You're at a dealership seated at a desk across from the sales manager. Right across from you on the showroom floor is the very car you've had your eye on for several months. One hour until the dealer showroom closes, the sales manager has a contract in front of you stating what he says is "the deal of a lifetime." Do you sign? It's a moment of truth.
Another scenario: You think back to your New Year's resolutions for 2008, with eating healthier at the top of your list. You attend your first business meeting of the year, and it comes complete with sandwiches, salads, and the ever-popular tray of desserts. You finish your salad (sans dressing), sip your water, and eye the cookies. "It's one cookie," you say to yourself. "But it's only January 2," you counter, "and already temptation is setting in. What about the 'new' you?" Do you take one little cookie? It's another moment of truth.
Many of us have faced our own moments of truth, with varying degrees of impact depending on the circumstances. But how often do we in recruiting (actually, make that all of HR) think about the various moments of truth our employees experience throughout the course of their careers with our organizations?
Our organization has spent a great amount of time researching and understanding the employee experience and related moments of truth, and we've found that there are a multitude of moments of truth that span an employee's lifecycle with a particular organization, starting with the moment he or she is introduced to that organization. These 10 moments of truth are summarized below, with food for thought about how to approach each to ensure the best outcome for the employee and organization when a moment of truth is at hand.
- First Contact with Organization. The old adage of "first impressions count" couldn't be more true when it comes to recruiting. Whether a candidate has sought your organization out or vice versa, he or she should be treated with dignity, respect, and the utmost consideration of his or her viability as a potential employee with your organization. Remember that a candidate not deemed to be a fit for one opportunity may be perfect for the next. You want to ensure the hard work you've done to attract and develop the candidate relationship is preserved, even if there's not a fit. Candidates will often tell others about their experiences with your organization and your team, so make sure they convey the "right message," as it will result in some unexpected recruiting for your organization, even if the candidate spreading the good cheer doesn't join.
- The Interview. Hiring managers still struggle with the concept of "mutual interviewing." It is imperative that we, as recruiters, continue to educate hiring managers about interviews going both ways. The interview is just as much about candidates wanting us as it is about us wanting them. It's a fact often lost on hiring managers, and it may result in you losing a candidate at the pivotal point an offer is made. The offer is just the icing on the cake; candidates' impressions are formed at these two moments of truth, so don't overlook their importance to the recruiting process.
- Before Day One. The time between an offer acceptance and "day one" (the new hire's start date) is critical. Oftentimes, the candidate is being wooed by his or her current employer, who may be counteroffering or even filling the candidate's head with doubts about whether your organization is really the place to be. Don't go silent during this time. Make sure both recruiters and hiring managers are keeping in touch with the candidate, whether it's a quick "hi, we're excited about you coming," to a more robust exchange when information about the organization is provided. This will enable the candidate to learn about the company in advance and thus get even more excited about the choice he or she has made to join the organization. Providing information and even requisite paperwork before day one will help the candidate assimilate more quickly when he or she eventually joins, and it shows the candidate that your organization values new hires tremendously.
- Day One. It may sound basic, but make sure the new employee is greeted and recognized when he or she arrives. Unfortunately, the stories about new employees not being able to get past security or being forgotten in the lobby by their managers are not that uncommon. Make sure the candidate is cleared to enter the facility, greeted by the new manager (or, at the very least, a member of his or her new department), and shown the rounds on day one. It's a special and emotional day for the new hire; ease his or her nerves by ensuring he or she is welcomed, meets others, and is shown his or her space, i.e., the new home away from home. Try to minimize the amount of administrivia the new employee is subjected to on day one; use the steps outlined in Moments of Truth #3 and free up time for the new hire to have fun on day one.
- First Feedback from Manager and Team. First, make sure this happens! All too often, months will pass as a new employee wonders what his or her manager thinks of him or her and how things are going. Don't leave it to chance or wait for the new employee to ask. Ensure managers are proactive and timely in their feedback. At the very least, ensure managers check in regularly during the assimilation period to provide support and feedback, which will go a long way in ensuring this moment of truth doesn't result in the "what have I done" conversation that the new employee may have with his or her spouse or friends.
- Performance Feedback. This is that wonderful time of year when we walk into our boss' office and wait to hear how our performance has been judged. Even the best managers sometimes struggle with how to deliver formal performance feedback, whether positive or constructive. Remind your managers of the investment the organization has made in new employees, and ensure they are prepared to have an engaging and productive experience at the formal review session. Avoid surprises, be supportive and encouraging, provide specifics, and most of all be honest. Even difficult messages are appreciated if the recipient feels the message is sincere.
- Year-End Compensation Discussion. It's not enough to hand the new employee a print-out detailing compensation information. Spend time talking about the company's pay philosophies, how the employee's compensation is determined, and honestly answer all questions. Recruiters have done a lot of upfront work to explain the organization's pay programs and their intent, but it is the hiring manager's responsibility to bring what the offer letter says to life when it comes to compensation and incentives.
- Help During a Personal Crisis or Situation. Even the most seasoned managers can struggle when it comes to the twists and turns life deals our employees, such as sick parents, personal illnesses, financial struggles, and children's learning disabilities. Whatever the situation, make sure managers provide support and flexibility to the extent possible when an employee needs it most. It is not always easy or clear on how to best balance business and personal needs, which is where HR's support, counsel, and coaching can play a pivotal role.
- Feedback on Succession Planning and Potential. To tell or not to tell? While this article is not intended to take sides in the age-old philosophical debate of whether or not to tell employees they are on a succession plan, it is intended to drive a spirit of open and honest communications between manager, employee, and HR as to where an employee stands and how he or she is viewed. If employees do not know or understand how they are viewed and valued by the organization, chances are they will take action and look for a place where they will be.
- Development Discussions. Although clearly out of scope for recruiting, we do have a vested interest in how well a manager focuses on development with his or her employees. One of the big draws for a candidate in considering an opportunity is the potential for development. Managers talk a big game when trying to "win the sale," but the real moment of truth is after the employee is on board, assimilated, and integrated into the organization. Two years down the road, he or she will want to know what's next. If managers aren't prepared to have these conversations or worse, not deliver on the conversations they've already had, word will get out.
There are several other moments of truth employees are sure to face throughout their careers, and in some ways, one could arguably make a link back to the recruitment process for each. The important thing is to know and understand these moments of truth, anticipate them, and help candidates and employees work through them. In the end, only the candidate or employee knows what's best for him or her. However, it is imperative that recruiters work with all managers and the organization to ensure a candidate or an employee has the best, most accurate, and complete information on which to make the optimal decision in every moment of truth. Anything less, and your greatest efforts to identify, attract, and retain the top talent may very well be in vain.