As published in The Mandarin April 17, 2023 by Ivar Berget

The figures don’t lie, Australia’s public servants often want out. Not of the service itself, but their current role.

Australia hasn’t faced the “Great Resignation” to the extent seen elsewhere, but job-hopping is rampant. According to APS data, 32% of APS employees want to change jobs inside 12 months and 69% within 2 years.

One in three people will be new, every year! That is a lot of churn, and it costs.

In certain departments, such as Defence, the figures are worse with 37% wanting to leave their current role in the next year and just 27% wanting to stay for three years or longer.

Turnover comes at a high price. Mostly in lost productivity, project momentum, and corporate memory.

It is not just a problem of the public sector. Churn in industry is also high – especially those that deal with Defence and the broader public sector where work is often project related. This necessitates speedy hiring of project specific staff once a contract is awarded. Schedule and momentum are key in industry.

It’s not a new problem– and the new ways of working seem to suggest we will see more of it.

You can’t stop it, but you can reduce its impact.

It’s all about induction

By induction we mean the induction of a person into the work environment – the team and the project. We differentiate this from onboarding which is bringing people into the business. Sorting out pay, policies, compliance and other necessary obligations.

Once that’s sorted, though, what happens next?

Too often, not much in our experience. We often see people picked up from HR, given some documents to read, perhaps a “twin” or peer to help them settle, a briefing by the new boss, a little care and support in the first few meetings – and then expected to get on with it.

It clearly works – just not very well, and it’s very inefficient. It’s a distraction for the peer or “twin” – an add-on to their work. Managers share the load when there are multiple inductees. Lost productivity, twice over, and newcomers get a different experience. Different nuances on how things work, the priorities, and experiences good and bad.

What are our priorities? What are the business processes? Who is responsible for what? How does governance work? Do we have any contracts and how do they operate?

We have seen disasters in contract management where individuals start making up what the obligations are and how the contract works!

It’s akin to management by rumour.

The fix – get induction right

How they start is how they finish. The induction experience sets the standards and expectations for your new team member – communicating your organisation’s culture and values, as well as responsibilities and tasking.

It comes with that added benefit that those who feel engaged and connected will have lower turnover rates and reduced absenteeism, according to a 2022 Gallup study.

A little investment in an induction program goes a long way:

  • Engaged staff!
  • Sets the standard and expectations
  • Shows processes and procedures to get new staff functioning
  • Transmits corporate knowledge and discourages staff “making it up” when they don’t know
  • Stops the repeated cost of the stayers spending their effort training the “changers”
  • It is giving them the keys to unlock social and organisational intelligence.

It is particularly valuable in long term projects / programs and BAU teams, where continuity is essential but few staff, if any, will be in the program for even a fraction of its life – continuity is key. It is the business continuity program dealing with the risks of staff turnover.

Take advantage of motivation

There is one large benefit from having new starters join – motivation and perspectives.

We have all been excited to start a new job, to prove our worth, to launch a new beginning, a new journey. New starters are highly motivated. In fact, you’ll probably struggle to reach similar motivational levels in your staff again.

New starters want to learn, they want to do a good job, they will put the effort to do more, and do it better. We are all motivated when we start a new job. Capture the motivation of new starters for the organisation’s benefit.

It’s all about the learner

Taking advantage of the learners’ motivation, addressing the barriers to learning, and responding to their needs for effective and engaging delivery is in our experience crucial for impactful induction. That said, what you need them to know is an equally important factor to address.

Most organisations rely on a mix of policy documents and manuals that new starters are given to read, ad-hoc peer-to-peer training that pulls experienced staff away from their own work, and soul-destroying ‘click next’ eLearning to get their people up to speed.

Motivation is thrown out the window day one. Given the impact that effective induction of new starters can have on your organisation, perhaps pay more attention to what they need as well as your needs.

There are things they want to know too, especially in the very first days in a new role, and it’s not just about the task. They are soaking up any information they can get their hands on. They need to decipher unwritten rules and codes around things like dress codes, where people go for lunch, and whether you should have your video on during Teams calls – and a host of other social cues.

This is knowledge that cannot be scored, measured, or awarded with a certificate. But it helps build culture, grow engagement and, as a result, supports staff retention.

Make it easy for them to become part of your team, not just the organisation.

What’s all this cost?

That depends on what you want, and on what you want to do.

As one client did, you can collate everything you want the new starter to know. Saves time and money. Or you can get us to do it, which can save time and get a better result because designing learning is our job, not yours.

You can have a Rolls Royce solution of full discovery, engaged (and, frankly, often unengaging) eLearning development, learning management hosting and so on. Plenty will be happy to charge you “lots” and take months to provide an answer.

Or we can write some scripts, do a series of online videos alongside a few PowerPoint slides presented nicely with voiceover. May not be as smart as a Rolls Royce but will still get you to where you want to go!

Getting started

Give us a call, have a chat: (02) 62305347.

About the author

Ivar Berget is an experienced consultant, business executive with well-rounded leadership skills developed from his experienced in the military and industry. He has delivered, nationally and internationally, strong results across public service, large corporate enterprises, and high-growth digital businesses. He has deep strategy, policy and commercial expertise and tackles problems in a fundamental yet pragmatic way. He has helped clients articulate their aspirations, build executable strategies, and execute them through trials to operation. Ivar has a particular passion and expertise in the education sector. Today, Ivar supports Kiah’s clients across public services and education with clarifying their strategic intent, developing actionable strategies, and delivering real outcomes. Simply, getting the right things done.

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