“Employee Attachment” is all about creating a strong emotional bond between a new employee and the organisation within their first 120 days. Employee Attachment theory comes from 2 research streams; Filial Bonding and Attachment Theory.
(1) Filial Bonding (or filial imprinting) refers to the survival instinct that is hardcoded into a species which needs the care and protection of a parent in order to survive. This is a process which occurs soon after birth whereby an infant animal learns who its parents are. Where filial bonding fails to occur, most young animals would not survive in the wild as they would not have the protection of a parent if a predator were to approach. (Interestingly enough, ducks and geese will follow and “attach” to anyone or anything they have bonded to e.g. a mother duck, a human or a gumboot!).
(2) Attachment Theory has its roots in developmental psychology and refers to the strength of the bond between a human child and parent (i.e. the primary carer). The father of Attachment Theory, Dr. John Bowlby considered Attachment and bonding to be an innate biological need of the infant, driven by their survival instinct. The core principle of Attachment Theory is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary carer in order for social and emotional development to occur. Infants use Attachment figures (i.e. the primary carer) as a “secure base” in which to explore from and return to. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of Attachment, which in turn guide the individual’s perceptions, emotions, thoughts and expectations in later relationships. If a child does not attach to their parent i.e. they do not feel a sense of security, trust & value, acceptance & belonging from the very beginning, the child can have difficulty forming and sustaining healthy relationships throughout adult life.
Human beings are both genetically and neurologically geared to form relationships with others, therefore Attachment perceptions are formed in any social structure e.g. clubs, social gatherings, churches, network events etc.
When a new employee joins an organisation, they go through a similar Attachment process to that of infant and parent, whereby perceptions of security, trust & value, acceptance and belonging (either consciously or subconsciously) are being formed. In this instance, the “primary carer” is the Direct Manager. If the employee fails to attach to the organisation, this will impact the entire relationship they have with the business from a productivity and engagement perspective.
It’s important to note that the new employee is attempting to bond with the organisation (i.e. the social entity) not the Direct Manager. However, it’s the Direct Manager who has the most influence over the strength of this bond. From a workplace perspective, there are 4 components to consider:
(1) The “Critical Attachment Period” (CAP)
(2) The Direct Manager’s Influence/Impact
(3) Core Attachment Perceptions
(4) Key Response Behaviours
(1) The “Critical Attachment Period” (CAP)
When a new employee joins an organisation, they go through the “Critical Attachment Period” (CAP) during their first 120 days of employment. During this time, a two way assessment is taking place between the new employee and the organisation. Firstly, the organisation is assessing both the potential (future) contribution of the new employee, as well as their cultural fit. In other words, the organisation is determining whether they have made the right hiring decision. Secondly, the employee is actively assessing whether they’ve made the right choice i.e. how well they fit in, the degree to which the experience matches their expectations and whether they can visualise themselves being a productive member of the team in the long term.
(2) The Direct Manager’s Influence/Impact
Just as a child forms an Attachment to their primary carer, within a workplace context the primary carer is typically the employee’s Direct Manager. The impact of the Direct Manager is therefore significant in helping the new employee attach to the organisation. In fact, over 80% of the employee’s perceptions formed during the “Critical Attachment Period” (CAP) are directly influenced by the immediate Manager or Supervisor.
(3) Core Attachment Perceptions
The strength of bond (or Attachment) between with the employee and organisation is based on the core Attachment perceptions of:
• trust & value;
• acceptance; and
These core Attachment perceptions are formed based on 20 workplace drivers. These drivers describe and quantify perceptions such as:
• the professionalism experienced during the recruitment and selection process;
• the clarity of pre-employment communication;
• the effectiveness of the orientation process;
• the availability of training and incremental learning;
• whether the job description truly reflects the role; and
• whether they understand the performance expectations.
(4) Key Response Behaviours
This strength of bond (as determined by the employee’s perceptions of the 20 workplace drivers) leads to key response behaviours which include:
• risk of attrition; and
• discretionary effort & performance.
The Employee Attachment Inventory (EAI) is a patented instrument which helps hiring managers to understand and manage the perceptions their new recruits have formed of the organisation at the 90 day mark. Having an awareness of these perceptions allows the manager to step in and resolve any issues or problems the new recruit may be experiencing during this critical attachment period – before it’s too late. Joining a new organisation can be a stressful time for new recruits and the pressure to learn the ropes and establish new relationships quickly can greatly impact on their emotional attachment levels to the organisation, which has a direct impact on their risk of attrition, and willingness to perform above minimum standards.
The EAI measures the strength of bond (emotional attachment) achieved between a new recruit and the organisation at their 90th day. This is a critical measure in the employment life cycle as it sets the resting point for future engagement levels. When high levels of attachment are achieved, the risk of attrition is low and furthermore, the employee is more likely to perform to a high standard through discretionary effort. Conversely, when attachment levels are low, this correlates with a higher risk of attrition and the employee is not likely to go above and beyond what is expected.
