03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Are You Making the Most of the First Six Months?

As we finally turn the corner on recession and return to growth, an aggressive war for talent is resuming in financial services. As Wall Street comes back, other industries won't be far behind.

As recruiting commences, companies will invest significantly in identifying and attracting top talent. But they can't stop there. The first three to six months are a crucial period in shaping the engagement of new employees, whether they are graduates who are new to the workforce or experienced hires who have left a successful career in their former organization to join yours.

Jac Fitz-Enz, a good friend and colleague to our firm, The RBL Group, and an expert in HR metrics, has repeatedly pointed out the importance of taking a deliberative approach to attracting talent. The critical links includes attraction, selection, and induction or on-boarding, and the chain is not complete without each one.

How do you make the most of the opportunity to bind new employees to the organization through the ways you induct, orient and initially support an employee's cultural integration? Most companies don't. One recent research study by the Australian Graduate School of Management pointed out that among companies in their sample:

Only 64 percent of respondents inducted all their new staff through formal programs despite the evidence of the criticality of this HR practice. Forty nine percent of organizations in the sample made no effort to evaluate either their recruitment, selection or induction practices.

Imagine you had joined your organization six months ago and, looking back, you are extremely pleased with how well the organization had supported you in "getting on with it" and making you feel integrated, confident and productive. How would they have done it? Are any of these critical activities going on in your organization? If not, what are one or two things you could start doing immediately?

Take some tips from JP Morgan Chase, which does a superior job of training new graduates in its investment banking and related businesses. It works hard to reinforce the feeling that new employees have joined the best team in the industry and ensure that top performers will be able to gain experience in multiple businesses. Regular talks by senior management build a rounded understanding of the institution, its vision, values and culture.

Likewise, Accenture uses its vaunted corporate training facilities to bring together new associates for early education and team building. From day one at Accenture, new consultants are assigned mentors on whom they can turn to for guidance or an understanding of the "rules of the road." Practice partners involve new employees early in regular virtual and physical meetings to reinforce the feeling of community.

National City Corp, now part of PNC Bank, is another good example of a company that effectively leveraged the first six months of hire. Under Shelley Seifert, EVP of HR, the executive recruiting department was responsible for ensuring that new executives are properly organized for their first day. The computer, files and key reading information was ready on their desks at 8 am of their first day. Executive "buddies" introduced the executive to colleagues, join them for lunch, and arranged key internal and external orientation meetings for the first two weeks. Recruiting also helped the executives' families get settled by arranging tours of Cleveland (National City headquarters), introductions to the community, and resume writing help for working spouses.

These are just a few examples of what smart companies do to fully leverage their investment in new employees through a thoughtful and effective process of recruitment, selection, induction and on-boarding. How well is your company using the first six months?

Jon Younger is a Partner of The RBL Group, a firm providing consulting and executive education in strategic HR and leadership. Jon leads the Strategic HR practice area and is also a Director of the RBL Institute. He is co-author, with Dave Ulrich and three other principals at The RBL Group, of "HR Competencies" (SHRM, 2007), "HR Transformation" (McGraw-Hill, July 2009) and many articles, and last year logged client work in 35 countries.