Take Mike Trout, for instance. At age 24, the Anaheim Angels centerfielder/four-time American League All-Star/freakish baseball prodigy’s trophy case already includes the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year, 2014 AL Most Valuable Player and two All-Star Game MVP awards. And, as one of a handful of names on the short list for this year’s AL MVP, he may soon be taking home more hardware.
Then there are late bloomers like the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. The right fielder and occasional third baseman showed flashes in his first five years at the big-league level, but not enough to keep him from being jettisoned by four teams between 2004 and 2008. Bautista finally broke out in 2010—his third season with the Jays and first in a full-time role with the club—when he earned his first of six All-Star Game selections. Since then, he’s led baseball in home runs twice, picked up two Hank Aaron awards and bashed his way to three Silver Slugger awards as well.
The point of all this is that some don’t start as strong as others, and being patient with a prospect just might pay off in a big way sometime down the road.
Those in the corporate world, however, apparently don’t have that kind of time.
Consider a recent online survey, in which 319 executives at companies with revenues of at least $1 billion shared their thoughts on entry-level employees. In the poll, 78 percent of respondents said they think employers take less than three months to make a judgment as to whether an entry-level employee is likely to succeed with the organization. Twenty-seven percent said they form an opinion within the first two weeks.
Now, this particular Harris poll was commissioned by Fullbridge Inc., an education technology company with a learning platform that offers “everything students and young professionals need to rise to the next level,” according to Fullbridge.
It’s natural—and not unfair, I think—to be a bit skeptical of this sort of poll, given the company that commissioned it just happens to offer the type of technology designed to make sure these fresh-faced young employees thrive in your organization.
But that’s not really here or there, at least as far as my purposes here are concerned. Misgivings about survey methodology aside, the aforementioned findings—especially the percentage of companies saying new employees essentially have 10 business days to prove themselves—still seem to beg the question: How long should it take to get a good read on a young, new employee’s likelihood for success? For that matter, what sort of variables should factor into making that judgment?
I put those questions to Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan, partner at The RBL Group and frequent contributor to HRE.
Not surprisingly, there’s no specific timeframe for predicting—at least not with any real accuracy—how an entry-level worker’s going to fare over the long haul, says Ulrich. And he cautions against rushing to judge new employees in their first few weeks on the job.
“First impressions limit future impressions,” says Ulrich. “This is sad, because many first impressions are based on visible look and feel, and real impact often comes from insight and ability to manage relationships.”
Still, 90 days or so should be long enough to gain a sense of how an employee’s going to perform, he says, adding that “it’s important to give new employees autonomous responsibility for a task or project to determine their technical skills and cultural fit.”
It’s even more critical, he says, “to know if they have ‘learning agility’ and an ability to adapt and change [when] given new information.”Twitter It!