Workforce Management

Are Your New Hires Failing to Meet Expectations? It Might Not Be Entirely Their Fault

HR insights and tips with Jeff Havens

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention! I’m Jeff Havens, and you are in charge of occasionally hiring people.

I’m so sorry for you.

Hiring people is exhausting. You have to write the ad, screen out all the crazies, conduct a bunch of interviews, realize during those interviews that you weren’t 100% at screening out all the crazies, collect a few hilarious stories for your friends (“Really? He actually sang his qualifications to you?”) – and then, after all that, you finally make your choice and revel in the knowledge that you’ve found the best person for the job.

Except not always. Because just like every other hiring manager in the world, you have enjoyed the special torture of green-lighting a new employee only to find out that your new hire is not at all what you were expecting to get.

In fact, recent studies suggest that 20% of new employees either quit or are terminally disenchanted after only 45 days on the job.

Sometimes it’s all them. Sometimes a chronically lazy and incompetent person can trick you all the way into getting hired; it’s happened to all of us.

But it’s also possible that some of your failed hires would have actually done a bang-up job if they’d been given the right opportunities.

So if you’re wondering what you might do better to increase the likelihood that your new hires turn out to be the kind of employees you want them to be, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

Are We Giving Our New Employees Only the Most Thankless Assignments?

We all know new employees are hired specifically to do the things we don’t want to do anymore. But if all of the work you’re assigning to your new employees is menial and monotonous, it won’t take long for them to lose whatever enthusiasm they had coming into the position.

I’ve actually heard one story (totally, completely not making this up) of a new employee who was asked to fire an older employee on his manager’s behalf.

Seriously. And what an opening-day message! “Welcome to the team, son! Now go make the team smaller. Oh, and by the way, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about the next time I hire someone. Glad you’re here!”

Are You Providing Sufficient Training?

Learning takes time, and time is money.

Unfortunately, that means a lot of us tend to focus on how much money we’re wasting by allowing people to learn things.

I haven’t actually checked recently, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t offering degrees in Payroll Processing and Oil Drilling and Account Executive-ing at any of your local universities.

And what about sending them to an upcoming conference? Yes, they might get drunk at one of the vendor-sponsored parties, but they might also see your industry as an exciting one they want to work to become a bigger part of. 

Are You Inadvertently Forcing Them to Showcase Their Ignorance?

Almost by definition, new employees don’t know as much as your more experienced team members.

So make sure you’re not accidentally expecting them to immediately perform at the same level as everyone else.

One innovative solution I’ve heard to make new employees feel confident and excited is to provide them an opportunity to present on a topic they know a lot about; it shows your older employees that your new hires actually do know something useful, and it shows your new hires that you appreciate their knowledge and experience.

Research suggests that each new employee you hire actually costs twice as much as the salary you pay them. You’re more than welcome to spend all that extra money on a never-ending stream of new, permanently disengaged employees.

But personally, I’d rather have a boat.

How’s your onboarding process looking these days? Learn how to engage your new hires from day one and get them ramped up quickly in this free ebook:

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-306-1781, email, or visit

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert