THE CRITICAL FIRST DAY
How many times have you witnessed the Non-Welcome Wagon on someone's first day at your company, or during your own corporate transitions? This critical first day is handled so poorly at a majority of companies, that often the new employee's opinion of the organization can never be fully repaired. Today, write on the cover of your Personnel Manual, "Make First Days Great!" If the new teammate's first day in your company, charity or civic group is not carefully scripted to be exemplary, the remainder of the relationship will be weaker for it (remember the rules on first impressions).
Yet, how is this most-critical task handled at most companies today? First, they get a lucky break. The all-star performer, Joe, whom they've been recruiting for two years goes through a difficult corporate merger, feels unloved, and now takes them up on their offer to join the company. They finalize all the details and schedule Joe's first day two weeks down the road. Then, they go back to managing the sales problems in the Cleveland office.
That fateful first day, Joe is up early and nervous. His wife, Susan, selects him the perfect tie, and he promises to tell her all about his amazing day over a celebration dinner tonight. Joe says one last time, "I hope I made the right decision." Susan smooches him on the cheek and tells him, "I'm so proud of you."
Joe arrives at the office. The busy receptionist lets him know that his boss is in Cleveland and directs him to take a seat. After forty-five minutes, the HR assistant greets him and leads him to an empty cubicle. His office is not ready, and she's not sure which one is his, anyways. She tells him, "Everyone's in meetings today, so please read the Personnel Handbook. Sorry it's 300 pages, but we have a lot of rules."
Joe makes sure not to bother anyone. He skips lunch because he's not sure of the office protocol. But he does consider sneaking out to the corner tavern for a few drinks while he contemplates what he has just done to his promising career. At 5:05 he slides out the back. Susan rushes to the door to greet him and find out every detail of his amazing day. Joe sulks into the house and says, "It was fine, but I sure hope it gets better tomorrow." The two sit quietly over dinner wondering what the future holds. Or instead, if Joe was joining our team of A-Players at one of our organizations, here is how we've always attempted to flip this script. First, I send out an internal email the morning before Joe's first day explaining the new position and providing a little information about our new teammate, so everyone was in the loop and prepared to give a warm welcome.
Joe walks into the office wearing that perfect tie, the receptionist jumps up, introduces themselves, and gets Joe a coffee and a danish to welcome him to the office. Our best receptionist ever was Justin, a 24-year-old good-looking guy who talked his parents into helping him buy some new business suits. He would leap to his feet, smile, shake hands, and treat all visitors like Kings and Queens. I can't count how many compliments we received about Justin.
Back to Joe. His new assistant, Robert, hurries out to greet him and lead him to his new office. Along the walk, Robert stops at each desk and introduces Joe to the Team. Each associate puts their call on hold for the greeting and mentions one familiarity, "I see our kids are in the same soccer league!" and "Oh no! Not another Georgetown grad in the firm!"
Over Joe's new office hangs a welcome banner, balloons float inside, and on the table is a gift basket with New Zealand sauvignon blanc (How did they know?). Two goody bags for the kids hold company t-shirts, hats, and treats. Lunch is scheduled with three members of his department. At two o'clock Joe meets with his new boss and receives three projects in desperate need of his brilliance. Suddenly, it's six PM, and Joe remembers that he promised a special dinner with the family.
At the door he's greeted by an excited Susan. Joe says, "Let me tell you about this amazing firm!" Susan interrupts, "Wait until you first hear about my day! Two nice women from your company surprised me at my office with a welcome basket of goodies, balloons, and my favorite cabernet! You must have told them! I was the hit of the office. Everyone spent the day asking me about your new company!"
Joe, Susan and the kids have a special dinner and have that feeling inside they can't quite describe, except that everything just feels right.
Just how many people do you think Joe and Susan told about their amazing first day and this wonderful company? Just about everyone who would listen, twice! Always remember that everyone just wants to be inspired. Everyone craves to be part of something special, and the critical first day sets the tone for the entire mission. The First Day Strategy is so easy, costs almost nothing, and provides a priceless reward. "He who has a why to live for, can bear with almost any how." - Nietzsche