We’ve all been there. Interviewed a new candidate who seemed perfect for the job and couldn’t wait to get them ‘hired’ and on the team, so we offered the role, sent the paperwork and arranged the start date. Then left them to get on with it.

Fast-forward 6-9 months or so and things don’t seem so rosy. The person we thought would slip straight into our business and really show the others how it’s done is not doing so well at all. Maybe their performance is average at best; maybe they just don’t seem to ‘gel’ with the rest of the team and seem to work in a bubble by themselves or maybe you’ve discovered lots of annoying habits you didn’t see before. What happened? Did you really employ a dud? You’re usually an excellent judge of character!

It’s likely that your new employee was not actually a dud pretending to be a superstar and it’s also likely that they were quite capable of being that wonderful new employee you thought you had found. So why did it go so wrong?

If you’re like many small business owners or busy managers, you would have had all the best intentions around conducting a great induction and thorough initial training, but…. sometimes things get in the way, right? You were just too busy at that time and you thought they were experienced enough to pick it up on the job, so you just left them to it. And that’s where the outcome was sealed.

You see, research tells us that employee performance is set within the first 48-72 hours. During this window, their mind is open but they’re making their mind up about what it’s going to be like to work here and what’s going to be expected of them in the role. With no input from you, they’ll decide exactly what they’ll be expected to do and how they’ll need to do it. The problem is, that this could be quite different to what you had in mind and unless they’re a mind-reader, you really can’t blame them if the two don’t match.

What needs to be clearly communicated are your expectations for them as a member of your team including workplace values and behaviours, attendance, presentation and commitment to important things like team meetings and training sessions etc. Next you’ll need to discuss the expectations of the role like their key functions and responsibilities, how their role fits into the team, how you’ll measure their performance and how you’ll manage the situation if either party is unhappy with the situation. This frames in their mind exactly what is going to be required of them so all cards are ‘on the table’. It also gives them a chance to ask any questions or voice any concerns which might eliminate the ‘I didn’t know’ defense later. But there’s one crucial step still remaining and that is to GAIN AGREEMENT on all that you have discussed.

This creates the ‘Psychological Contract’ which defines the employer-employee relationship and your obligations to each other but more importantly, influences how employees behave from day one. It’s like a ‘deal’ that is agreed to by both parties: “I offer you this in return for that. Do we have a deal?” This is also called ‘Starting Clean’. Both sides know exactly what will be expected and can move forward confidently knowing they’re on the same track. Be warned, however, that anything not agreed to in this crucial conversation cannot be assumed so make sure you’re well planned and cover all important issues right from the start.

If you don’t make time for a thorough induction within those crucial first 1-3 days, expect to make time down the track for performance management, recovery training and trying to break the bad habits they formed while you were ‘busy’.

Kym Krey is a Leadership Specialist helping managers and business owners get real results through their teams. Contact her at www.kymkrey.com.au