Home Articles If you can’t attach your team, you’ll never engage them

If you can’t attach your team, you’ll never engage them


The Treasurer Wayne Swan is forecasting 500,000 new jobs, reducing unemployment to 4.5%. That little number can only serve to send big shudders to anyone involved in recruiting in an industry experiencing acute skill shortages.

Employers are once again investing many thousands of dollars looking for innovative ways to source staff. However once they’ve found them, they typically neglect the next most important step, managing their employee’s attachment.

In the first 120 days after an employee starts a role, they’re looking to bond. They’re actively assessing whether they’ve made the right choice, this is what we call the critical attachment period. What’s scary about this period is what’s happening on the other side of the desk.

Our research shows that two-thirds of managers have no idea about what their employees really think of them. If they do have some idea of their impact, they still routinely under-estimate just how much they affect their new employee.

With the direct and indirect cost of hiring and up-skilling conservatively estimated to be over 100K per new employee, we think it’s bizarre that all the leadership talk is around engagement.

Yet there’s no way you’ll get to engagement, unless you nail attachment.

What is employee attachment?

Employee attachment theory stems from two research streams — filial bonding and attachment theory. Filial bonding is the survival instinct that’s hard-coded into a species which need the care and protection of a parent to survive. Attachment theory covers the strength of the bond between human child and parent.

If a child does not attach to their parent – if they do not feel trust, security, value and acceptance within that relationship – and if this is missing from the very beginnings of that relationship, then the child can have difficulty forming long lasting healthy relationships with significant others throughout their life.

Now replace parent with employer.

When someone starts a job they want to bond with their employer, particularly with their primary care-giver – their manager. If they don’t attach, then this impacts the entire relationship they’ll have with their employer, and ultimately how engaged they’ll become.

From the communication in the recruitment process, the first day induction, through to whether an employee feels that their opinion is valued, there are over 20 factors that influence whether an employee becomes attached to their manager, their job and the organisation.

We’ve seen organisations invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into finding senior executives – then not offer a proper induction. Or they stick a senior team member into a generic and meaningless welcome day.

Often staff will turn up and not have a desk for three days. Seemingly small things to a manager, can all add up to an employee feeling disorientated and under-valued and cost much more than the initial cost of hire.

If you’d like to improve your employee’s attachment, read these dos and don’t for day one.

These include things as simple as senior managers making themselves known, a walk around the office and a simply laid out plan about what to expect for the induction period.

Anthony Sork is the creator of the Employment Attachment Inventory (EAI). The world first, internationally patented business instrument used by leading organisations to reduce attrition and increase performance of new employees.