It’s day-1 and you’re off to the races with a new job along with all the best intentions to make this the best career yet.
As day-1 unfolds something very strange begins to build within you. Your stomach aches as it ties itself into knots like a boy scout at a retreat, you feel like vomiting could occur if you could only find the nearest trash can and hurl your brains out without being seen. Your skin begins to itch as your mind runs a marathon dealing with the uncomfortable thoughts that are swirling in your brain. (no you’re not hung over)
Welcome to an experience I like to call ‘career buyers’ remorse’!It happens more than you think it does and can cause a lot more damage than people realize.
How is it someone can meander their way through an entire interview process, offer and onboarding to find out within a matter of hours on their first day at work that they have made a very unfortunate decision about their career? They know it in the pit of their stomach that this new employer is NOT for them.
How does this happen?
For starters, the interview process is like dating, everyone is trying to put their best foot forward to impress the other person. Then when we decide to make things official between employee and employer and the first day at work comes along, and first impression for that matter, the experience can produce a potentially lethal blow to the relationship moving forward.
First impressions in business make or break the entire outcome of an experience. Carol Kinsey Goman, with Forbes magazine, says we have seven seconds to make a first impression. Seven seconds?! What about a whole day consisting of 8+ hours of work at a new job where you don’t know anyone.
For these reasons and many more, it’s vital that companies consider their onboarding experience and how they show up to prospective employees from the very beginning of the job posting through to their six month performance review.
Over the last two weeks we covered part-1 and part-2 of the three part series, ‘Why Your New Employee Wants to Quit’. To access the first two parts of this article:
Part-1 click here
Part-2 click here
The SQR1 Six Month Onboarding Program (continued):
Step-5: The 3 Month Experience
- Week 1 – we discussed in Step-4 some of the items to do and not do on the first day. The rest of week 1 is a crucial 40 hour period in which the success of your new employee greatly hinges on your ability to communicate with them the details and responsibilities of their role, impact they can make to the company and your expectations. The key in week one is to cover all of these topics at a high level without going into too much detail. You want to give your new employee enough information to settle their appetite for knowledge and curiosity without overwhelming them. Set formal meetings in the calendar for the weeks to come for one-on-one meetings with your new employee, make sure you invite them so they know what’s to come ahead of time.
- Month 1 – Within the first month you want to accomplish the following: establish performance expectations set with their job for the remainder of the year; scheduled follow up meetings once a month to discuss their performance and collect their feedback; discuss company goals and your divisional /team goals fit into it, establish formal performance metrics; provide your new employee with a larger agenda which spans out the rest of their six month onboarding process; take your new employee on an adventure to broaden their perspective (visit a customer or supplier, take them to an industry event, invite them to join a management meeting, etc.). At the end of the first month your new employee should know all the in’s and out’s of what is expected of them in their new role as well as already be working towards a first goal within their performance expectations. Hint – get their ‘Buddy’ to help them with some of these things.
- Month 2 & 3 – After you’ve locked up all the details of your new found relationship with your new employee from month 1 you’ll want to focus on developing a better relationship with them in the coming months. Key here is trust and respect. I know you’re the boss and you make all the decisions but it’s important to remember the single best thing you can do as a leader is CARE about the people you serve as a leader. Over the next two months you will want to spend time with your new employee, share ideas and perspective with them, ask them for their opinions and build trust through saying you will do things then follow through on them. You will also have at least two formal meetings with your new employee during this time where it will be important to seek their thoughts and feedback on how things are progressing. Don’t be afraid to deliver tough love if you need too, you’ll be far better off calling things in the moment as you see them rather than waiting months down the road.
- Team Event – there’s no better way to introduce a new player to the team culture than through a team event. This outing can be anything – formal, casual, trust falls, community volunteering, happy hours, picnics, etc. The important thing to remember is the phrase diversity and inclusion. You want to pick an event or outing everyone can do (not everyone is capable of scaling a 10 foot wall on an obstacle course) to make sure that everybody is included providing the best opportunity for the team to bond and get to know one another at a deeper level.
Step 6: The 4-6 Month Finale
- More of the Same – it might not sound exciting but in these next three months consistency is the key to success. Continue with your one-on-one’s each month and ensure your new employee knows they are supported and part of the team, always. The more time you spend with them the better chances you will have a new partner for the long haul and the less chance you’ll experience a ‘batman’. (leaving the scene without telling anyone)
- Six Month Onboarding Feedback – during your final one-on-one with your new employee at the end of the six month onboarding make sure to spend some time with them asking their feedback on how they felt their first six months went.
- Performance Review – if you’ve done it right you have probably been discussing their performance monthly throughout the six month onboarding experience. Make sure towards the end of the six month you schedule a formal review where you are openly discussing their performance in relation to the metrics that were set up when the person started. Hopefully everything is lovely however if that isn’t the case having a formal review early on in the game sets you up to start documenting underperforming behaviors. We aren’t trying to catch someone do something wrong, we’re actually trying to help them do everything right and be successful.
Unfortunately there will always be the occasional situation where someone falls short of expectation no matter how hard you try to help them and in these moments its best you start tracking it early on so you have a healthy document trail should the inevitable termination occur down the road. Again, I must stress the reason for this meeting is more for checking in to see where you as the leader can help and also show praise for efforts leading up to this point.
- Praise Performance – this is not a step which should be left for last as it is an important part of a leader’s responsibility to always be on the lookout for people doing great things and then recognizing them for it. Assuming you have been doing this all along, a great way to end the six month onboarding experience is to share with the employee what it means to you (as the leader) to have this person on your team. It might sound a bit cheesy and overly emotional at first however I can promise you MOST people in this world would love to have their boss sit them down at the end of their first six months to hear their boss share ‘why she is thankful to have me on their team’.
The onboarding experience is one which often goes overlooked yet carries such a big impact to the company’s culture, competitiveness in the market and bottom line. When we focus more of our energy on providing people with a great work experience we’ll spend less time dealing with employee turnover and more time on what matters – being great leaders.
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About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.