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How do you keep a new admin who’s under the gun from the start?

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Question: "In the space of six weeks, our admin team lost two consecutive new hires—they left very quickly. Here's what I think the problem was: They were totally overwhelmed. We have a million things going on, we're understaffed, and we can't take the time to bring people along slowly. A new person has to face a ton of work from day one and there's no way around it. So how do we somehow hold onto the next admin who gets hired?" - Nadia, San Antonio

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia March 2, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Be a very organized office to begin with. Have excellent documentation on office procedures and contacts for those associates who are thrown into the job without any training. Have an appealing welcoming, comfortable work area for your associates.

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Debra January 21, 2015 at 11:27 am

No one has mentioned the Desk Reference! I’ve been in my current job for 16 years. When I was hired, the person I replaced was gone and she left without so much as a scrap of paper with instructions on how to fulfill the job requirements. I was thrown into the fire without a frying pan, or even a stick with marshmallows! I knew I needed to create a desk reference for the next unwitting employee, but how to go about it was a mystery. I finally found a great course from a reputable admin service (Julie Perrine) and now I have a kick-a@@ desk reference for the admin who follows me. Desk references are the most important books on any admin’s desk. Mine contains, among other things, the job description, union contract, company policy manual, employee list with pertinent data, index of basic duties actually performed and then detailed instructions for each of those duties. It has been a labor of love, but one that will remain valid for years to come as long as it is updated regularly as the job changes.

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Samantha Pell January 16, 2015 at 9:06 am

The easiest trap to fall into when you’re hiring someone new is to abandon them as soon as they’re in place in the rush to get back to your own work and make up the time you think you lost to training. People have to be willing to go the extra mile and build in a time “cushion” so that in addition to knowing the job, the new person feels comfortable in it, and not like an errand that has to be tended to. If that cushion is too inconvenient for everyone, then things are just plain too busy, and that’s not healthy for morale, and it’s not fair to the staff to make them work like that. As soon as that second person quit, someone in management should have examined the situation and realized there may be a problem with how the office is run!

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Lori January 15, 2015 at 5:47 pm

I agree with the advice given and I would also add that shadowing is one of the best ways to train a new person. They see the situation, they hear the way you handle it, they feel the stress that is involved and how to de-escalate that stress. Then they can see there is support and a system in place.

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Treva, MAOM-HR January 15, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Nadia, the fast-paced work environment should be disclosed at the onset of the candidate search. It should be in the job description and gone over again, in full detail, during the interview process. It is important for the candidate to know this information from the get-go without any surprises. There are candidates who thrive on this type of atmosphere, but it is not the general consensus. On another note, why is the work environment this stressful? If your company is experiencing turnover that quickly, it is up to management to reevaluate their processes and hire enough people to share the workload. Do they not know or care about the amount of money they are losing every time an employee is hired then leaves? The company should have an HR person whose job is to streamline employee structures and processes and make sure new hires are on-boarded in the right way and properly trained for the position. No new hire wants to walk into a job and be thrown to the wolves which sounds exactly what happened in your case. This type of chaos can be prevented if time is taken to better organize the leadership, the company and the abundance of responsibilities being put on the employees. Your company probably hired really good talent and then ran them out the door. Hiring, training and motivating all employees is one of the main roles of leadership within any company. With that being said, if changes are not made and that is just the culture of your organization, then it is up to the hiring staff to make sure they are only interviewing people who like the challenge of an overly fast-paced environment or they are going to continue to lose valuable talent.

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L January 15, 2015 at 4:31 pm

If there is room in the company budget, could you possibly hire a temp in addition to the new hire to help spread the workload? This would allow the new employee a much needed adjustment period until the temp assignment ends, and also shows that the company cares.

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Anita January 15, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Hi Nadia, the process starts during the interview. I agree with Karen, the interviewer should be up front, plus the pay should meet the expected level of productivity. Time must be made for the new admin to be trained, since each company has different processes. People have to make themselves available to train and answer questions, otherwise, the new person feels alone and the prospect of errors increases. For those of you trying to keep your heads above water, this will take time away from you; however, this is an investment and will increase the chance of the new person staying onboard.

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Laura January 15, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Your description is a close match for my last employer’s situation. We made sure we shared how busy the environment was but went one step further in having them shadow me for at least 30-60 minutes during busy hours. Just our inability to have a conversation about the tasks they were seeing was eye opening for them.

Once they finished shadowing, I met with them 1-1 and asked them what they thought about working in this type of environment since it was not going to change any time soon. I also asked them about how they handle stress in those kinds of settings and for examples of similar experience they had in terms of stress, workload or atmosphere.

It worked and we hired 2 great employees, closing our staffing gap and allowing us to get back to a more reasonable workload and routine.

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Claudia Wright January 15, 2015 at 4:03 pm

I’ve had this problem with a previous employer and no, that’s not why I left. It was extremely difficult to find someone that would stay. What finally worked was telling the applicant during the interviewing process exactly how busy we are, and how backlogged things had become, but also assured her that in my opinion, once we were caught up and she was well-trained and able to process tasks quickly, that things should smooth out. After a rough couple of months, things did improve greatly.

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Karen January 15, 2015 at 12:49 pm

The working conditions should be disclosed during the interview process, with no sugar-coating. This way at least the candidate knows what he or she is getting into from day one.

If that’s beyond your control, I would at least assign the next person fewer duties and add more as each is mastered. Having someone do a little of the work is still better than having no one at all to do it.

Also, maybe it’s time to look at pay rates…

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