I remember most of the first days I had at many of my companies. Some were glorious. Others were like the first moments of a prison sentence. There is a saying about first impressions. I forget what it is, but hopefully by the end of this article it will come to me. Impressions are so important that apparently some French artists invented a whole new kind of art in honor of them. But let’s get back to my story…
When my new hires were scheduled to start I did all that I could to make sure they felt welcomed. I had limited powers of course, but small gestures like finding an unstained chair for them to use and a computer that had more than 128MB of RAM were appreciated.
My views were not shared by all my peers. Apparently some took the terms “working manager” and “hands-on-manager” to heart. They liked to spend lots of time looking at code and they dreaded talking to their reports except to “call them into their office” to tell them what to do and how to do it. Of course, I never worked as a manager. Work is for suckers. I avoided work. So I had to make sure the people who reported to me made up for my laziness. And boy, did they ever!
Chris was a new hire. He showed up on time. I discovered him wandering around the reception area on his first day. I welcomed him and showed him to his new home/cube and left him there then went to inform his manager that his fresh young hire right out of college had arrived. Peter (we’ll call him Peter for now) hardly looked up from his buggy code and mumbled something about being too busy – lots of (bad) code to write that day apparently. I thought he was kidding. Nope, he wasn’t. Apparently this golden boy was too important to waste time greeting, introducing and getting his new report started. Of course, I was not that special or important, so I had plenty of time to waste on a new employee. I introduced Chris around to everyone (including his very busy manager), got him a company t-shirt, and showed him where the bathroom was – all very, very important things. (At least to me and my bladder and I think to Chris’s)
I never could figure out why we didn’t do more to knock the socks off new hires on their first day. I am sure that during their first personal calls of the day (either while at work or when they got home) they were asked how the new job was or how they liked the new company. Here’s where we stop the film and pause it and the narrator steps in front to pose a dilemma and present a choice to the viewers. What do you want that new hire to say?
“Man, this place is fantastic – they had free Snapple and bagels for me and dancing girls popped out of the cake and there was a valet in the bathroom to dry my hands for me…” (well, maybe no cake or girls)
“My boss was too busy to greet me and introduce me to the team, but that’s ok, he scheduled a time for us to meet next week when he has time. I found the bathroom myself and I should have a phone at my desk by the end of the week, but I don’t really need it yet because they haven’t found me a permanent office. The temporary computer they gave me to use doesn’t have a development environment on it, but at least it has the internets so I can check monster.com again for other jobs.”
Chances are that this new hire knows other competent people and those people might be looking for good companies to work for. One scenario above makes it easy to get candidates lined up at your interview room – the other one predisposes new hires to line up at the HR office for exit interviews or just never show up to work again. Some people are too busy fighting fires and fixing all the bad code they wrote to consider the consequences.
You never get a second chance at a first impression. (I hate clichés like that, but it happens to agree with my sentiments, so there it is.)