New employees aren't the only ones who have to worry about making a good impression during their first days at work. Employers, too, have to be careful to put their best food forward when welcoming a new employee. First impressions can affect the way new employees view their role at your company for as long as they work there.
Polly and Doug White, principals at Whitestone Partners, a business consulting firm, and authors of the new book, "Let Go to Grow: Why Some Businesses Thrive and Others Fail to Reach Their Potential" (Palari Publishing, 2011), advise employers to make sure they've done all they can to make a great first impression on a new employee.
Have a plan. The difference between a worker who becomes productive quickly and one who languishes is often how well they are oriented to their new company. The first hours and days of a new employee's career are the time when they become acquainted with the requirements and expectations of their job, the culture of the organization and where and how they fit into the company.
You can greatly increase the speed at which your employees become fully productive by having a personalized orientation plan in place. The plan should balance time spent learning about the organization and their co-workers' responsibilities with the employee becoming familiar with his or her job duties.
It is not necessary that their first hours be spent filling out myriad employment-related forms. This may be convenient for HR, payroll or accounting, but does not create the best first impression. While the new employee will eventually need to fill out certain forms, most federal and state requirements allow the employee and your company several days to complete the task. Spending your first hours creating a friendly, comfortable and productive experience for the employee is a better use of time.
Have a place for your new employee to call their own. Whether the employee will have a desk, a locker, a workstation or a peg on the wall, you should have it labeled, clean and stocked with all of the equipment the employee will need to do his or her job. Nothing says "we really want you to be happy and productive" like a well-appointed workstation.
When desks and workstations are left empty for any length of time, two things happen. First, any useful equipment, office supplies or gadgets seem to walk away. Second, the empty desk becomes a dumping ground for stacks of papers, files and other debris. The day before the new employee is to arrive, take a few minutes to restock the workstation and clean off unnecessary clutter.
Introduce them to their co-workers. Most businesses provide new employees with the standard tour and introduction. While this is a step in the right direction, there are ways to increase the benefit to the organization. Spend at least part of the first day celebrating the arrival of the new employee. Set up a time for the new employee to have coffee with everyone on the team, allowing for socializing and rapport-building. If possible, add doughnuts or other snacks into the mix. There is nothing like food to help with bonding and creating great memories.
Choose carefully when involving others in the welcoming process. Avoid allowing your new employee to have contact with the "curmudgeon buzzard." This is the longer-term employee who feels obligated to swoop in on your new employee and explain in great detail why coming to work in your organization may be the biggest mistake of their career. They peck away at their new colleague's confidence by telling stories of times when management was unfair or unkind to the rank-and-file.
The curmudgeon buzzards carry a great deal of baggage with them that they feel must be unloaded on the unsuspecting newbie. However, they are only effective if they can poison the new employee before he or she has fully formed an opinion of the company. Keeping the buzzards away from your new hires during the first few hours or days of their employment will allow the new employees to form a favorable impression of your company — one that will be hard to change. Coach the new employees yourself or assign them to employees who will represent your company in its best light. The rewards will be long lasting.
Outline what new employees need to accomplish to succeed. Then set them up for success. Finally, explain to your new employees what you want them to accomplish in the first days on the job. Understanding exactly what you want them to do and how you will measure their success will increase the new employee's confidence and the likelihood that you will get great performance. Make sure that the tasks you select are ones that will be part of the employee's routine assignments and are very doable. Remember, you want the employee to succeed in the early days so that he or she will be eager to take on the more difficult work that lies ahead.
To paraphrase an old saying, employees are not your greatest asset — great employees are your greatest asset. Whether your organization is large or small, make sure you set the stage for their success by creating a positive first impression.