Lessons from Buddy the Elf
The movie, Elf, starring comedian sweetheart Will Ferrell, is a cherished Christmas classic filled with lessons about finding out who you are, taking chances on people and learning how to function completely out of your element. It bears a striking resemblance to the same nerve-wracking journey most new hires embark upon when accepting a new job.
Managers have to handle these new employees as well to ensure employee retention. If the hiring manager or HR Professional isn’t prepared to bring in a new employee and help them get set up, communicate employee expectations and set goals for the first few weeks, then new hires may drift aimlessly from week to week, wasting precious training and engagement time.
Employers are trying to compete in a candidate-driven market and seek new ways to drive up retention by keeping the workforce satisfied. While this awareness is smart, efforts are often made too late, resulting in unfavorable turnover. In the case of Buddy the Elf, he managed to make it out on top, but only after a confusing and, at times, painful introduction to the human world. Had someone onboarded him better in the beginning, things might have gone differently for him…
So what can we learn from modern holiday classic Elf? Let’s see:
“Son of a Nutcracker!”
…is what every manager thinks when a promising new hire up and quits in the first six months of starting. Did you know that 22% of employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment? And, conversely, organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater retention. Having effective onboarding solutions can improve retention, leads to better customer satisfaction and most importantly sets up new employees for what will hopefully become long-lasting and fulfilling career.
Case in point: His entire life Buddy thought he was an elf and when it came to his career as a toy maker, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t perform as well as the other elves. Of course, everyone else knew it was because he was far too big for the intricate and detailed handiwork required for toy making. Had his “Papa Elf” placed him in an appropriate job and clearly explained the expectations of the job, Buddy’s talents could have been developed from day one. Instead, he was practically useless as a toy maker. When new hires are brought into an organization, it’s essential for them to understand what their role is, what is expected of them and what resources will help them grow. Having those things outlined during the onboarding stage is crucial to helping new employees settle in and develop with a new company.
If you see a new hire struggling more than usual in a role, consider moving them laterally within the company.
“Does Someone Need a Hug?”
When times are hard and managers become desperate for new talent, they might feel inclined to overlook certain onboarding and training processes in a rush to get new employees to work. However, time after time this results in an underdeveloped and increasingly resentful workforce. According to the TINYPulse 2015 Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report, 69% of surveyed employees don’t feel they are fulfilling their job role. And one of the top reasons for this is inadequate training.
Case in point: When Santa and the elves send Buddy off to New York City, they fail to prepare him for the human world. Though Santa did offer advice about not eating gum on the street and what a “peep show” definitely is not, Buddy wasn’t truly prepared for the journey ahead. The first living being he encounters is a raccoon, which he tries to hug! Mistakes are inevitable in a new job, but managers can make things easier on new hires by making sure onboarding and new employee training align. Why wouldn’t a manager want to start their new employees off on the right foot? The sooner (and better) they are trained, the sooner they can start contributing the company’s goals.
New hires need and deserve to know what is expected of them and to be given honest information about the hurdles of a new job. Give it to them.
“You Sit On a Throne of Lies.”
When a new employee doesn’t work out, it not only reflects poorly on the manager, but can disrupt the dynamic of the entire team, not to mention cost the company thousands of dollars. If a new employee is unhappy, whatever the reason is, that behavior can spread like wildfire. In fact, toxic behavior is contagious with even just one bad apple on a team and good employees are 54% more likely to quit when they work with a toxic employee. It’s the job of management to make sure new employees are properly onboarded AND followed up on regularly to address any issues or bad feelings early on.
Case in point: Buddy is a sweet, loving Elf until he finds out he isn’t working for the real Santa. When this happens, he verbally attacks the imposter until the man is driven to physically assault him in front of dozens of frightened children. The brawl is put to a halt, but only after “Santa’s Workshop” is destroyed and in utter chaos.
Though this situation takes unhappy worker to the extreme, the effects of a disgruntled new employee are just as damaging to a team dynamic. Keeping managers accountable for following up regularly throughout the onboarding process gives them the opportunity to monitor new employee behavior as well as build rapport and trust along the way.
It can be difficult for new employees to work within an already established group. Create mentor programs, affinity groups and get-to-know you events so the newcomer feels welcome.
Onboarding shouldn’t be about shoving a new employee through the door. It should be about creating an experience for them that makes a lasting impression and convinces them they should stick around. Buddy’s story reminds us that embarking on a new adventure in a brand new environment is bound to have some bumps along the way, but out here in the real world there are things managers can do to make that journey go as smoothly as possible for new employees.
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