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The New Employee’s First Day

by Jan 2, 2009, 5:22 am ET

Originally published April 8, 2008.

It’s a great day at Newman Industries! For the last month, it has been actively recruiting a hot candidate to join its sales team. Today, Steven Harmon agreed to join. Newman sees him as a true rainmaker. The recruiter and sales manager share high-fives. Mission accomplished! Spike the ball in the end zone. The job is done! The competition was fierce for Steven, but Newman Industries won.

While Newman Industries was celebrating, Steven resigned his position with his present employer and enjoyed a celebratory dinner with his wife. That night, Steven lay in bed wondering if he made the right decision. He came to terms with his decision and looks forward to his first day at the company.

It’s 8:28 a.m. when Steven arrives for his first day at Newman Industries. He is excited, while also apprehensive. When Steven walks into the office and introduces himself to the receptionist, he is surprised to hear, “Oh, I didn’t know we had a new person starting today. Who did you say you were here to see?” Steven brushes this off, as it is not completely foreign for the receptionist not to be notified about a new employee joining a company.

The receptionist calls around and tells Steven that he is in the right place, but his manager Jamie has not arrived yet. Steven sits in the lobby as person after person walks by without saying a word.

Finally, at 9:10 am, Jamie walks in carrying a Starbucks coffee. She greets Steven in the lobby and takes him to his cubicle. Steven is surprised by what he sees. The cubicle looks like it belongs to someone else. Jamie explains that they had a salesperson leave the company the other day and that they had not had a chance to remove his stuff. “I have an idea,” sputters Jamie, “Since I have a meeting to run to, why don’t you get rid of this stuff and then we can get together at 10. Here is a garbage can. Thanks.”

Steven agrees, but is also a little miffed. “I signed up to sell, not provide janitorial services,” he thinks. While cleaning out the desk, he finds a farewell card in the top drawer that is signed by all of the Newman employees. He thinks it is thoughtful that they recognized this employee as he left the company.

It’s 10:30 when Jamie returns to Steven. She notices that there isn’t a computer set-up for Steven in the cubicle. She calls the IT department to see where it is. She hangs up the phone and looks annoyed. She turns to Steven and tells him that HR forgot to notify the IT department. “They won’t have your computer ready for a couple of days.”

She turns to Steven and says, “I have another meeting to run to, but let’s have lunch. Here is a bunch of stuff to read for now.” Jamie produces a foot-high pile of wrinkled papers and says, “That should get you started.”

Lunchtime comes and Jamie hurriedly comes by the cubicle and asks Steven how he is doing. She then proceeds to apologize, but tells him that she cannot go to lunch. She explains that she got called into another meeting. She suggests that Steven go out and get lunch on his own. “We can get together at 1 pm,” says Jamie. “By the way, Steven, can you grab a burger for me? I’ll pay you when you get back to the office.”

Steven leaves for lunch and is starting to question his decision to join Newman. He thinks back to the interview process and how attentive the team was with him. He remembers how aggressively they recruited him to join their team. He thinks about how warm and welcoming the management group was in its pursuit of him. Today, he feels like a third wheel on a date.

Steven comes back to the office with Jamie’s burger. It’s now 1 pm, and Steven is hoping that Jamie has some time for him. Jamie comes by Steven’s cubicle and thanks him for the burger. She asks Steven to come by her office at 2 to talk about his territory. Steven sits in his cubicle and flips through the pile of papers left for him. All the while, employees walk past his cubicle without ever saying a word.

At 2 pm, Steven goes to Jamie’s office. Jamie explains that the sales team is in a bit of a transition and the compensation plan is changing. Thus, there is no compensation plan to share with Steven that day. The territory is also in flux, but that should be resolved in the next two weeks. After chatting with Jamie for about a half hour, Steven returns to his cubicle. The rest of his day is more of the same and at 5 pm, he heads for home.

Steven’s wife asks about his first day. Steven says, “I’m really happy that I didn’t pull my resume off the job boards or tell the recruiters that I was off the market, because I don’t know if this is going to work out. We’ll have to see.”

