Our last blog post looked at the importance of first impressions. A series of favorable first impressions creates staying power and paves the way to loyalty. Remember that intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. If they like it (intuition) they will find reasons to stay. This is why creating the right kind of first impressions for your new hires is so important and why you want to ensure you are doing so. You want to give your newbies every reason to brag instead of complain about the company.
Examining things like what the boss’s behavior looks like, the culture of the company, the path for employee development and how employees are shown appreciation are all key impression makers. What are your communications and processes saying to new hires in these areas and will it help them become productive and feel highly valued?
The best way to find out is to ask them. Post-hire surveys should be a standard part of your onboarding process. Check in with new hires early on following their orientation, and at proper intervals during their first year. Make sure you are getting their feedback and their opinions. By your asking alone, you show them that your company cares about its employees, and just as important, treats them as individuals. Their feedback helps your company learn and take corrective action if needed. Too often new hires, who are becoming dissatisfied early on, start looking to leave. This is extremely costly to a company, and negatively impacts employee morale and the company’s reputation.
If your new hires are asked, “What’s it like to work here?” these may be some of the things you might want them to say.
- “The boss is pretty low-key.”
When Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, looked at what the highest-performing companies had in common, one thing jumped out at him. Every single one of these companies was led by an unassuming person. Those who worked with these leaders tended to describe them with the following words: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, gracious, mild-mannered, understated. These exceptional CEOs are known not for their flash or charisma but for extreme humility coupled with intense professional will. They don’t seek the spotlight, but shift it to others instead. The lesson, says Collins, is clear. To create a sustainable organization, a leader must maintain a network of talented people who are loyal to a vision (what a leader stands for), not a personality (who a leader is).
- “They don’t order me around. They just tell me what’s important.”
Telling people they must do something is like putting them in handcuffs. It increases resistance and tamps down initiative. Telling someone to focus on your top priority has the opposite effect. They want to show you how well they can do it. When Paul O’Neill became CEO of the struggling Aluminum Company of America, or Alcoa, he decided to focus on one thing. Safety. And a goal of zero injuries. “I knew I had to transform Alcoa”, O’Neill would later explain. “But you can’t order people to change. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.” One year after O’Neill took over, Alcoa’s profits hit a record high, and his company was one of the safest in the world.
- “They are interested in my development.”
Project Runway’s Tim Gunn has popularized the phrase, “Make it work.” We are driven by performance, and coaching tends to follow suit. Coaching for performance can yield results, especially in the short term. But coaching for development (rather than performance) is significantly more powerful. It’s turning the focus from the problem to the problem solver. Think back on a time when someone coached you in a way that stuck and made a difference. I’ll bet it was a coaching-for-development conversation that called you forward to learn, improve and grow, rather than just “making it work.”
- “They thank me.”
A simple “thank you” can work wonders in the workplace. Studies have shown that appreciation is an even better motivator than money. Researchers at the London School of Economics analyzed more than 50 studies about what motivates workers. They concluded that we give our best effort if we feel our work provides meaning and purpose, and if others appreciate what we’re doing. Adam Grant, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School says that extrinsic motivators – a raise in pay, a bonus, or a promotion – can stop having much meaning. “But the sense that other people appreciate what you do sticks with you.” It Pays to Give Thanks at the Office – WSJ http://on.wsj.com/1ZYPw1O
When a new employee comes home with these kinds of impressions along with the first paycheck, you know you have provided more than training and something built for the longer term. You have inspired devotion.