Closing the productivity gap and ensuring that new recruits are engaged and effective early is more and more important.

How it used to be

In the gold watch era, when people used to stay in jobs for 10 plus years, it made sense for companies to invest both time and money in training and upskilling employees.

In the 21st Century

The average tenure in the US is less than 6 years, but it is the under 30's who are moving after short periods. According to Stats SA, the median employment for the 25 to 34 year old South African worker is 31 months.

Strategic closure of the productivity gap

This naturally leads to a lack of work experience ergo more training before productivity, and then they frequently leave before the company recovers its investment. While companies can make a real effort to improve their retention, the reality is that younger employees are moving more, so a strategy around closing the productivity gap is crucial, and it starts on day one of employment.


A structured induction process is critical, no matter what the job level. The day before an employee joins a full plan should be in place, from setting up email addresses to arranging who is going to greet the new person in reception, each detail should be formally documented and checked off, and be an integral part of company culture.


An overview of what the company does, and who to go to for assistance should be part of the first hour. Although some jobs automatically have a formal training period, there are many positions which management take for granted. For example, client facing junior positions often kick in on the first or second day and the damage an untrained receptionist can do to a company by not knowing who to transfer calls to and not understanding the company and the company culture may be underestimated.

Some ideas

Smaller companies are particularly challenged, as hand overs from previous incumbents are extremely difficult to achieve. A really effective idea is to require the leaver to fully document the role:

  • Important external and internal contacts
  • The structure of document storage on his / her computer
  • The unique challenges of the position
  • Special relationships with clients and suppliers should also be part of this document
This should be done immediately after resignation. The line manager should then carefully go through the document with the leaver, and ensure that it is understood. This can save hours of time and frustration for both the replacement and the company.

Mentors and buddies

Identify the people who are good mentors, and assign a mentor or buddy. While this can change over time, it is really nice to have somebody to go to who is not necessarily a direct line manager.

Aligned expectations

Feedback from colleagues over the years has shown me that one of the most significant causes of unhappiness for both employer and employee is misaligned expectations. At Accsys, we created a model which starts in the first week and requires manager and employee to discuss and weight their expectations of each other.

In the past, this was an exciting revelation at the exit interview! now we are able to have the conversation on a regular basis, not just at the annual appraisal. Does it solve all problems? Of course not, but it does empower both parties. Defining management expectations also enables the company to ensure that new employees are working towards the right objectives from the first week.

It takes time

The downside is that it takes a larger investment of time in the early days, but it pays off in less time down the line. Training somebody to a level that you can delegate work to them is intensive, and one of the hardest personal lessons for many managers to master (especially those who believe that it is faster and more efficient to do it themselves), but once it has worked once, it really does become easier.

There are still misunderstandings and all of the other issues that go together with working with people, but good planning, and consistent roll out, can shorten the road to productivity.

Edited – First Published Google + July, 2013

Links and References