Last week a familiar cadence returned to the 3rd Avenue Loop. Beginning before dawn and extending past mid-afternoon, the roar of big yellow buses could be heard initially gathering, then returning children from their first day of school.
Remember those days? An endless summer seemed to vanish in a flash as excitement fueled anticipation for what the new year would bring for the new, older, and much wiser you.
Day One was a combustible mix of enthusiasm and anxiety: torn between the thrill of discovery and the comfort of competence, part of you could hardly wait to reunite with friends, while the other part wanted to pull the covers over your head for like, eternity.
While those memories seem apropos for grades K through 12 and up to 16-ish, the emotional rollercoaster can apply to your first day of anything . . . including a new job.
Understanding what’s at stake when welcoming new talent is the key to making your Day One a memorable and impactful experience. The following four tips will guide your thoughts and actions leading up to the Big Day:
Say My Name, Use My Name
I’ve chronicled the impact a nametag had on my day one experience when reporting to the U. S. Coast Guard Academy (On-Boarding). Even after 18 months of an extended admissions process, I felt insecure regarding my purpose and destination.
One look at that little blue plate with white lettering established a sense of place, affirming that the Academy was indeed expecting my arrival.
The value of that experience has influenced the hundreds of Day Ones I have facilitated over the years.
Knowing, then using a new employee’s name, demonstrates more than committing to a process. It speaks of a genuine desire to make someone feel welcome, and realize they are among kindred souls that share common goals or aspirations.
Practice and preparation ensure flawless execution, helping you generate a powerful, personal connection:
- Spelling: Check, then double and triple check the spelling of a name.
- Proper Pronunciation: Names can be difficult to pronounce. Determine proper pronunciation during the talent selection process, then practice leading up to Day One. People with difficult names will be forgiving but strive to impress from the first time.
- Multiple Applications: Personalize everything produced for a Day One experience, i.e., nametags, name tents if seated in table groups, on-boarding materials, training books, etc.
The more you personalize the experience, the more impactful the connection.
You Must First Go Through Each Other
Recognize that new talent is anxious to meet everyone in their hierarchy, including you, their department manager, supervisors, and immediate teammates. They want to know details, such as where their locker is, how to get to their workstation, next week’s schedule.
Broaden awareness and proactively strengthen connections by having new talent engage with each other first. Nothing too elaborate, just a quick look to the left and right before charging headfirst into new responsibilities.
For example: The service philosophy and core values for a popular luxury brand were based on the concept of music: how a symphony was a collection of notes; played on various instruments; by a diverse group of musicians.
We developed a list of questions for new talent to ask each other as they arrived for Day One. Two associates would pair up and solicit responses to:
Where are you from?
What music do you listen to?
Who is your favorite artist or group?
If you could be an instrument, what would you be and why?
Once assembled and mad libs answered, we moved into the training room and asked the partners to introduce each other to the group.
This is a great exercise for discovering connective tissue among new talent. As a facilitator, I could connect those discoveries to the core values of the brand, driving home the unique potential for everyone to contribute to our overall purpose.
The exercise promotes both relevance and relationships, two powerful resources to fuel engagement.
Cultural Competence Breeds Confidence
Time in between jobs or positions may not equate to an endless summer, but even a minimal gap represents growth and subtle maturity. And while everyone knows Day One is an emotional whirlwind, new talent is still looking for something to build confidence heading into Day Two and beyond.
So, teach them something.
Practice patience . . . this isn’t the time for numbers, stats, or data. Instead, introduce them to the softer side of your organization’s culture, the kind of insider information you can’t read on a website or social media.
Engage your new talent in the process by asking, “Why did you choose us?” Then work in responses to that question throughout your Day One agenda, establishing cultural competence, and confirming to each participant that they indeed made the correct choice.
A Handwritten Note
There is nothing more personal than a handwritten note.
Even if you greet new talent in person upon arrival (which is a great gesture), delivering a welcome card or note on company stationery is a keepsake, a physical reminder of how much you appreciate their presence and contributions.
Especially considering the scope of your Day One agenda. If you are a small operation, and welcome new talent then escort them to a training kiosk or learning room, there can be a huge gap in emotional connectivity. This is when having a tangible reminder is most valuable, reaffirming a sense of pride and reassuring new talent that you care, and not expecting them to be a solo act.
For larger groups, individual notes should encourage new talent to enjoy on-boarding and commit to meeting them at the conclusion. Please do not rely on technology . . . chances are the individual applied through a hiring portal and had at least one phone or Zoom interview along the way. It’s time to make things personal.
A new hire once approached me and asked where the Main Kitchen was located. His new leader had neglected to write a handwritten welcome note and instead sent this via text:
Dude – meet me in the main kitchen when you’re done
While the intent to connect was genuine, the execution left the new hire with more questions than answers. Wandering the back aisle on their own is a breeding ground for doubt and confusion.
Go ahead . . . write the note.
This Is One Final Tip
The top leader at your property, office, or facility may be the highest ranking official a front-line associate will ever meet. That meeting must occur on Day One, and don’t take no for an answer.
Imagine the joy woven into every Day One story shared with family and friends, the pride oozing from smiles as they describe how they met or had lunch with the General Manager, Owner, or Managing Partner.
In addition, name usage, peer-to-peer connections, cultural competence, and handwritten notes function as confirmation of your new talent’s choice of organization and opportunity. Remember that names can be difficult to pronounce, so practice to perfect execution.
Day One jitters follow us throughout our lives. Make your next one memorable for all the right reasons.
This is Tall Tim, and I am At Your Service!