Employee EngagementTalent Retention

Avoiding the Second-Year Slump

Ways organizations can keep the honeymoon alive in order to increase employee productivity and retention.

By Derek Irvine

Picture this: You’re a manager at a company and you’ve just hired the ideal candidate for a new position. They’re qualified, ambitious, and motivated, and once on the job they work hard, produce great results, and appear to truly love their job. Overall you’re thrilled with your new hire, but as their second year rolls around, you notice the employee is becoming progressively disengaged, less productive, and ultimately, unsatisfied in the role. Something critical has changed from the time they first started, but you’re not sure what it is -or how to help. Well, you’re not alone. This feeling of detachment is known as the second year slump and often pollutes the minds of new employees, distorting their perception of their jobs.

Research from Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey finds that 71 percent of employees love their jobs in the first year. A whopping 90 percent of employees feel appreciated, and 94 percent said they feel their managers acknowledge their work. According to Gallup, this honeymoon period generally only lasts between six months and a year. Globoforce’s research confirms this, showing that come year two, employees’ love for their job plummets. Compared to the 71 percent of employees who loved their job in year one, only 55 percent of employees say they love their job in year two. Additionally, only 71 percent feel appreciated and acknowledged for their work in year two. According to Gallup, employee engagement drops from 52 percent to just 44 percent after an employee’s honeymoon period ends, which can be detrimental to a company’s productivity and retention.

So how can companies keep the honeymoon period alive? Globoforce has found that when employees are recognized for their work, the honeymoon doesn’t end. Instead, through acknowledging employees’ hard work, feelings from the first year can actually be transformed into the new company norm. According to Globoforce, when employees are recognized during their first year on the job, 80 percent say they love their job (compared to only 71 percent of their unrecognized counterparts). And when recognized during their second year on the job, 78 percent of employees say they still love their job (compared to only 55 percent of unrecognized employees). Similarly, Globoforce found that 94 percent of employees who are recognized in year two feel appreciated and acknowledged by their managers, a dramatic increase from 71 percent when employees were not recognized.

Globoforce’s research overwhelmingly proves that new hires long for recognition and appreciation -without it, disengagement and doubt can set in and dramatically alter their perception of their job. The best way to quiet these uncertainties is to show your employees that you recognize their hard work and efforts, understand they have basic human needs, and value them as a part of your company.

Here are five ways to keep your employees’ honeymoon period alive:

  1. Promote a human-focused culture in the workplace. The advantages of creating a culture based on humanity are abundant and vital to a company’s success. Improve your organization by showing your employees that you appreciate their needs. This not only leads directly to higher employee performance, but it also helps to create a strategic, competitive advantage. According to Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 69 percent of employees reported being highly engaged in their work when aspects of the human experience were promoted in their company, compared to only 28 percent when they were not.
  2. Foster workplace relationships. Employee engagement, trust in leaders, satisfaction, and loyalty to their company are all dependent on the number of friends an employee has at work. The more friends employees have, the more committed they are to their companies. This is proven in Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, which shows that 71 percent of employees with friends at work reported loving their companies, compared to 24 percent without close associates. In addition, 69 percent of employees with friends at work reported being highly engaged in the office, versus 28 percent without strong connections. In order to encourage these relationships, organize regular company outings, or encourage employees to take lunch breaks with colleagues.
  3. Offer job mobility. New employees especially love having the freedom to alter their work schedule based on personal wants and needs. Organizations should consider letting employees experience this freedom, within reason. Offering flex time and the ability to work from home can increase overall productivity and satisfaction among workers. Satisfied employees lead to happy employees that stay at their jobs and work harder, improving outputs on all fronts.
  4. Support development. Starting a new job can be a nerve-wracking experience, but having a mentor along the way can ease the transition immensely. Managers should be available to answer questions and offer advice when needed. New hires will certainly value it. Familiarize and understand employees’ career ambitions and find ways to ensure their projects align with these long-term goals. Mentors who take time out of their day to better team members lead to a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
  5. Say thank you on a regular basis. There is significant power behind the words thank you. When employees feel appreciated, they not only work harder, but they are more inclined to trust each other and their leaders. Plus, they are more motivated and engaged in their work, and they feel a larger sense of meaning in their work. Don’t wait until an employee’s annual review to tell them you appreciate them; thank them 365 days a year in order to show your commitment to their happiness.

Derek Irvine is the vice president of client strategy and consulting at Globoforce.

Tags: July August 2015

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