I was reminded recently on how much your first day on the jobs sucks! I hear you – “What Tim?!” – the first day is the best! No, it’s not – more than likely if you’re reading this, you’re an HR or Talent Pro so you “think” the first day on the job is wonderful – because you’ve designed orientation programs believing that’s what you were making! But it’s not – the first day at any new job is painful for all involved!
A first day at work reminds me of a first day at school. My kids have had to change schools a few times in their lives (I’m sure they’ll deal with this in therapy as adults), and as a parent I was always concerned about that transition. As an HR Pro, I worry about my new employees the same way! Will our employees give the new employee a chance to show them how good they are? Will the new employee get into the wrong work-social group? (You know the ones!) Will our crazy employee in accounting scare them right off the bat? Will their boss act like a leader or a complete psychopath?
Think about a first day for a minute:
- Full of anxiety and anticipation – that isn’t necessarily a good feeling for most people
- Meeting a bunch of new people – some of which might not want you there
- Hearing a bunch of inside jokes that you don’t understand
- Having your head filled with information like a sponge in a bucket of water
- Trying to impress everyone – because first impressions are so important
- Oh, and by the way, can you show me how to get a cup of coffee and where the bathroom is!
Isn’t that the first impression you like to leave with people!? I’m unable to get my own coffee and find a restroom on my own…
I don’t have any magical answer to help change this. I think as HR/Talent Pros, the one thing we can do is realize, no matter how great the company and culture we have, first days for new employees are really a stressful situation. We need to remind our teams, remind our leaders and remind our new employees that the reality is – your first day is not going to be a trip to Disneyland. It’s going to be awkward, it’s going to be a bit boring – you’re probably going to need a drink or to hit something after it’s all done (or both!).
Being open and honest with new employees and your teams about the new hire process is key. I think the only thing you should really do on the first day is to work on building relationships. No policy orientation and new employee paperwork hell. Just interactions that make the new employee and your team get to know each other on a personal level – like speed dating – but without cheesy come-on lines. Just make sure you skip the creepy guy in sales who wears Sex Panther cologne!