Why your business should know about the sophomore slump

Why your business should know about the sophomore slump

Heard of the sophomore slump? This interesting concept could be impacting your team’s engagement – here’s why.

A concept often used in the context of education, the sophomore slump refers to a feeling of discontent that happens after the initial excitement of starting a new chapter.

In a recent BBC Worklife article, it’s described as something ‘that occurs when students realise that they need to knuckle down after the excitement and discoveries of freshman year.’ It’s all about the way in which projects ‘lose their initial gloss and evolve into routine hard work.’

Why is this important?

This phenomenon doesn’t just occur at university. In fact, it’s something that can happen to people at multiple stages of their lives – whenever they embark on a new project or challenge. The workplace is full of these challenges and starting a new job is one such instance where the sophomore slump can occur.

We all know that familiar rush of starting a new job. We feel excited and nervous, but also energised and motivated to make a great impression from the get-go. The first month is spent learning new things, meeting colleagues and getting to grips with the various demands of the role.

But this initial spark doesn’t tend to stick around long-term. We soon get into a routine with our work and the excitement fades slightly or, in some cases, disappears completely.

Whether you call it the ‘sophomore slump’ or not, there is often a very natural decline in mood after someone starts a new job, completes a project or gets rewarded for their actions. While this isn’t always an issue, if this feeling becomes long-term it can have negative implications on the engagement of an employee.

On top of that, with work full of new challenges, projects, experiences and milestones, there’s a chance that employees can experience a dip in morale long after they’ve joined the business. It’s therefore critical that business and HR leaders are aware of this concept and understand the impact it can have on the overall engagement of employees.

How to counteract dips in morale

In many cases, this ‘slump’ simply can’t be avoided and is a natural part of life, but businesses can certainly create the right conditions to counteract this condition so that employees don’t experience it at all or, if they do, it doesn’t impact them long term. It all comes back to your employee experience and how it impacts engagement.

Here are some quick tips to help your business avoid employees being affected by the sophomore slump:

Live up to your expectations

Businesses often sell the dream to potential employees in order to win job candidates, especially in our current competitive job market. But when these employees start and peel back the layers of the business, they find that it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations that were initially set, and this is when disengagement can creep in.

To avoid this, be honest about what your business is like from the get-go. From the culture and working environment to the processes and policies, give job applicants a true picture of what your business is like. Having integrity and ensuring that your business accurately reflects how its presented externally will mean that your new recruits know what to expect. They will then be far less likely to feel disengaged after the initial excitement of the job wears off.

Does your business’ employee experience and culture match what you’re telling job candidates?

Provide support and mentorship

Mentoring your team is a valuable way to ensure that individuals feel motivated and fulfilled at every stage of their journey with you. Having someone in their corner, whether that’s a Line Manager or someone else, actively supporting them in their role and helping them get the most of out of their job is important. This includes goal setting, personal development plans and generally being a supportive ear for them to voice their questions or concerns.

Recognise and reward your team

It’s a great feeling to be recognised and appreciated at work. Whether it’s a message of thanks from a colleague or an award from the business, that recognition gives us an instant mood boost and spurs us on to keep up the good work. When this is formalised into a long-term reward and recognition programme, team members are more likely to be motivated, driven and engaged in their roles because they have regular opportunities to get positive feedback. Whether it’s Long Service Awards, a monthly performance-based reward programme or peer-to-peer recognition, these regular acts of recognition will help maintain your employees’ levels of engagement and prevent them being hit by the sophomore slump.

In summary, the sophomore slump, while a concept used in the context of university and education, is something that can certainly effect your employees at any stage and impact their engagement. It’s up to businesses to create the right conditions to keep employees excited, motivated and fulfilled year-round. A compelling reward & recognition programme is a valuable way to build and maintain employee engagement on a long-term basis. Find out more about our ereward solution here.

Read next: Reward & recognition delivery: The importance of making it personal

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