Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success


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You only get one chance to make a first-day impression

They got excited by the job advert, they filled in all the forms, you held the interviews, you negotiated the offer, you think you’ve found the person you need. You give them a start date!

And then…

  • You weren’t there to meet them on day one

  • They were given a temporary security pass

  • There’s no plan created for their first 30 days

  • They were told to read the intranet and sign company policy documents

  • They were given a copy of the acronym dictionary

  • They weren’t introduced to anyone

  • Their desk still has the previous incumbent’s gear in it

  • There’s was no equipment ready for them to use

  • They were invited to 20 meetings to familiarise themselves with the ‘way we do things’.

Every single one of these scenarios have happened to me (even as a senior manager) and they told me everything I needed to know about the culture of the organisation I was joining. For one of my roles, my new boss phoned me at the end (note: not the start) of the day, to apologise for having more important meetings to attend. My self-esteem was off the scale at that point.

The frustrating thing is it doesn’t take too much effort to avoid delivering this less than inspiring first impression. Great working cultures around the world recognise that treating people respectfully from their first day onwards is imperative if they’re to get the best work out of them and for collaboration to be something that everyone does, rather than just talk about.

At Twitter, you get to have breakfast with the CEO, a full tour of the office and all their equipment is waiting for you when you make it to your desk, which is situated next to the people you’ll be working with in your first 90 days.

At Pinterest, you’re given the opportunity to introduce yourself prior to actually starting as your email address and initial schedule are sent to you in advance.

At Atlassian, you start your employment with two days of Rocket Fuel to get you going, including meeting the people you’ll be working with and learning about the organisation’s values and how they underpin everything that they do.

At Lego, you’re asked to build something (with Lego, obvs) and also engage in games with other staff in order to meet people and to understand the importance of play within their culture.

With each of these organisations, you get a personalised welcome pack to supplement (not replace) the first day experience. This pack contains useful and fun things to help with your first 90 days.

Of course, standing in the way of all of these things are excuses. Here are some that your culture may use:

  • We’re really busy with [insert name of excuse here]

  • I have to be in a different location that day

  • We don’t have the money to do that

  • We don’t have the people to do that

  • It’s not my job to do that, it belongs to HR.

If any of these ring true, then ask yourselves why you spent the time and money in advertising and interviewing for the role in the first place?

Also, you don’t have to ask for permission to create this kind of experience in your department, program or project. It’s something you can organise and it will demonstrate to the rest of the business that you have an inclusive culture which values new employees from day one.

First day experiences should:

  • Be welcoming - your new team member should feel valued the second they walk through the door

  • Be personal - tailored to the individual (some examples here)

  • Be collaborative - where they’re introduced to the people they’ll be interacting with

  • Be enjoyable - it should never be an exercise in mundanity

  • Be informative - so they know where to go and how the organisation works

  • Be practical - so they have the tools and knowledge to get the job done

  • Provide a springboard - to the first 90 days at a minimum.

The hiring process is not an exercise in finding someone with a pulse to fill a gap. It's an opportunity to bring in an individual whose values, intention, mindset and ambition matches that of the organisation. If you don’t start as you mean to go on, don’t be surprised if they don’t either.