A question for ya

A question for yaI’m currently writing an op-ed piece for a Danish newspaper about how to treat new hires. A lot of companies get this wrong and more or less toss in new recruits at the deep end to let them sink or swim for themselves.

Others, like for instance Disneyworld or Zappos.com spend a lot of time and money on their new people to make sure that they “get” the company culture and are given all the tools, instructions and knowledge they need to succeed.

For all of us, starting a new job can be a stressful time. You don’t know anyone there, you don’t know the written and unwritten rules of the workplace and you suddenly have a lot of new things to learn.

What has been your experience in starting a new job? How were you received on your first day? How did it make you feel? What did the workplace get right and where did they fail you in your first few weeks? Please write a comment, I’d love to hear your take.

13 thoughts on “A question for ya”

  1. I work in the training department at a large (1000+ employees) national law firm in the UK.

    Every month we run an induction week for all new starters, so they all start together, get a chance to meet people from other offices, get a chance to see the main office, and get an introduction to the firm – structure, specialisms, ethos, etc. We also include core skills such as assertiveness, business writing skills and time management, to name a few.

    Generally this works well in theory but not so much in practice – I remember being completely bored when I did it – and it’s obvious that many of the delegates feel the same! We basically get everyone in one conference room or another for 3 days, by which time they’re clearly desperate to just get to their desks, meet their teams and learn about their specific roles.

    Also speaking from the trainer’s point of view, each month the induction week is a logistical nightmare, trying to coordinate hotel rooms for those coming from far away, speakers, timings, equipment, handouts, booklets, refreshments, trying to get the right number of everything when HR inform you of another new starter on the Friday before induction week…

    I think it is a good idea in principle to have some sort of induction. At my last job I wasn’t introduced to anyone and was told to go and sit at my desk (in a room all by myself) and read up on some background – for two days! Companies just need to find a way to do it that is helpful for the new starters (and not stressful for current employees!)

  2. When I started with my current employer, I was hired as an interim consultant to temporarily replace two consultants until they were allowed to recruit (I later applied and got the job). One of the consultants had retired and the other was on a sabbatical. As a result, there was nobody to tell me how to do the job. I loved it. I could totally make it my own. Everybody knew I was thrown in the deep end so they all were happy to fill me in when I had questions.

    I think this approach would have been bad for most people, but it totally fit with my personality. I like to find out things for myself and take responsibility to make things better. So I think there’s no universal way to make new employees happy, you have to find out what makes them tick first.

  3. I’m just about to start a new job and the thing I would like the most is my manager to really ask me how I would like to be managed and what’s the way I learn.

    Some people enjoy finding their own way in the first month, others need structure and a lot of information to read through. Both could be brilliant employees.

    Having an introduction week with others could be good to meet a lot of people, but could be boring or confusing if your learning pace is faster or slower than that of the others.

    And I would totally freak out if I was obliged to lunch with others just because it was part of the programme. I need my space, especially in a first week with a lot of new impressions.

    To conclude: everybody is different. Ask them what they would like their first week / month to be. And see whether that fits your standard programme in some way.

  4. At a couple of the companies I’ve worked for there were extensive training programs for new hires. The first step of these programs is almost always a class introducing the new hire into the culture.

    It seems that the companies that embrace this approach do so for two main reasons. First, because they believe that their brand is valuable to them and that it’s totally intertwined with their culture. Second because they believe that not living up to brand promises inside the company will cause some hypocrisy that will be felt by customers outside the company.

  5. I started my current job at the start of the year. I work for Take Charge Consultants, Inc. headquartered in Coatesville, PA. I was extremely nervous because the company is small in size, but I felt I fit right in. They go around to different companies teaching/coaching/training managers of all levels how to manage better and create enjoyable work environments, and man do they practice what they preach. I have never worked for a company where the founder and ceo AND the company president actually email you just to say “You Rock!” Seriously, this really happened. I am encouraged to express my ideas, big and small, and that isn’t easy when you are the newbie, as many of you may know.
    They have done a remarkable job at making me feel at home, IMPORTANT and most of all appreciated. This has been one of the easiest transitions for me, a person not too fond of change. Take a second and check out our CEO in action giving a key note presentation on the effects of JOY at work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwBuz2XyoHs

    Being happy at work has definitely pushed me to work harder and WANT to do a good job, not because I am getting paid to, but I am liking what I am doing for the first time in a long time.

