November 19, 2019

The Costs of Career Transition: Employees’ Struggle to Learn New Habits Is Eating at Your Bottom Line

The Costs of Career Transition: Employees' Struggle to Learn New Habits Is Eating at Your Bottom Line

New study shows the time it takes for emerging leaders and new hires to learn the habits necessary for success in their new roles is costly

A new study by VitalSmarts, a top 20 leadership training company, shows employees struggle to quickly and adeptly transition into their new roles. Specifically, they struggle to turn new skills into automatic habits required for reliable execution in the new role.

Emerging leaders (employees taking on a people-management role for the first time), experienced the toughest transition. Specifically, it takes an emerging leader 6-7 months to turn the skills required in their new job into reliable habits. This transition time costs employers $25,000 per new leader.

While the survey of 1,420 people found the transition costs to be highest with emerging leaders, it also identified the time and costs associated with employees in several transitions including people entering the workforce for the first time, new hires to the organization, and employees transitioning from within the organization. The results show:

  • Employees taking their first people-management position
    • Transition time (the time it takes to learn the job, manage the demands of the job, learn the ins and outs of the team or organization, navigate the culture and become fully proficient): 6-7 months
    • Transition cost (costs include salary during transition and opportunities delayed or missed during transition): $25,000 per person
  • Employees entering the workforce for the first time
    • Transition time: 5-6 months
    • Transition cost: $18,000 per person
  • Experienced, non-supervisory employees hired from outside the organization
    • Transition time: 4-5 months
    • Transition cost: $16,000 per person
  • Experienced, non-supervisory employees who transition from another part of the organization
    • Transition time: 3-4 months
    • Transition cost: $11,000 per person

HR Technology News: Lifespeak Selected by Lockton Benefits as a Vendor Select Resource

The survey also asked people what habits they found most challenging to master in their new roles. The two or three most difficult habits in each area of transition include:

  • Employees taking their first people-management position
    • Discipline effectively – set clear expectations, hold people accountable for performance gaps, discipline when necessary.
    • Communicate downward – share the reasons behind decisions. Take the time to build understanding, commitment, and support for priorities.
    • Delegate – help team members develop important skills and become self-directed. Provide encouragement and follow-up so team members feel supported.
  • Employees entering the workforce for the first time
    • Master systems and processes – learn the tools vital to success in the new role.
    • Ask for help – recognizing when they are over their head and quickly seek assistance.
    • Take initiative – seek out problems and opportunities and pitch-in without being asked.
  • Experienced, non-supervisory employees hired from outside the organization
    • Master systems and processes – learn the tools vital to success in the new role.
    • Ask for help – recognizing when they are over their head and quickly seek assistance.
  • Experienced, non-supervisory employees who transition from another part of the organization
    • Master systems and processes – learn the tools vital to success in the new role.
    • Ask for help – recognizing when they are over their head and quickly seek assistance.
    • Receive coaching – know they have a lot to learn and are willing to take coaching and advice from others.

Researchers David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts, and Emily Gregory, vice president of product development at VitalSmarts, say these costs are startling when considering a singular transition. However, they are staggering when multiplied across an entire workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the median employee tenure is 4.3 years for men and 4 years for women. That means every four years, employees create transition costs for their employers.

“Organizations have long been aware of the costs associated with turnover,” says Maxfield. “And as they look to reduce those costs, they need to consider that onboarding requires more than mastering the skills involved in the new role. They need to help employees turn these skills into the kind of automatic, unthinking habits that drive reliable performance.”

Gregory says the science behind habit formation teaches us that transitions are slow and costly because it’s not simply a matter of learning new skills—it’s a matter of replacing old habits with new ones.

“Many times, we blame a long transition on our new situation,” says Gregory. “But the truth is, old habits will always persist in new situations, even when they hurt us. We’ve found people who have this habit mindset can cut that transition time down dramatically. The sooner you notice you need to adapt, and the sooner you change habits, the quicker you’ll find personal success and the lower the cost to the organization.”

HR Technology News: New Reflektive Research Indicates Unfair Performance Reviews Prompt Most Employees to Consider Quitting

Maxfield and Gregory offer the following tips for accelerating habit formation to reduce the time and costs associated with career transition. These four tips come from the company’s training course The Power of Habit (set for official release in 2020) based on the New York Times bestseller of the same title by Charles Duhigg.

  1. Focus on “Keystone” Habits: While new roles require many new skills, focus on one or two behavioral habits that will create small wins and momentum—habits that will naturally lead to other good habits. Start there.
  2. Don’t break habits; replace them: Rather than thinking in terms of the old habits you need to stop; focus on the replacement behaviors you need to adopt. Break them down into small, specific, concrete routines and then make sure you have the knowledge, skills and tools to do the new behavior.
  3. Identify Cues: What will you put in place to trigger this new habit? Will it be a notification? When you see a specific person? When you enter a certain meeting? A certain time of day? When you feel a specific emotion? If you identify your triggers, you’re much more likely to actually perform the behavior.
  4. Identify Rewards: You won’t do a habit unless you think there’s a payoff. Choose a reward that gets you excited to do the behavior, and then make that reward both immediate and obvious. Build a reward ritual that happens every time you do the new behavior. And remember to account for the rewards you are currently getting from your old behaviors. Unless you connect those rewards to your new behavior, they will continue to drive the old behavior.

People interested in getting trained in these skills can register for a limited-release public workshop happening in select U.S. cities September through December 2019.

HR Technology News: BetterUp Welcomes Gaurav Kataria as Vice President of Product

Previous «
Next »

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Stevie Awards for Great Employers Public Voting Now Open
  2. Pingback: From C-Suite to Product Suite, Cerego Ushers in the Next Chapter of Learning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *