire Crisis; Failure to Launch

While it’s exciting to add new people to hybrid and remote teams, new hires are failing at alarming rates. When they do fail,  it creates a cascading set of challenges for managers, including a corrosive impact on the existing successful team. Failure to launch is a giant hurdle that Remote Leaders must jump to be successful. On some teams, 25% of new employees don’t last  90 days and many are thinking about quitting from the start. Remote Leaders are clearly struggling to get new hires into the successful rhythm of their teams. 

I recently joined a meeting of remote managers and heard a broad set of concerns related to new hires’  willingness to adopt the work habits of the teams. Team leads and managers share that new individual contributors often bring unique work cadences and work practices that are not consistent with the existing team cadence. They believe the result is that talented and capable people are joining teams and failing. Triggers signaling a failure to launch include:  Being inaccessible/unresponsive on slack, resistance to being on camera, not being on time, and limited transparency about the time people are unavailable– regardless of if you are walking the dog or taking a kid to the doctor. All are key elements to building trust while acclimating to a new team.  

I used to be preachy about the “Activity Principle” – if someone on your team’s quantitative activities didn’t reflect a day’s work then we should assume they took the day off and not pay them… It’s one of those concepts that died in the transition to remote work.  What seems to have replaced it? 

Successful relationships on remote teams require team leads, managers, and individual contributors to be far more transparent than when in the office. The quality of communication, clarity of expectations and trust are critical to the connection that gives the new relationships any opportunity to be successful. I’m hearing the hardest mountain to climb is in the first 30 days of the relationship. Near the top of the manager gripe list is a perceived abuse or unknowingly detrimental use of unlimited PTO. Early requests for time off are followed closely by dubious claims of tech failure, – i.e. dialpad software wasn’t working, so my calls didn’t log- and lack of responsiveness during the work day suggest early warning signs of a new hire’s decline. The managers’ concern is that this behavior will infect their teams, leading them to accelerate pips and early terminations. 

Transparency is about the example you set – many of the managers in the Circles forums I participated in  – myself included – put lunch times and breaks on our calendars – we need to be as transparent and accountable as much or more to the people we lead.

I am guilty of having approached similar experiences with equally emotionally charged responses as what I am hearing now– see my “Activity Principle” above. Some years back, I’d have leaned into firing people fast as the best example to set. Given the pressure and cost of recruiting and a bit of wisdom, I shared that the best result I see in high performing teams occurs when team leads and managers own the 30-day transition for their new teammates: tracking their success, ramping new hires as a KPI, and becoming more accountable to making it work. That includes over-communicating expectations, sharing their concerns candidly, and prioritizing flexibility for people who are capable and eager to complete the work day but need a schedule that’s not exactly your traditional 9-5. 

The emerging best practices for remote team success, assume the team members have a genuine desire to succeed. While not every new hire has to become a top performer within the first 30 days, consistent candidates with a positive attitude, strong good work ethic, and high potential, and good communication skills all make managers breathe easier.

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