The truth is that Newman Industries is really a fine company. It just made a very common mistake when hiring salespeople. It worked so hard to recruit Steven that they celebrated prematurely. The company thought they had Steven when he accepted the offer. That was their error. They failed to recognize that they had only completed the next step of the process. What is missing is a program to ensure the impression made in the recruiting and interview process is continued when the person arrives on their first day.

Many of you reading this probably think I made up that story about Steven. The truth is that this story is an amalgam of the many horror stories that I have heard over the years from salespeople.

Putting together a new-hire welcoming program isn’t overly difficult to do. However, it takes commitment on the part of the entire management team to ensure it is followed.

Think back to the story. Steven found a card that was given to the employee on the way out. How about a welcome card for Steven that is placed in his clean cubicle that has everything he needs to do his job? Office supplies, new-hire paperwork, a computer, a who’s-who list, a phone that is ready for use, etc. Again, it’s not hard to do this, but it does require some thought.

Consider how much money was spent to recruit Steven into Newman Industries. Now think about those dollars evaporating after Steven doesn’t return after his first day.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Jessica Kreider

    I am a new recruiter, and my first new hire is starting in a week. I planned on calling the hiring manager to check in and see how preparations for his new team member were coming along. I knew that I couldn’t just let someone start their first day without making sure she’s taken care of, but after reading this I understand the possibilities of how an unprepared first day can go. It’s pretty heart breaking when you think about it. Someone is starting a new job, they’re excited to be in a new place with new people… but they end up feeling like nobody cares. I would NEVER want any of my people to feel the way ‘Steven’ probably felt. I think this is a good article to put out there, because most recruiters just assume that the hiring managers are handling everything. The job isn’t done when the offer is accepted – you have to be there checking in as the ‘Consultant’ you promised you were when you began the business relationship.

  • Rachel Schneider

    Lee,

    For those of you who read this in horror and can’t believe it is true, trust me – seen it, been there, and can probably top it. This environment has been a hallmark of many small businesses where process is a word undefined or you just make it up as you go along.

    The key is to be proactive and adaptable. Don’t wait for others to guide, just do. In a real situation like this, the salesguy would start asking questions and introducing himself around and go through files left to see where things are left off.

    Unfortunately, many companies – even those with marketing managers don’t think about this stuff. For those of us who don’t know anything other than your scenario, we just learn to adapt and quickly.

  • Master Burnett

    This amalgam example is tame to the horrors that happen daily around the world!
    A friend of mine who is a field agent with the FBI was recently forced to change field assignments due to FBI policy. As an agent he is highly decorated, and one of only a handful of agents ever to successfully close a domestic terrorism case. He was forced to sell his existing home during market conditions that were not favorable to him and relocate to one of the most expensive cities in the country. Upon arrival to the office in the new city he found that he had no office, no phone, no computer, and no car. The bureau chief wasn?t around and he had been assigned to a task force of one, himself, on a segment of crime to which he was unfamiliar. He introduced himself around to others, as no one else made an attempt. When he ran into someone he had gone to the academy with years earlier they went to lunch where she shared a similar new arrival experience. Three days past and he finally got an office and phone, but still no BlackBerry, no computer, and no car. One by one over the course of the next three weeks he was issues his BlackBerry, his car, and finally a computer, but the bureau chief was still MIA. Absent a briefing on his assignment he literally begged other agents for things to work on as he isn?t used to being a lazy resource. Those three weeks frustrated him to no end, really driving him to think about transitioning to a private sector corporate security role.
    This story will always be on the top of my mind, one because I am a taxpayer, and two because he is a good friend. As a corporate advisor I hear such stories daily. Nothing frustrates top performers more than stupid barriers to them performing.
    A number of companies are trying new solutions to tackle this issue. The two that come to mind are tying the recruiter to the new hire post hire as a transition manager and leveraging activity management software to create activity schedules across the enterprise for each new hire. The first solution gives the recruiter a defined role in onboarding and orientation, and holds them accountable to some degree for a new hires experience. The second solution proactively places activities on every persons calendar that touches a new hire based on a predetermed chain of activities aimed at providing a defined experience. Both solutions focus on defining the role of connected parties and providing a framework through which they can be held accountable.

