Employee Life-cycle: First Impressions

It had been just over a month since we first began talking, everything seemed to align, and I was incredibly excited to start the job.  I had been doing my research on the industry, the organization, the products and was anticipating meeting my new colleagues.

When I arrived at the office, I was early, of course I was early, it was my first day and I couldn’t wait to get started.  So, I waited.  I waited, and I waited.  New colleagues arrived to start their day, carefully glancing my direction while trying to determine who the bright-eyed new employee was.  I wanted to jump from my seat and greet them all, but I restrained myself as to not look too eager.  I waited, and I waited. 

09:03am now.  I was certain I was meeting my boss at 09:00am, but perhaps he’s just putting the finishing touches on my onboarding plan, I’m sure it’s perfect.  09:07am, every time the door opens and another team member enters the office, I’m almost ready to stand and shake hands with my new boss.  Not him, but I can’t sit anymore so I’ll just stand anyway.  09:11am, I’m starting to think something is wrong, and I head to the receptionist who has just arrived to introduce myself. 

“Ryan…Ryan….oh right!  Hello, I have your computer and I’ll just show you where you’ll be sitting!  Follow me.”

My boss never arrived to greet me that morning, in fact, I didn’t see him until I was introduced during my office tour.

First impressions are everything, and we are regularly failing our new team members in their very first interaction with our organizations. 

Is this the tone we want to be setting?

Now this example isn’t all that bad, and I’m sure others have countless other stories that are much worse.  In fact, I’ve heard many of your stories. 

How much time, money and energy do we put into recruiting new team members?  Countless resume reviews, phone screens, interviews, and in some cases, checks cut to recruiting firms, yet we treat that investment as if it is fait accompli once the employee signs the contract. 

When we sat down at the start of the year to build the budget we had (hopefully) a timeframe in mind in which we would expect the employee to be fully contributing.  When we needed to fill the seat of a departing employee, we knew very well that we needed the team member to be up to speed as quickly as possible.

So, where does that responsibility lie?

The onboarding of new employees is absolutely the most critical moment in the employee lifecycle. 

Let me repeat this.

The onboarding of new employees is absolutely the most critical stage in the employee lifecycle.

From your very first interaction with a potential employee – recruiter outreach, resume received response, recruiting fair, etc. you are setting the trajectory of one of the most critical relationships in life. The relationship between employee and employer.

So, what can be done.

Cultural Guide:

Prior to the employees first day, identify a team member who can be their first day guide. Identify a team member who is congenial, is excited about working for your organization and evangelizes the company culture. This guide does not have to be role specific, they are meant to introduce the company culture to the new employee from the first interaction after contract signature.

The first interaction, is an e-mail/phone-call/video-call between the guide and the new employee introducing themselves and providing an overview of what the first day will be.

Give as much clarity to a new employee prior to the their arrival on day one. This day can often be rife with anxiety, awkwardness, or an overload of information. Help them by level setting on what the first day will look like so that when they’re painting the picture of their first day in their mind, they at least have a few lines to paint within.

If you can’t dedicate a team member, then dedicate the team leader. They are ultimately responsible for the performance of the team member, they should take ownership of that responsibility from day one.

To standardize this experience and make it more efficient, use a form letter e-mail and have the guide fill in the details related to this specific employee! Make it feel personal!

Fully Prepared Desk:

Once the guide has had the opportunity to give the new team member a tour of the office, finish the tour at their desk, and emphasize the end of this tour by having a fully set-up work station with a few additional surprises.

Company Swag: Pens, Notebooks, Stickers, T-Shirts, Hoodie, whatever it is. You’re willing to invest in giving these marketing materials out to what I call Swag Vultures at conferences, why not give it to you ultimate brand ambassador, your employee.

Handwritten Letter/Card: Why do we reserve cards for an employees last day? Have the team write a first day card welcoming the new team member to the organization. Have these cards written at the highest possible level in the organization. If the CEO can write and sign off on the card, great, if not, what about the COO, or the VP’s or Directors.

Search, the hashtag #firstday on LinkedIn and see how excited people are to announce their first day in a new role. See what other company are doing to facilitate that excitement.

You’ll find countless selfies of team members in front of large logos, but you’ll also find a pattern of desk photos. What I always love is what is included in those desk photos. What does your new employees desk look like on day one? How hard would it be to make that little change that has so much impact it can create an employee advocate on LinkedIn almost instantly?

These are two simple change that could be made tomorrow, you don’t even need company sponsorship to do it. You can be the guide, you can collect company swag, write a card, and set-up the desk all on your own. Even if you’re not a hiring manager or a team lead, you’re a team member. If you know a team member is joining the company, volunteer your time and effort and be the change!

What other experiences would have made a difference to you on day one in a new role?

What experiences really impressed you and still resonate with you today?

What was your worst first day?

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