Monday, 25th September 2023

The Idiots Curve: Threat to employee retention!

By Kemi Onadiran
11 April 2023   |   3:38 am
The “Idiots Curve” is an interesting concept that is hinged on the basic rule of: you will feel dumber before you get smarter. No matter how well informed or experienced we are, everyone has areas in which they are uninformed or struggle with.

The “Idiots Curve” is an interesting concept that is hinged on the basic rule of: you will feel dumber before you get smarter. No matter how well informed or experienced we are, everyone has areas in which they are uninformed or struggle with. A person might be smart and skilled in many areas, but no one is an expert at everything.

A recent study by The Orange County Register of employees surveyed in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Singapore and the United Kingdom say they’re
“somewhat likely” to quit in the next three to six months. 51% sighted reason of not feeling like they belong or fit in.

In today’s fast paced world of two minutes hack and quick fixes, it is common for a lot of people to feel pressured to fit in and when they do not, that feeling of inadequacy, incompetence, dissatisfaction, imposter syndrome and disdain sets in. At every new level in an employee’s career, the
“Idiots Curve” shows up. In the first 90 days of any new job, almost every new hire gets a bit dumber before they get smarter. For most, they overthink everything, feel alone and lost.

Why is this so?
New environments. New people. New technology. New ways of working. Information overload. Uncertainties. Culture shock and overwhelming expectations especially if one must hit the ground running.

While one can try to fight the “Idiots Curve”, sometimes, it’s just better to realise it is there and it’s a natural feeling which is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard a new hire fights it, he or she must ride the curve. The only way to navigate is through it…just like life in itself.

Tips for new hires to navigate through this stage
Observe more, talk less
In your first few days and weeks in a new environment, observe everything, say less. Pay attention to what is said and unsaid, the “unspoken rules”. This may just be your cue.

Ask as many questions as you can
As a newbie, it is an opportunity for you to gather information, get historical data that will help you make informed decisions.

Get support
Identify someone you are comfortable talking with, ask for help, guidance and tips to help you navigate through in your first few months. You can’t do it alone.

You need to take notes. Document as much as you can. Scribble those new terminologies you hear, trust me when I say, they’ll come in handy as time goes by.

No ally
Your first few weeks isn’t the right time to form allies. A few months down the line, you just may discover you have been on the wrong side, which can affect others’ perception of you.

This feeling typically lasts between two to three months and things just starts to click. You get a hang of your deliverables and your emotions gets back to normal. For some, it may take longer depending on other critical factors like poor onboarding and lack of support. Those who are unable to cope, leave before the end of their probationary period because they struggled all through, reach the height of frustration and then leave and couldn’t cope.

Do it afraid. Even the most knowledgeable and talented have their fears.

Tips for employers to help new hires during the “Idiots Curve” stage
• Have a proper on-boarding process.
Research shows that employees make up their minds on how long they want to stay with a company during the onboarding process. Providing one-on-one support for everything from learning about company policies to who to call for computer issues can ease the strain on the new employees. Being systematic with the onboarding process brings new employees up to speed 50% faster, which means they’re more quickly and efficiently able to contribute to achieving desired goals. Effective onboarding also dramatically reduces failure rates and increases employee engagement and retention.

Accelerate their learning.
The faster a new hire learns about the organization and their role, the more they will be able to accomplish in the critical first months.

To accelerate the learning process, managers must first focus on what they need to learn in three areas. Technical learning is insight into the fundamentals of the business, such as products, customers, technologies, and systems.

Cultural learning is about the attitudes, behavioral norms, and values that contribute to the unique character of the organization. Political learning focuses on understanding how decisions are made, how power and influence work, and figuring out whose support they will need most.

While it’s possible that new hires will work independently, it’s more likely they will be part of a team (or teams). The sooner they build effective working relationships with their peers, the better.

Give them direction and help them with their early wins.
Employees shouldn’t get to work before managers set clear expectations. Managers have a responsibility to provide job descriptions, KPIs and work tools. The right guidance helps them manage expectations on deliverables, how to accomplish these expectation and timelines. Employers must understand that not all new hires can wade through and survive the “Idiots Curve” stage and must ensure they are adequately prepared to retain new talents. This is a major reason for staff attrition before their sixth month.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A toxic culture will kill talent and make them leave even quicker. Organisations should strive to create agile, workplace practices that makes culture great for talent to thrive.

Onadiran is a multi-award-winning, Agile Business and Human Resources (HR) Leader .

In this article