Create the right ‘first-day’ experience and dramatically improve the lifetime productivity of new employees.
We have all heard that you only get one chance to make a first impression, but a group of international (Canada, Belgium, and the United States) scientists has determined that first impressions last longer and are much per pervasive than previously thought.
University of Western Ontario (UWO) Canada Research Chair Bertram Gawronsk observed:
“Imagine you have a new colleague at work and your impression of that person is not very favorable. A few weeks later, you meet your colleague at a party and you realize he is actually a very nice guy. Although you know your first impression was wrong, your gut response to your new colleague will be influenced by your new experience only in contexts that are similar to the party.”
The study suggests that the first impression establishes ‘the rules’ of that relationship and then, later, when things take place that contradict that rule, the mind will treat them as exceptions rather than as evidence that the rule or rules were incorrect.
Because of this, it is incredibly important to make sure that you intentionally design a new employee’s first day so that they create the most productive rules possible.
Consider the ‘old school’ way of training a telephone salesperson:
We invite the person to listen in on a few calls and then sit them down with their own phone to make their first sales calls. They are probably a bit nervous or apprehensive.
Is that the right first impression of making sales calls?
And then, as they get ready to make their first sales call we might offer to listen in as part of their training. And so, their nervousness and apprehension increase.
They make a few calls and we offer a few improvements and, while they may start to feel slightly more proficient or even comfortable, there will be a pervasive hesitance about picking up the phone and making sales calls.
That hesitance or nervousness will translate into reluctance and they will link that feeling — that first impression — to the job of making outbound sales calls.
This is one of the reasons that sales people are often able to find many alternative ways to spend their time when they really should be making the next sales call.
This may happen with any action, job, or task that a new employee takes on with any nervousness or hesitation. The first impression will stick and no matter how easy, or even fun, that task might turn out to be at times, those times are very likely to be seen as exceptions to the initially constructed rule.
Once we understand this, it empowers us to create the ideal first impression so that we can create a foundation for happy, comfortable, and productive employment.
With this in mind, I tried something different with a new salesperson I had just hired. On Jack’s first day I made sure that he was made to feel welcome, certain, safe, and excited about his future.
When it came time to begin his training, I asked Jack to sit with one of our top salespeople, listen in on his calls, and make notes. For a few days.
At the end of that week I checked in with Jack; I asked how he was doing. ‘Good’, he explained. And eager to get started. I told him to have a great weekend and that I would see him on Monday.
On Monday he came in expecting to make his first sales calls. Instead, I asked him to sit with another one of our top performers to watch more calls. I could see that he was a little bit relieved (not quite ready to make is first calls) and a little bit disappointed (wanted to make his first calls).
The following Monday when he came back to work — having now completed two weeks of training and observation — I asked him to sit with another sales person to learn so more. This time I saw no relief; he was ready to start making calls.
But still, I had him start the day observing.
In the mid-morning, I checked in to see how Jack was doing. Again, he said that he was good but then he paused, looked up, and asked, “Would it be possible for me to make some calls today, I really think I am ready.”
And so, by the time Jack made his first phone calls, he did so with positive anticipation and excitement. His first impression of making sales calls would stick with him for years.
He consistently performed well and routinely made more phone calls in a day than the sales people that were hired before him. And so, we changed the induction and training process.
Every company has, in effect, an ‘induction process’ but the questions are:
- Is it a well-considered process with strategic objectives in mind?
- Is it a documented procedure that will be done consistently no matter who is handling it?
In order to design a really excellent first-day-experience, and set the tone for a productive working relationship, there are two primary considerations:
1) Legal Requirements.
These requirements vary from country to country and, even, from state to state. It is important to make sure that you are up to date with the legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Remember that, in general terms, the employer is responsible for the employee/employer relationship and so the burden is on you to meet certain legal requirements, complete certain filings and follow any legally mandated steps for on-boarding.
For instance, in New York, employers that do not give notice of the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act may face damages of up to $50 per day, per employee.
It is important that you confirm and follow the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.
Having an induction or on-boarding process that meets, consistently, your legal requirements can prevent costly legal processes, fines, and other problems. Once that
2) Strategic Objectives
Once you have met the statutory on-boarding requirements for your jurisdiction, you can turn your attention toward your non-legal strategic objectives including, for instance:
a) To help them feel comfortable and excited.
b) To help them feel certain and safe.
c) To help them feel connected and part of the team.
d) To help them feel excited about their new job and new team.
e) To help them understand the company culture and values.
f) To help them feel excited about the various tasks and responsibilities that come with the job.
Once you are clear about the legal requirements, and your strategic objectives, you can write out a plan for your employee’s first day or, even, first few days.
By having a consistent and well-considered on-boarding process will give you:
- Consistency. You will be able to create predictable results.
- Freedom. You will not have to do the process yourself, once it is well documented.
- Protection. By making sure that the process is followed every time, you will avoid legal pitfalls and reduce potential liabilities.
- A great start. Your new people will be given the very best start which will lay the foundation for a long and productive relationship.
If you would like a template copy of our induction process that you can copy and use for your company, please download it here.