March 15, 2008

The First Most Important Day in Your New Employee’s Career

By Paul Bieber

DUH! Of course the first day of work is the first most important day; the next most important day probably won’t come for three months. A good manager will know after the first day if this new employee has potential, or will never make it. It’s at that point that you already begin to lick your wounds and plan to start over.

Good interviewing techniques, reference checking and gut feel really do matter. Why then do some employees not succeed, if you’ve done a first-rate interviewing and hiring procedure. More importantly, what you and your company do on the first day of employment can help a newcomer to prosper and grow within your company.

The first day of work for anyone is filled with fear (Did I do the right thing leaving the other job?) (Will they take me back?), and filled with hope, (Wow, I am so proud the be in this new company!) (I can really show them what I can do, and they will appreciate me–not like the bums at my last job!). It is your job to accentuate the positive (If you know this song, like me, we are way too old!).

Be ready for a new employee on their start date. Don’t keep them waiting for an hour while you take care of your morning chores. Greet them at the scheduled start of their shift. Don’t introduce them to everyone that walks by…they will never remember and this will produce awkward situations…but focus on their immediate co-workers. An average person cannot remember more than 8-10 new names in morning or afternoon. Keep to this rule. Have an agenda for them…who they are going to meet and what their relationship will be. Have their immediate supervisor take over from you to show them around. If a person is going to be in the office, take a short period to show them the back, and vice-versa with a hands-on glass person. Don’t let it start out being ‘us’ and ‘them’ from the first day. Spend time going over the legal niceties of the job..handing out the employee manual, and going over it; filling out paperwork for government needs, taxes and immigration control; and filling out your paperwork such as receipts for equipment given, safety programs and standards, and emergency contact info.

The next step is for the supervisor to take them on an in-depth tour of their working area, going over responsibilities and duties. Even with the hire of an experienced person, your flow of paperwork will need teaching.

Before a new person starts, select a current employee to act as their ‘buddy’ for the first couple of days. This buddy should be someone who will work in the same general area, and have the same background. The buddy should explain the unofficial rules—when and where the coffee truck comes, where the bathrooms are, the pay phone and the little ins-and-outs of the day to day job. The buddy should invite John Newcomer to lunch with him, where Newcomer can meet the others in the work group. A sure predictor of failure is to see a new person, sitting by themselves eating a sandwich. Mr. Newcomer will be thinking about how he can go back to his old job if he is sitting there alone. The buddy should be available for questions on how checks are given out, the rules for getting O/T, and the little quirks that every company has. Pick the buddy carefully. Pick someone who believes in the company and the role they play in it. If you pick the right person for this first day you will have a greater percentage of employees who survive the first week of employment.

Take time during the first couple of days to really explain the company history getting Mr. Newcomer to buy in to the company culture. Make him feel a part of the company from day one. Yes, you should still place John, like all new employees,on a standard new employee schedule…a period of probation along with short reviews, giving and asking for feedback.

When you go out to the plant confirm that Mr. Newcomer is completely following your safety program. This is a habit which has to be reinforced right away. Workers comp accidents occur more with new employees. Its obvious, but you can work to reduce this right from that first day. Ask Mr. Newcomer to come back to you at the end of their first working shift, seeing how the day went and answering questions.

Treat each employee like they are family from the first day…don’t wait for a month to see if they will make it. Each new employee is a potential treasure for your company…treat them fairly from the very first day and both you and Mr. Newcomer will be happier.