A few weeks ago I spoke with Jane, who’d just been hired as a project manager. She was excited to start in the new company, but her first day at work was not exactly a good experience. Her boss was out to meetings all day and her new colleagues were so busy that nobody had time to brief her of her tasks.
There wasn’t even a desk ready for her and she had to go get a PC from the IT department and an access card from security herself. Jane felt let down, ignored and badly treated and now doubts very much whether she took the right job.
A person’s first day on a new job is a stressful time even under the best of circumstances. You don’t know anyone there, you don’t know your job, you don’t know the written and unwritten rules of the workplace – and yet you have a burning desire to do well, to show your worth and to excel.
The least a workplace can do is to make an effort to show new hires that they’re wanted and make their first day a nice one.
It’s a crucial time and that is why welcoming new people does actually pay off. Studies show that new employees who have undergone a successful start-up process are 69% more likely to still be in the company after 3 years and they reach their full production rate 2 months faster.
The alternative – for employees who simply get thrown in to sink or swim – is reality shock. They feel that the job doesn’t meet the expectations created during hiring and that will make them less happy at work, less committed and more likely to leave the company again.
And this is not exactly rocket science. Here are 4 practical tips to how any organization should treat all new employees.
1: Be there for them the first day.
It is crucial that the manager is there to meet new employees with a smile and a handshake when they arrive. There should be time set aside for meeting the colleagues, e.g. over breakfast in the department. A bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers as a small welcome gift would not be a bad thing. The U.S. dialysis company DaVita even send a bouquet of flowers home to the spouse, to also welcome them in the DaVita family.
Also, the manager should be there again at the end of the first work day, to ask how the first day went and follow up on any problems or questions.
2: Have the practical stuff ready
It is not a good sign if people arrive on their first day and neither desk, PC, login or access card is ready. That’s why all the practical things just have to be in place before they arrive.
3: Give them a solid technical introduction
It should be needless to mention it, but new employees have to be promptly and thoroughly briefed about the professional skills they need in order to do their job well. In Rosenbluth International, a travel agency in the U.S., all new employees spent a week with one of the most seasoned co-workers, so they could see exactly how to do things. Of course it cost the experienced staff some time, but that time investment paid off many times because the new employees learned how to do the job just as well as the very best.
4: Lay down the culture
And just as important as the professional introduction is the cultural – that new employees from the start experience the organization’s culture from its best side. All new employees at Disney
World in Florida (about 15,000 new people a year!) take part in a 1-day course called Disney Traditions, which has one single purpose: To teach them the Disney culture. Here the story of Walt Disney and all the positive things the company stands for is told. It gives pride and happiness at work from day one.
Zappos.com go even further. The company is only 11 years old, but already sell shoes online for over 1 billion dollars a year. Here all new employees join a 4-week seminar, which introduces them to the professional content of the job, but especially to the Zappos culture characterized by commitment, happiness at work and good service. As part of the course all the new people get ‘the offer’: “If you feel that you do not belong to Zappos, and choose to quit before the course is over, then you get paid for the 4 weeks plus $ 2000 on top. ” It ensures that all those who are not quite sure if Zappos is right for them, leave the job early.
The first time in a new job very much sets the trend for the rest of your time at the work place which is why every workplace should take extreme care to greet people in the best possible way.
And if you want to know how your workplace is doing, here is my challenge to you: Find 3 of your newest employees and ask them how their first days in the company felt. And then listen openly to what they have to say.
What were your first few days in your current job like? What’s the best thing a workplace has done for you as a new hire? What’s the worst thing? Did you ever feel uncertain or unwelcome? Please write a comment, I’d love to know your take.