  6. The swiss group I work for does that “Introduction” days, too – but just once a month (the second week) and just three half days, of which just one means sitting in a conference room, the others are used to show you around at places like production (because that

  7. My first day of a new internship:
    The Internship coordinator told us to be there at 8am in the lobby, and then our new “Mentors” were supposed to meet us at the same time.

    8:30 and I’m still standing in the lobby when all the other interns are gone. The Coordinator tries calling both my Mentor & Manager to no response. Finally she gets a hold of the group’s admin who comes to get me.

    My mentor ends up showing up around 9:30am. The Manager is out of the country on business. Not the best first impression.

    Didn’t turn out too bad- I’ve been working there full-time for the last 5 years. Both my previous Manager & Mentor are gone from the company now though.

  8. I work in a small corporate office (100 people) and we don’t hire very often so employee orientation is not a formal event but more a series of conversations with people you need to know to get your work done effectively. We do the welcome lunches and give them a branded gift (a portfolio). I try to get hiring managers to send a brief email to everyone informing them we have a new co-worker and sharing some background, such as years of experience, former employers, higher education. Notice that I said “try”? Not all managers follow this practice and I often have to hound them weeks after the person has started. I hate that inconsistency. It really reinforces that the employee experience is only as good as his/her manager.

    I have two memorable first days: One was arriving at my new desk and finding a bouquet of flowers from my new VP (not my direct manager) with a lovely note welcoming me to the team. At another job that had a large orientation, my new VP showed up at the end to escort me to my new work area (which was another building). We chatted for about 15 minutes and when we got to my new workplace he introduced me around the office. How cool is that?

  9. I have worked for several companies and done two internships. Training as described in the post I have never received. Nor have I ever had a real introduction. Most of the time I was just thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to swim.
    My two worst experiences however stem from an internship and from one of my last jobs.
    At my internship my boss/mentor did not come back from holiday until two weeks after I arrived, and at my last job I spent the first day trying to get my laptop to work and get other materials I needed, like a phone and a VPN connection. I was lucky though, because some colleagues didn’t even get a laptop (or any other computer for that matter) until a month after their arrival.

  10. One of the best stories I have heard was from a new employee getting a card signed by the rest of the team. Sort of a welcome note of sorts. It really set a tone that THEY all were glad to have this new person join their team. As a manager, I think it’s really important to pay attention to building the emotional connection an employee may have to the organization, people and direct manager. Increasing this, increases performance and aids towards retention.

    I also think there are a couple of questions a leader can ask of a new employee to really engage them in the work – and the organization – right from the start. They are posted at my blog http://www.orangeslicetraining.com/2009/07/daydreaming_for_better_engagement/

  11. When I first started at the company I’m working for now, I was given a grand tour of the area I would be working in by the training lead. It was a LOT of information shoved into a short period of time. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t absorb it all. After the tour, the training lead consulted with the shift lead about where I would be working, and coming to the decision that they would try me with a rather notorious person. As they walked me over they advised me to just do my best and not to take anything this person said personally. The whole thing made me feel like cannon fodder, and wonder what I’d gotten myself into! Thankfully, I did fine – I’ve been with the company for nine years. It’s definitely made me make a point of making new hires feel welcome and comfortable when they join the company!

  12. I have been introduced to everyone on the first day only to be forgotten on the second. I think the first week is as important as the first day. It is very intimidating at first to remember everyone’s names and to find everything.

    Ideally, this is what I would want my new employer to do (keep in mind this is a fantasy): On the first day I would be given a look book with pictures of my colleagues with their names and job functions/titles. I would have someone assigned to me every day of the week (a different person each day) to show me around and have lunch with me. The CEO and or the VP would have a meeting with me to say hello for at least 15-20 minutes to welcome me to the company and I would get a Starbucks gift card or something like it as a welcome gift to the company.

    This is a fantasy. Does it ever happen? What do you all think about my idea? It could be fun to get to know one another…

  13. Alison: I like that you have the program but it sounds like you’re mostly throwing information at people – hence boring them out of their skulls. Is that a fair assessment?

    guiness416: Your company’s approach sounds much more useful when people do something useful AND get to meet others over lunch.

    Xaphire: I think just being thrown in can work for some people provided they have a personality that can tolerate the uncertainty (which you obviously do) AND that they get the necessary help from their surroundings.

    Cecile: “the thing I would like the most is my manager to really ask me how I would like to be managed and what

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