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An Employee’s Most Important Week

By Rob Wolff, Vice President

Those of you familiar with our 8-step framework for institutionalizing culture will recognize Integration as Step #4.  It’s a step that demonstrates that those of us at HPC are pretty particular about the language that we use. Where other companies use terms like “new hire orientation” or “on-boarding”, we prefer the term “integration” because it more clearly defines the intent of that process – we want to make that new employee part of our organization, not just show her or him what we do.

Reflecting back on my career, I’ll admit to feeling pretty good about myself when I had a full week planned out in advance – and even committed to paper – for a new hire.  That week generally consisted of starting with a few hours with HR to get the paperwork out of the way, and then being assigned to sit with existing members of my team in half-day increments. Being the engaged and supportive manager that I was, I’d arrange to take the new person on a tour of the facility and to even have a lunch or two during the first week.

The first day of the rest of your career.

Continuing to look backward, I know that I always looked at a new employee’s first day with us as my “get out of jail day.”  It was the day where I could get back to work and catch-up on everything that fell behind while that desk was empty.  It was the day that I could get back to normal.  It’s stressful to have open positions, and new hire day was the end of the stress.

My view back then was certainly selfish and egotistical.  What I should have considered was how that new employee viewed the day.  To her, it was the start of a major investment and commitment to a new organization that would impact her ability to pay her rent, buy food and clothing, and potentially care for her children.   The first day is an enormous deal to a new employee, and it should be treated that way.

What message are we sending?

What I should have considered that day to be was the beginning of the most important week of that employee’s career.  That’s the opportunity to carefully and skillfully craft his introduction to our company and department, and to ensure that he receives a very clear impression about what’s important and why.  It’s the opportunity to set the stage for things like the way that we value and rely on teamwork, or the way that we all commit to producing our best work each and every day.  That first day, and even the first week, is when overt and subtle messages are conveyed that will stay with that new hire for the balance of his or her career with you.  This time is too important to the employee’s future, and to your future success to leave to chance.

Messages are sent to these new folks in a variety of ways.  In my last role before joining HPC, I managed a sales team covering the entire country for a very large, international company.  As with most very large companies, we were rife with policies and procedures – all developed by good people trying to drive results and to protect the company at the same time.  When I hired a new salesperson, we needed to get that new employee critical tools like a laptop and business cards.  Well, our “policy” stated that you couldn’t order a new laptop or personalized supplies for a new employee until he/she was on the payroll system (day 1).  Our IT department’s policy was to turn around new equipment orders in 7 – 10 business days. 

I’m sure those policies were born of experience and lessons learned over time.  What I’m also sure of is that those policies damaged our company through the message that it conveyed to our new team members.  Like it or not, the message that we were conveying to these folks wasn’t that we’re excited and committed to your long-term success by having everything ready and prepared for you on day 1.  It was more along the lines of “welcome to the machine.”

An investment in the future.

As much as you want to start getting your work life back to normal, it’s imperative to invest the time, energy, and resources to ensure a successful integration that highlights all of the important things that you think will set the stage for long term success.  While you may be anxious to get back to work, and the thought of investing a week to provide a positive and thorough introduction to your company seems like a lot, keep in mind that a week is only about 2% of a year.  Wouldn’t it be worth 2% of your time across an entire year to help ensure the development of a long -term asset to your company and team?  You’re hiring this person with the hope and expectation that she’ll be your next superstar – invest some thought and your time to help improve the odds that she is!

If you’d like to learn more about building a first-rate Integration plan, check out Chapter 7 in Culture by Design, give us a call, click the button below, or consider joining us at Culture Summit 2020.

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