In relationships, first impressions matter. People need just a few seconds to form an opinion about others, and these opinions are most often accurate, Sean Horan wrote in Psychology Today. Malcom Gladwell, in Blink, similarly explored this phenomenon, where we humans make quick and accurate impressions of people and situations.
Correct or not, such initial impressions are long lasting.
And this extends to the work world, where the first few hours of employment can set the tone for the months and years ahead. If you start well and gain a favorable first impression, that will pay huge dividends; psychologists call this the halo effect. Simply put, people who have an initial favorable impression of a person or organization will transfer that feeling to other areas.
Yet while the impact of a good first impression will be with you for years, unfortunately, so will the impact of a poor first impression. That is why it is so important to spend time planning your new employee’s first impressions. If you create a winning impression, you will have a raving fan. Fail, and you may find it hard to undo the poor showing.
Here are some ideas for how you avoid that latter fate.
Engage in food and fellowship before forms.
On the first day, start with breakfast. We tell our client that it doesn’t have to be fancy; doughnuts, yogurt and coffee are sufficient. Sharing a meal is one of the best ways to break the ice and make a connection. Spend time socializing and getting to know each other.
You have probably only spoken with your new employee during the formal interview and negotiation process. Now, it’s time to change the relationship. When you bring on additional employees, invite the team to share in the process of welcoming the newest member. Yes, he or she will need to fill out the I-9, W-4; yes, there may be insurance documents to fill out and manuals to read. But these can wait until the afternoon or even the next day.
Make time to train and set goals.
You are a busy entrepreneur; otherwise, you wouldn’t be hiring staff. However, if you want to get this new person productive quickly, you will need to invest in training. Most likely, this means that you’ll need to block out large chunks of time during the first few weeks to spend with your new employee.
We recently hired a real estate assistant for a successful broker. When we checked with the broker after the employee’s first week, his comment was, “I didn’t realize how bad a trainer I am.” So, develop a plan for the first week. Your new hire probably brings some skills and experience to the table, but he or she doesn’t know how you want things done in your organization.
You cannot expect your new team member to know what to do and how to do it unless you tell him or her. Set expectations and measurable goals. Paint a picture for your new employee as to what you want him or her to learn and accomplish by the end of the first 30 days. Explain how you are going to help your new hire succeed.
Assign meaningful work.
On day one, your new employee may not be much help. In the beginning, he or she most likely will be a time sink rather than free you up to do work that is more productive. However, the more quickly you can give your new hire meaningful work, the faster he or she will be able to take on some of the workload.
Even new, entry-level employees can make a difference. We believe that employees want to be recognized, contributing members of a winning team. Allow your new employee to contribute from the start. Set him or her up to succeed. First, make a list of tasks that you want your new teammate to take on. Next, as Paycor suggests, assign one or two tasks with which you are sure the new employee will succeed. When your employee is successful, give positive feedback. You will be off to a great start.
Set the stage.
Finally, make sure that your new hire has all the tools he or she will need to be successful, and a place to store personal things. Load your new employee’s computer with the right software and stock the desk with office supplies. Have business cards or a nametag preprinted. Put the employee’s name on his or her locker. We have a client who has engraved nameplates made for each new hire. This is on the new employee’s desk the first day.
While this may be a bit extravagant for you, you can find other ways to show that the new teammate is welcome. They will help you to cement a relationship that is positive and productive. You’ll be on your way to developing a loyal employee and raving fan.
It is easy to create a great first impression. However, once it's missed, you cannot get this opportunity back. These are simple tips that take a little time and money, but can enrich your employment relationship for years to come.