A New Motto for New Hires: Do, Know, Feel

As someone who’s spent a large chunk of time researching and analyzing the dynamics of new hire success, it’s been gratifying to see much of the corporate world finally wake up to the relationship between an employee’s first year on the job and their long-term productivity,engagement, and overall happiness within the organization. It’s been gratifying, but not all that surprising when you see statistics like these:

· 33% of new hires are actively looking for new jobs in the first 6 months;

· The average tenure for Millennials, who now make up the largest share of the American workforce, is 18 months;

· In the US and UK alone, an estimated 37 billion (that’s right, with a “b”) is spent annually on unproductive employees who don’t understand their jobs.

Awesome, right? Organizations now get the criticality of that first year. Unfortunately, their efforts to combat the problem, often in the form of checklist-based “onboarding” programs, don’t actually address the underlying issues that ultimately lead to high turnover and disengagement. They focus almost entirely on what new employees need to DO in order to be successful — complete orientation programs, attend compliance trainings, browse online wikis, etc. — without taking into account two equally crucial ingredients for long-term success: what new hires must KNOW and FEEL during their first year experience.

That’s why — borrowing inspiration from the Boy Scouts — my new motto for first year success is “Do, Know, Feel!”

A closer look at each of these areas reveals why supporting development in all three strongly increases a company’s odds of seeing their new hires blossom into thriving and loyal employees in the years to come!

DO = A combination of the key “calendared” tasks necessary for successful onboarding AND the critical conversations between the new hire and manager.

We’ll start with DO, since a new hire’s To Do’s often lay the foundation for the rest of his or her development at an organization. Not to mention the fact that experiential learning continues to be the most effective way most people learn. What better way to launch your new arrivals on a successful path of learning and growing than with some rigorous and methodically laid out to do’s?


DO covers a lot of the early basic activities that are laid out in many company’s orientation programs. But DO should also extend beyond orientation and involve new hires in meetings and activities that will take them deeper into the culture and values of an organization. This will allow them both to find value in what they are doing, while growing more confident about their ability to do it. A recent Gallup poll underlined the importance of Doing, making clear that ensuring employees have opportunities to do what they do best every day is one of the strongest factors for retaining Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers.

KNOW = The skills & knowledge that new hires must acquire (often as the result of their To Do’s) in order to perform at their best.

What new hires need to KNOW can be broken down into three distinct categories of knowledge: job, product, and company. Job knowledge includes such vital areas as role clarity — the new hire’s role and how it fits into the company’s overall strategy, and goal clarity — what success means for them and how it will be measured.


Product knowledge refers to the employees’ intimate understanding of the product they’re working on and/or selling, as well as that product’s positioning in the marketplace. They’ll also need a firm grasp of the skills necessary to fulfill their role in making the product. Once they’ve obtained the required skills and knowledge to perform their job effectively, new hires will more clearly KNOW that (and how) they can contribute right away.

Beyond the organization’s mission, vision, and values — which can be read in a handout — a new hire should start with a clear understanding of a company’s competitors and what separates their product or service offerings from the rest. According to a CareerBuilder report, 60% of employees expect that they’ll learn the skills they need to kick butt at their jobs on the job. Creating To Know lists for our new hires, to complement their To Do’s, will go a long way towards fulfilling those expectations!

FEEL = What the new hire feels when they are most highly engaged and productive.

This may be the area most relevant to a Millennial workforce that places such a high value on feeling happy, appreciated, and contributing to a purpose at work. Conversely, one of the top reasons Millennials give for leaving their jobs is they feel they’re not a good cultural fit. With Millennials becoming a majority of the American workforce, it’s essential for organizations to understand how their employees feel if they’re also serious about better understanding how to help them become highly engaged and productive.


FEEL touches on a variety of different aspects of a new hire’s success:

· The sooner new hires can contribute toward shared goals and achieve success in their role, the more confident they FEEL;

· Ensuring that the new hire’s role is well defined makes progress easier to define, allowing them to FEEL more secure;

· Regular recognition by team members for their contribution helps them FEEL appreciated;

· Clear direction communicated by leadership at the company helps new hires FEEL the value of their contribution.

If these feelings trend in a positive direction, new hires stand a much greater chance of becoming productive and successful in their new roles; and organizations stand a much greater chance of keeping them around for the long haul!

When people ask me which of these three interconnected areas — Do, Know, and Feel — are most important, my answer is yes! All three are equally critical to a new hire’s long-term productivity and engagement. And wouldn’t you know it? Turns out these 3 areas are just as important when looking at a manager’s performance at an organization. But we’ll cover that topic in another blog!

In the meantime, if you’d like to hear a little more about my views on this topic, check out this interview HBR recently conducted with me on Facebook Live. And start adding To Know and To Feel lists to your company’s To Do’s. You won’t regret it!