The EAI has specific applications within the on-boarding process and has a proven capacity in helping organisations:
1. reduce the risks of early employee attrition;
2. protect the investment in recruitment & training;
3. achieve a faster ROI through discretionary effort & performance;
4. facilitate constructive conversations between managers and new talent;
5. accelerate the time it takes for new employees to reach minimum level competence & profit contribution; and
6. gather and analyse objective data to improve their talent retention strategy.
The EAI measures 20 drivers of Attachment. These are the key areas in which new employees are forming perceptions of the business, either consciously or subconsciously. The EAI measures the perceptions formed of each driver, and provides a score out of 100.
1. Recruitment & Selection
2. Pre Employment
4. Central Messages
6. Incremental Learning
7. Accuracy of Job Representation
8. Manager Alignment & Accessibility
9. Business Awareness
10. Performance Objectives
11. Learning Path
12. Reasons for Joining
13. Vision & Career Path
14. Senior Leadership
15. Work/Life Balance
17. Work Environment & Resources
19. Systems & Processes
20. Safety & Behaviour
The EAI consists of a Survey & Report.
The 90 Day Onboarding Survey
The Survey is emailed to the new employee on their 90th day of employment. There are 100 questions that require a response based on a 5 point rating scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The Survey is ipsative and provides a total score as a percentage of the total possible score. Normative scoring is not used as the purpose is not to compare one person’s data to another for the purpose of selection.
The EAI Feedback Report
EAI Feedback Report contains valuable insights into the perceptions the new employee has formed of the business, along with recommendations on how the Manager can improve the experience. Niggling issues in the early days can quickly become deal breakers if not detected and addressed quickly.
The EAI Feedback Report provides (a) an overall measure of Attachment based on the average of the 20 driver scores and (b) individual Attachment scores per driver (20 drivers in total). Benchmarking is also provided. The EAI Feedback Report is designed for self interpretation by the Manager. Managers are encouraged to read the full report on the first few occasions until they are familiar with the EAI tool – then they can skip directly to the drivers which require their focus.
The Driver scores are classified in eithera High, Moderate or Low Attachment range and fall within one of 6 bands. The total reporting combinations of the EAI is 20 to the power of 6. The EAI meets the standards for both reliability & validity of psychometric instruments.
Reliability (split-time reliability, internal consistency, split-half reliability, coefficient alpha)
Validity (content validity, face validity, criterion-related validity, construct validity)
The Financial Impact
Thousands of dollars are wasted each year as a result of poor Employee Attachment. The average investment associated with finding, recruiting and up skilling new talent to a minimum performance standard exceeds $100,000 per new employee over their first 3 months of employment. This figure is based on average direct and indirect costs.
New hire direct costs include:
• position review
• agency fees
• reference checking
• training venue
• training personnel
• salary during non-contribution period
New hire indirect costs include:
• lost productivity
• lost opportunity
• suppressed engagement of team with long term vacancy
Calculating Pay Back & Break Even
The average time it takes for a new employee to “pay back” the organisation’s initial recruitment/training investment is anywhere between 12-18 months, depending on the role, industry and learning curve to reach full competency.
Any attrition prior to a new employee’s “break even” point represents a financial loss for the business. Add this loss to the cost of replacing the employee and very quickly, the initial $100k investment increases dramatically with each new recruitment exercise.
Remember that during probation, new talent are paid a full salary, but are not performing at full capacity. Beyond reducing the cost of repeat loss & replacement, the greater benefit of creating a highly attached employee lies in retaining them at a higher rate of contribution through discretionary effort and performance.
Did You Know?
Over 90% of attrition that occurs within the first 18 months of employment is determined by the employee. That is, the employee is making the decision to leave the organisation, not the organisation letting go of the employee.
Attrition within 90 days of employment usually stems from one of the following reasons:
1. Right person / wrong job = poor job definition
2. Wrong person / right job = poor recruitment practices
3. Right person / right job = poor attachment
4. Circumstances beyond anyone’s control
Remember: Any attrition prior to 18 months equates to a financial loss for the business.
Linking Attachment, Attrition & Performance
High Attachment leads to a lower risk of attrition because the employee has made an assessment that they want to work within the business.
Employees who are highly attached are more likely to put in extra/discretionary effort to achieve high levels of job satisfaction i.e. they are intrinsically driven to achieve. As a result of their increased effort, performance output shifts by a range of up to 40% between low and high levels of Attachment.
Organisations using the Employee Attachment Inventory (EAI) receive a double gain:
1. Firstly, they achieve ROI at a faster rate and retain the employee thereafter at a higher contribution level
2. Secondly, they gain the advantage of higher discretionary effort and increased performance output
4Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1 What is Employee Attachment?
“Employee Attachment” refers to the strength of bond created between a new employee and the organisation within the first 120 days of employment. Attachment is the foundation for creating highly engaged individuals, teams and organisations.
Q.2 We already have a tool in place for measuring Employee Engagement. Why should we consider using the EAI?
