Cultivate Engagement From the Start

I , like many of you, have had my fair share of first days at a new job. The nerves, the unknown, and the excitement. For our first day at New Co.,’ we spend a little extra time getting ready . . . knowing that this first impression matters.

Photo by Valeri Randalaine

We show up early, check-in, and the receptionist/security guard messages our new leader that we have arrived. Our new leader appears in the entry way …they also appear preoccupied. They escort us back to our new work space/station. We may find a desk that is quite dusty, maybe there are a monitor and keyboard set up, or maybe the chair is missing. The manager informs us that our technology should be ready in a little bit but to hang tight. The manager may indicate that he/she has to attend a quick meeting but will be back in flash.

It feels unorganized, unwelcoming, and far from reassuring.

We, as new employees, spend a considerable amount of time and energy preparing for our first impression at New Co. If it appears as though management has not taken the same care, the new employee can be somewhat disillusioned. After talking with hundreds of employees, the consensus is that employees easily recall both their amazing first days as well as their most disheartening.

Do the Employer’s First Impressions Matter?

First impressions have been shown to influence the perceptions and future behavior of an individual. An interpretation of Michael Sunnafrank’s “Predicted Outcome Value Theory” can lend clarity to this issue. It ultimately conveys the idea that through a first impression or initial interaction an individual will predict the value of the relationship and will act accordingly. The “value” is the benefit of investing in this new relationship, simply put it is the W.I.I.F.M. (what’s in it for me).

If we as leaders appear uninterested in the success of the new hire during that initial interaction, we consequently communicate a lack of investment and engagement that could cultivate a negative relationship value. A negative relationship value is the perception that this new relationship will not contribute to one’s well being and can taint the future behavior of the new hire.

I want to stress that I said “appear uninterested”. As leaders, we may have had to draft proposal forms for new requisitions, submit countless IT tickets, interview multiple candidates, and really invest time; but having stated that, it is important to remember that the employee is only viewing the relationship through a small sample of interactions, many times via a first day experience.

What does an engaging first day look like?

A well prepared first day can be simple while still being meaningful and impactful. I initially approached my first day process without any allocated budget. I kept it as simple as a phone call the Friday prior to their first day, a clean, setup workstation and a welcome letter complete with the itinerary for the week. Ultimately, as leaders, we have the opportunity to direct the path of the employee from the very first interaction. A unique and personal first day communicates an interest in the new hire’s professional well being as well as an initial sense of value and belonging. These feeling are often reciprocated through the future actions and behaviors of our staff. We can cultivate a precedence of engagement and ownership while decreasing employee churn and attrition through a thoughtful and articulated first day.

Photo by Jeff Sheldon

I am enthusiastic to read comments on how you positively impact future/new employees! Attach any pictures of workstation that you set up, or share your process.

Leapgen is a consulting and education firm focused on helping HR organizations shape the future of work — through digitization — from strategy to designing and deploying new processes & technologies to optimizing and enhancing technologies already in place.

HR organizations that aren’t rethinking how they engage, manage and serve their people risk losing their talent. Leapgen partners with organizations to deliver a workforce experience that is as good as the customer experience. This means helping them meet the expectations of an increasingly mobile, social, multi-generational and multicultural workforce.