  • Mauritz Cloete

    This article could be seen as humorous if it was not so true so often!! This is not only sales people, but people in all disciplines. I found that many times the attitude is ‘you’ve got the job, now get on with it’.

    A previous article about making people feel at home at work, came to mind and I believe that this sales person will not remain with this company. Please do not turn around and blame HR, it is the area and department where this person will be working that should act and make this person feel welcome in their team.

    Managers should get over their importance, and trying to prove it by the number of meetings they attend, and remember that it is through their staff that they will achieve their goals. If they take care of their staff their staff will take care of them!

    Regards

  • Rodney Smoczyk

    Frank,

    You my friend need a drink. Or at a minimum may I suggest a day of golf in the sun? Such pent up anger at your ‘clients’. Lest you forget that as a 3rd party recruiter you can choose who you do and do not do business with. Unless your candidate has limited their interest to that specific company, why sweat the small stuff?

    Are there contracts out there that in the eyes of some are ‘unfair’ to the poor schlep that is making call after call, investing sweat and tears to find that purple squirrel? Absolutely.

    What is one to do?

    DON’T sign it and move on with your candidate to greener pastures.

    You mentioned that some ‘creative companies’ ask for money up front to log a business transaction and then act as though this has never happened before. Have you never been in a situation where a bid bond was required? True it is refundable but again the intent of the company is to protect their interests. I have owned three businesses where this was a common practice by corporate, governmental and educational customers. It helped cull the herd so they were only dealing with companies capable of addressing and handling their business. If your intent is not to ‘raid’ the company at some point why would this bother you?

    When we allow a 3rd party recruiter to work for us we do so with open arms and introduce them to people they more often than not would never get to with a cold call. (Yes some gatekeepers are that good). To then have that person attempt to use these contacts against us because they were not able to source and close the candidate of choice? To now become a source and not a client? Why would we not move to protect ourselves?

    You even mention that most case law favors the recruiting firm that is ‘GUILTY’ of poaching from an existing client. Might this not be why the very next thing that client did was go out and have their legal department draft a very detailed and protective service agreement. And who would blame them?

    I can appreciate your point about how too many recruiters working a position diminishes your ability to do your job effectively as I’ve been there and done that. But truth be told, I knew better than to think I was the end all be all and could produce ‘EVERY’ possible candidate on my client?s behalf. Two maybe three firms was the norm and acceptable. Anymore than that and I was no longer interested in their business. That’s right, I had a choice. My goal was to produce the ?best? candidate but my client deserved choices. Even beyond what I alone could give them. After all, it was their money that paid my fee, not mine.

    Reflect on the words of some of those gurus you speak of. I?m sure they told you that you are in charge of your destiny and if the ?client?s? terms don?t fit then move on.

    Not every company is out there to get over on 3rd party recruiters. I appreciate when the recruiters I work with produce a top candidate as it is truly a win for my company and ?cha-ching? a win for the recruiter. But above all else, as a ?Centralized Militant Recruiting Functionary? it is my job to protect the company?s interests. So please don?t forget that.

  • Jeff Schadoff

    All too often a corporation’s initial efforts to recruit a dynamite candidate can fall by the wayside by not properly preparing in advance for a new employee. Perception is still everything in this world ladies and gentleman and the sooner we come to the realization that Corporate America needs to do their due diligence to greet new employees with open arms and respect from the moment they walk in the door on day 1, the sooner we’ll have committed employees!

  • Jim McCaskill, CPC

    When this person left to return to previous employer or for another company, the company asked the recruiter for a refund! LOL

    And companies wonder why search firms don’t want to guarantee placements for extended periods of time and give refunds. This is much more common in corporations than anyone wants to admit or acknowledge.

    BTW, it is very easy to make sure a new hire had a place to sit, a chair, a desk, phone, computer, email address, and the corporate operator being aware of the new hires name and extention, so their spouse can reach them on their first morning.

  • Roosevelt Brooks

    I guess many new recruiters have a sense of empathy. I feel the same way…
    Well said Jessica!

  • Paul Rees

    I loved this article. This phenomenon is one of the main reasons I transitioned from Recruiting to more of an HR role. To me, keeping a great employee happy enough to turn other recruiters away is more difficult and rewarding than attracting good candidates.

