September 23, 2013

Make Your Employee’s First Day Special

first-day-at-new-jobI’ll never forget my first day at my first job after university in September 1993.

It sucked.

I arrived at the office just before 9am. My new boss, Rob, ushered me to a small office. He plunked down a big stack of Washington, DC real estate reports.

“I’m kind of busy this morning. Why don’t you read these to familiarize yourself with the DC real estate markets,” he said. “I’ll check in on you later.” Then he vanished.

I went through the stack. Reading those things one after another felt like chewing cardboard. I saw other people walk past my new office, but they either didn’t see me or ignored me.

Eventually lunchtime rolled around and still no sign of Rob. I wandered out of the office, found something to eat, then wandered back to my cardboard reports.

Eventually Rob found his way back. He explained what he was working on and gave me some things to do. But it was too late.

I was already thinking “What the hell have I done? This job sucks.”

I stuck it out and actually it turned out to be a good job. I learned financial analysis skills that I still use today. But when I became a manager I realized later I learned an equally valuable lesson:

Make your employee’s first day special.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. You do NOT want your new employee feeling like I did after my first day in 1993. Instead, you want him leaving the office after his first day excited and thinking “Wow I made the right choice. This job is awesome!”

Here are some simple tips I’ve used with great success to ensure a great first day for new people:

  1. Tell the receptionist to expect them and greet them by name.
    Nothing is better than walking into a strange office on a first day and being greeted with a friendly “Hi, you must be Chris!”
  2. Prepare their workspace.
    Have their desk, computer and office supplies all set. A great touch is to tie some welcome balloons to their chair.
  3. Have their manager meet them immediately and give a tour of the office, with introductions.
    This one is great. The manager should bring the new employee around the office and use what I call the “accomplishment introduction.” Whenever you meet someone you say “Hi Joe, Chris is the guy I was telling you about. He has great experience with X and he’ll really help us with Y! ” Make your new person feel good and important (because they are).
  4. Bring them out to lunch.
    Nothing is better to break the ice than to break bread with new colleagues. Everyone who attends should have been briefed on the awesomeness of the new person so they can say things like “I heard that you used to do X.” It makes the new person feel valued and important.
  5. Assign a buddy.
    It’s always good to have a friendly peer to ask questions and get advice about a new workplace. Have one of you staff volunteer to be a buddy for the new person for the first few weeks.

I’m sure you can think of more. It’s easy to do. The return on investment is 1,000%, guaranteed.

Just focus on making your new guy (or gal) feel welcome, excited and valued. They should walk out the door the first day thinking “This place is awesome!” And you’re one step closer to an incredible culture where people love to work.