Why a Sink or Swim On-Boarding Strategy Is a Waste of Talent – Part 1

Welcome back to my fourth blog in our 2016 Culture Hacker series. Last month we discussed your selection strategy, so now let’s talk about on-boarding and orientation. At SGEi, we are very passionate about both of these topics, so I am going to split it into two blogs. In this first blog I am going to focus on day one of a new employee’s experience with you (often called their orientation). In the follow-up blog, we will talk about on-boarding – the larger process of getting your staff trained and socialized into their role and your culture within the first 30-60 days.

Successful business presentation of a man at the office

As the title suggests, many companies current orientation and on-boarding strategy (that usually consists of putting them to work on the front line on day one) is a waste of talent. Why? Because research suggests an inability to immerse and on-board your new people correctly will dramatically increase the likelihood that they will leave you quickly. What a waste; especially after you spent so much time and money selecting your people in the first place. To clarify, the on-boarding process should cover the first 30-60 days of an associate’s time with you: the orientation should be the first day of that on-boarding process.

As I speak on this topic around the world I repeatedly suggest the following phrase, “The first day of your associate’s new job should be a great experience, while the next 60 days should be about teaching him or her to deliver great experiences to your customers.” An employee’s first day on the job should be memorable, motivating, and effective in introducing your new employees to your brand, your culture, and your business. Unfortunately, many times this doesn’t happen.

Companies usually throw people directly to the front line with no orientation or introduction because they want to see what the new employee is made of (an outdated philosophy). Alternatively, an associate’s first day on the job is uninspiring (reading all those rules and signing paper work), disorganized (no one realized they were starting today), or a waste of time (they sit on the sidelines because we are all too busy to care). As a result, many people’s first impression of their new company is a bad one. But of course, no one ever blames the lack of orientation for team members quitting quickly; they blame the lack of work ethic and loyalty that the modern worker displays. In reality, quick turnovers are the smart ones who get out before it’s too late.

I always think of Horst Schulze, the former CEO of Ritz-Carlton, telling us that a person’s first day on the job is one of those times when they will be most open to change and what you tell them to do. The first day of the job is when a new hire consciously or subconsciously understands the priorities of your company. So, do we really want to waste this critical moment on paperwork, compliance, rules, and chaos? Instead, choose to make a first day something employees will never forget.

Begin by taking care of the paperwork online. This can be taken of prior to someone’s first day. This includes sending out employment information, tax forms, the benefits package, and miscellaneous paperwork to be completed prior to the employee start date. Don’t let the first day be focused on completing required paperwork that, with more preparation, could have been finalized beforehand. Remember that if all they do on their first day is paperwork, then they will quickly comprehend that paperwork is most important to the company. There are a number of HR software programs available that can manage and organize employee paperwork throughout their history with you, beginning before they start.

Also, try to avoid handing out all the rules on day one. If you focus on the rules, then while your employees will be good with rules they will not be so good with customers. By inundating new staff with rules, the message is clear – following the rules is the most important thing to us – no matter what. I do have one exception to my rule about rules on day one, which is if you are Nordstrom or have a similar perspective on rules. Nordstrom has just one rule and that is, “Use your good judgment. There will be no additional rules.” Their rule puts their customers first. If customer experience is your priority, then you must make your employee’s experience something to remember.

4 Things to Introduce on Day One

1. Begin with the Brand

On day one, introduce the customer promise to your new people. This is the most important promise your company makes, so make this ground zero for your employee’s first day. This should involve the marketing team immersing new staff in some of the latest imagery, marketing pieces, and an explanation about what it all means. It is surprising how many times the orientation fails to introduce the company’s fundamental products or services.

2. Give a History Lesson

Culture is reinforced through storytelling and company history. Take some time to talk about what makes people working their most proud. This is a great opportunity to engage other staff members to come in and provide their own stories or the company’s history.

3. Introduce Values

It is important to introduce your company values to new staff on their first day. This ensures they understand that how you do things is as important as what you do. Ensure this introduction doesn’t consist of just handing out a piece of paper or card with your values on it. You need to bring your values to life in a fun, imaginative, and meaningful way. Over the years we have utilized videos, Aesop’s fables, games, and role pays to introduce a value and to then have the staff discuss what this means to them. We have utilized current staff to come in and lead those introductions and discussions on values, because it has the added benefit of a refresher.

4. Define Experience and Expectations

It is important that you establish the expectations of how to interact with your customers. Your new associate must walk away understanding how important customer interactions are and the part that each associate plays in that.

So, let’s commit to make day one something your new employees talk about or even rave about. Focus on making new team members your biggest fans: after all, isn’t that what you hope they will do to your customers in the future? Stop wasting this important moment with new team members, and stop wasting your talent. Next time we will review the bigger on-boarding process. And remember, if you are interested in learning more about how we wow employees on day one, then reach out and connect with SGEi. Thanks for reading.

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