What’s Your Onboarding Debt, The cost of Forgetting & How Steve Jobs hired and retained A Players
6 November 2022 Newsletter
“You could be good today but instead you choose tomorrow”
– Marcus Aurelius
Hope you’re Thriving!
It’s been an awesome, enormous week. But that’s what book launch weeks are often like.
One of the more interesting parts of the week was being interviewed on New Zealand’s breakfast show AM at 3.50 am Perth time. It was fun, and I guess it ‘ticked a box’ for me.
I’m delighted with the impact it’s already having on readers and the early feedback.
Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate the book launch last Friday. A beautiful venue, ‘under the whale’ at the Western Australian Museum with wonderful people.
The Cost of Forgetting
Continuing excerpts from my new book Onboarded, released on the first of November, here’s a snippet about the cost of forgetting.
In the late 19th century, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus tested his memory over a series of studies to understand how people remember information and how the mind loses information over time. The graph he plotted is represented in the figure below and it demonstrates how information disappears exponentially once we learn something.
One day after learning new information, our retention drops to around 55 percent.
However, by the time a week has passed, retention plummets to about 10 percent.
This incredible discovery is known as Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve and is the primary reason most onboarding processes are ineffective.
You may remember the data from Chapter 1, where my survey identified that 83 percent of recent hires undergo an onboarding process of 14 days or less. Furthermore, 49 percent of respondents had an onboarding process of seven days or less.
Inadequate onboarding is born of human nature and multiplied by human biology.
Human nature often leads managers to provide the minimum onboarding time, teaching essential items only once. Human biology means that new hires will likely forget 90 percent of what they are taught within a week.
One person I interviewed who shall remain nameless said, “I instruct new hires when they begin how ‘I’m only going to tell you this once’ and I onboard them in about one hour, and I explain if they don’t remember what I tell them the first time, then they aren’t good enough for the job.”
However, not all is lost because subsequent research found that when we re-teach a concept, people remember it once again. For example, the first time information is re-taught, people once again forget 90 percent within a week. But that forgetting will be different from the initial rate of forgetting, as shown in the figure below. When that information is taught a third time, something remarkable happens in the brain, and instead of forgetting 90 percent, a person forgets only 50 percent.
Finally, when taught a fourth time, a person will retain 90 percent of the information taught!
And so, in the first month when a new hire joins the firm, the job of the new hire’s manager becomes clearer. They need to use the first month to overcome the forgetting curve through a series of meetings with new hires.
Before the new hire transitions to their second month of onboarding, the objective is to recall at a basic level of understanding the culture, the technical and process expectations, and their manager’s expectations. We can achieve this through a series of weekly meetings, each improving memory retention, as shown in the figure below.
Overcoming this forgetting curve is why I called the first 30 days the “understand” stage, the first of three onboarding stages. Managers need to overcome the forgetting curve during this stage and be confident that new hires can understand. However, this doesn’t mean repeating the same thing for four weeks in a row. For example, you could tell a different core values story for each of your core values each week. In this way, you reinforce the same core values from different perspectives.
This cost of forgetting, leading to onboarding debt, the cost of productivity, and the cost of retention all add up to significant amounts very quickly, as shown.
Every firm pays a tangible cost for the quality of their onboarding process, and the costs compound. You might understand how to hire the right people in the right seats, but without an effective onboarding process, you might not understand just how to have those people do the right things in the right way.
An effective hiring process gets the right people in the right seats.
An effective onboarding process validates that they are, in fact, the right people and gets them doing the right things the right way. But to achieve that, an effective onboarding process must also filter out those who are an unsuccessful fit.
Here’s what Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung said about onboarding this week:
“Even though Chipotle has increased wages and offers enhanced benefits, it’s tempting for employees to think about taking other jobs since there’s a plethora of them out there; so, a positive onboarding experience is crucial, he says.”
How Steve Jobs Hired and Retained A Players
This week I came across an interesting article talking about A players.
The article discussed the value of A players to your firm, claiming that “20 percent of your people will generate 80 percent of your results”. Now I’d like to see the research behind that, but nonetheless, it’s an interesting article. It talks about creating an A player ‘avatar’, which I discuss in my book Made to Thrive as the Ideal Employee.
An interesting quote from Steve Jobs in the article was:
“I found that when you get enough A-players together when you go through the incredible work to find these A-players, they really like working with each other. Because they have never had the chance to do that before.”
Read the article here: How Steve Jobs hired and retained his top employees
This week on The Growth Whisperers Podcast
What’s Your Onboarding Debt? (3 of 4)
What is onboarding debt, and how can you calculate your onboarding debt?
When people don’t understand how to succeed in a new role, they do what they think is right. But that might not be the right thing. They won’t understand the culture, the technical and process expectations and your expectations as their manager.
Onboarding debt is the liability you carry with each new hire. More onboarding debt means a less successful team.
We talk about Brad’s new book Onboarded and how every new hire you employ carries a liability from what they don’t understand, known as onboarding debt.
Episode 134 The Growth Whisperers
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