    Most recruiters take a lot of pride in doing right by people and their clients, and rightfully so, but this is a great example that to more completely do right by people, there is a greater commitment required than finding the right person for the job and closing them.

    Although this applies less to third party recruiters, there is much that can be done to minimize this risk to your candidates. Ask your client what their onboarding process involves. Communicate that to the candidate, so they know what to expect. If you feel your client is weak in this area, counsel them to do some of the ideas suggested in the article. After all, TPR’s counsel clients on lots of other things that affect the candidate, like salary negotiation, interview techniques, etc. Why not help them solidify their new relationship?

  • Michael Brooks

    Lee,

    This article is great and well timed. We had a ‘Day 1′ for a new group of employees today and we were prepared. We make it a point to have resources dedicated to a ‘mixer’ and ‘ice breaker’ to make the new hires feel welcome. This article made me realize that more needs to be done in the following days. There are so many studies out there that talk about employee attraction to a company (what makes them want to be a part of the team) and their retention (what connects them- or makes them finally say ‘this is it! exactly why I want to stay’) It is so important to treat days 2,3,4 etc. like Day 1… stay consistent! Employees will appreciate this attention; which will cause more excitement about their choice, loyalty and productivity.

    Mike

  • Jonathan Hefferlin

    Even recruiters have been remiss in followthru once the deal is made. How many brag about a 20 or so step process that stops when they post a chip?

    After helping them with their resignation, I have the CEO (or other exec)call to congratulate the candidate, arrange a dinner with their future boss, then a visit to get the paperwork out of the way and set up their office, and take home all the company info & brochures, and maybe paperwork on their first project.

    I call weekly, plus make sure they get a weekly call from their new company’s staff.

  • Matt Swafford

    Great Subject.
    A new employee is your most important asset – create a planned social environment within their new team in the first 3 days.
    1. have them rotate amongst the new team members,
    2. get them on a basic tour of the work environment,
    3. do a snapshot review of what they will be involved in doing and ‘listen’ to them as they are adjusting.
    4. ensure they have their workspace (computer, phone, email accts) functioning.
    Perspective: by hiring the employee, company just made a $65-150K investment by bringing a talent into the company – help them feel welcomed that they chose to work with your team and company. If done well, they will instantly produce. And that is a good thing.

  • Martin Snyder

    This does not pass the smell test. Would a top performer like Steven really take a job he knew nothing about? If he did, don’t you think one hallmark of top sales talent is that they take whatever resources they have and make things work ?

    Now if we were talking about the receptionist job, that’s another story; nobody expects a receptionist to come in, assess, respond, and perform to the same level that a top salesperson should be able to.

    Also, does not this little anecdote beg the question; how did Newman become an employer of choice? They must have some great products or a great niche, in which case the state of one’s cubicle and one’s first-day lunch arrangements probably don’t mean jack.

    Yes, its nice when everything clicks like a well-oiled machine and no doubt thoughtfulness at onboarding time will be helpful, but on the other hand, overfocus on form rather than outcome is a well-known business mistake.

    Frankly I’d wan’t to know what Steven might have been expecting and what the clues were that led him to imagine that things would have been different.

  • Tim Ryan

    I have seen this happen way too many times. This is the sad truth; too many companies have no clue on how to welcome a new person to the team. Good job on this article.

    Tim

  • Keith Halperin

    Steven expects courtesy and efficiency in this economy? If so, I have an International Orange suspension bridge for him to buy- special deal. He should consider himself lucky that he didn’t have to deal with a partially disassembled chair and a “crazy-glued” or “jelloed” phone. He doesn’t sound like the “self-starting, hard-charging, team-playing, go-getter that takes the brass ring and not the low-hanging fruit” sales rep that everyone’s competing for even in the worst of times, so we’re told. If he were, he’d have come in an hour early with flowers for the receptionist and donuts for everyone, cleaned up his cubicle, and made a sale by lunchtime.

    Keith “Be Grateful for Common Courtesies and Efficiencies” Halperin
    keithsrj@sbcglobal.net 415.586.8265