Most of our clients already use other instruments for measuring Employee Engagement. The EAI does not measure Engagement; it measures Attachment – the strength of the bond upon which Engagement is built. We encourage our clients to use the EAI in conjunction with their existing Engagement metrics.
Q.3 Budget is an issue…
We understand the impact of budget restrictions on new initiatives. We also know that HR professionals are under increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI for each of their programs. From as little as $150AUD per person, the EAI is a cost effective tool which can save you upwards of $100k per new Employee by protecting your investment in recruitment and up skilling costs.
Q.4 We don’t do much recruitment and we don’t have any immediate plans to recruit.
That’s ok. We have a package to suit all business sizes and recruitment intakes – even if you’re only hiring 5-10 people a year. You have 12 months to make use of your credits; they don’t have to be used at the time of purchase.
Q.5 We don’t have an issue with employee retention. Why should we use the EAI?
There are 2 key benefits in using the EAI. The first relates to managing the risk of attrition. The second relates to accelerating the time it takes for a new Employee to reach minimum performance and profit contribution. So if retention is not an issue in your business, you will still benefit by being able to tap into the discretionary effort and subsequent performance output from your new Employees.
Q.6 Is the EAI a valid business tool?
The EAI is a valid business tool that meets the standards for both reliability and validity of psychometric instruments.
• Reliability (split-time reliability, internal consistency, split-half reliability, coefficient alpha)
• Validity (content validity, face validity, criterion-related validity, construct validity)
Q.7 How many questions are in the Survey, what is the completion rate and how long does it take to complete?
The Survey contains 100 question statements. We have a 95% completion rate and it takes an average of 14.35 minutes to complete.
Q.8 Can I forward the Survey link to someone else to complete as well?
No. Each link is unique and cannot be transferred. The Survey can only be completed by the Employee it was ordered for.
Q.9 Can I have a copy of the Survey questions?
We can provide a sample of survey questions on request, but we are unable to release all questions due to copyright and patents.
Q.10 Can I see my employee’s Survey responses?
No. The Survey responses remain confidential throughout the process. The Report does not provide individual employee responses, however our “Observations” & “Recommendations” are based on the employee’s individual responses. This protects the privacy of your employee and encourages honest responses to each question.
Q.11 Does Sork HC see the responses?
As administrators of the tool, we do have access to individual responses, however our back end technology allows a Report to be generated without us physically having to review the responses.
Q.12 Are the questions aimed at me as a Manager?
The Survey contains 100 statements which are based on the new Employee’s perception of the organisation as a whole. Of this, 5 questions relate to the perceptions they have performed of you as their immediate manager.
Q.13 How honest are new Employees?
Our experience tells us that new Employees are in fact most honest at their 90th day of employment and are generally quite grateful that the organisation is seeking their feedback with regards to their on-boarding experience.
Q.14 Can the EAI be customised for our organisation?
No. Just like most psychometric instruments, the EAI is generic and has widespread applicability across multiple industries and workforces. Human beings are genetically and neurologically geared to form attachments with others – regardless of where they work. The EAI measures the strength of bond between new Employees and the Organisation which is based on core attachment perceptions of (a) security (b) trust & value (c) acceptance and (d) belonging.
Q.15 How have you positioned the EAI with Managers from your existing client base?
The EAI is positioned as a talent retention/performance enhancing tool which helps the Manager to pinpoint and address any concerns flagged within the Report. It’s important for Managers to be aware of such concerns so that they can have an opportunity to correct them. This is not a performance management tool for the Manager or the Employee.
Q.16 Do the Managers feel like we’re testing their performance as people leaders?
No. The EAI is not a test; it’s simply a mechanism for the organisation to collate objective data to improve their on-boarding process. All clients are provided with a robust communications plan which positions the tool appropriately for each stakeholder group.
Q.17 How much time is required by the HR department to implement this tool? My time is limited and I need each Manager to take responsibility for the process.
Implementing the EAI is designed to be fast and hassle free. We understand the time pressures of HR professionals and Managers. There are only 3 steps to implement the tool, and you’ll have a dedicated Sork HC Product Manager to help you at each point.
Q.18 What does the patent & copyright mean?
The EAI is protected by copyright and patent laws. This means that any information provided to you or your organisation by Sork HC relating to Employee Attachment and Employee Perception Measurement is done so on acceptance and agreement to be bound by these laws.
Q.19 How many complimentary trials can my organisation have?
We are generally happy to provide a complimentary trial of the EAI once you have met with a Sork HC Product Manager and we’ve established that the instrument is the right fit for your business. After the initial trial we can offer introductory rates to pilot the EAI with some of your Managers and new Employees.
Q.20 Where can we learn more about Employee Attachment?
Please join our blog www.employeeattachment.com and Employee Attachment LinkedIn Group which attracts HR professionals from around the world. We are committed to sharing our content on a regular basis and we encourage knowledge sharing amongst our members.
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