First Day at Large Technology Company in Redmond, Washington
Nancy had just started her new position as a mid-level executive in the marketing division at Large Technology Company after going through a two-month recruiting and interviewing process. She interviewed with over ten different people and went through multiple rounds of testing. It was the most difficult process she had ever experienced in her career, but it resulted in an offer for her dream job at her dream company. She felt it was worth the canine obstacle course she’d had to go through to get the job. It’s everything she wanted; she was thrilled!
The night before she was to start, she received an email from her new boss informing her that he would be out of town for two weeks and that the team would be taking care of her. This added a certain level of stress to her first day, but after the interviewing process she felt as if she had earned her place on the team, and it didn’t overly concern her. However, it did add an element of doubt to her ability to be successful.
Upon arrival, there was no one to greet her, several empty cubicles in the section she was supposed to be in, and no direction, orientation, or any other indication as to what she should be doing. As a resourceful person, she started asking around among her fellow teammates. The most popular answers were “I don’t know,” “not sure,” “call HR,” “wait till John gets back,” and even a “who are you?” None of these filled her with confidence that she had made the right decision to come to work at this company.
She attempted to get a hold of HR but was shuffled around multiple times. She was vaguely sure she had the right cube identified. When the manager had previously met with her for the offer, he had gestured in the general direction of that cube. Day one was spent setting up the cube with things she would need—or what she thought she would need. Day two was much the same, and by day three HR had been in touch and helped set up her email account, but she still had no computer. Remember, this was one of the tech behemoths. She was getting anxious.
By day five she had managed to get in touch with IT and got a computer, but now didn’t know what she was supposed to do with it. She decided to interview her teammates to find out what they were working on and what they thought she should be working on. The following week she did more of the same and started familiarizing herself with the various software platforms and brand guidelines for the partners—with very little help or input from her team. They were treating her like an interloper and made her feel like she didn’t belong. She was wishing she had taken the other offer.
Finally, after two weeks, John returned from vacation and asked what she had been up to. In a non-judgmental way, she tried to explain that she was a little surprised by the lack of direction, orientation, and collaboration from the team. John just smiled and said, “Welcome to the team. Sounds like it went as it should have!”
What she now knew was that if she were to succeed, it would always be on her own. Full stop.
MEMO TO FILE FROM JOHN:
New employee started two weeks ago; sounds like everything went great. It was unfortunate that I had to take that trip to Bermuda at the last minute, but how could I say no to my buddies? She was resourceful and figured things out—exactly as I planned it, even if I hadn’t had to take that personal trip! She got the purposeful cold shoulder from the team because she might be taking one of their jobs one day. And they pretty much hazed her like they all were hazed on their first weeks on the job. Survival of the fittest and all that. If more companies would take this approach, we wouldn’t have such needy and dependent employees.
They need to learn how to be independent and stand up for themselves. No free lunches here. None of the BS about touchy-feely onboarding—that is strictly for wimps. Not the warrior workplace I love and thrive in. If one of your own gets eaten now and then, so be it; only the strong survive. A little natural selection is a good thing when building a solid team. (Note to self: Keep this for upcoming book on CrossFit Leadership.)
LET’S GET REAL
This is NOT how you onboard someone. They’ve just spent weeks or months going through interviews, stressing, preparing, and then making a choice to come work for you. They are probably leaving another job and possibly choosing between multiple offers. They start off so hopeful. Why would you want to ruin that on day one by purposely not reinforcing that they’ve just made a great decision to come work for you?
Make day one count. Don’t have them fill out forms for the day or, as our example above, ignore them. Celebrate that they made the right decision; show them you’re excited that they are here. Have all their equipment and paperwork ready on their first day so they can be productive. Take them out to lunch or have a team lunch to reinforce their welcome by the company. Based on your company’s values, have others share why this company is a good place to work. Take them around and introduce them to their team members or as many people as possible.
The last thing you want is them going home and telling their partner or family that it was the worst first day and they think they may have made a mistake. Or worse, they don’t want to go back for day two.
When someone leaves—assuming it’s a retirement or a promotion to another position or company—we usually give them a heartfelt goodbye-and-good-luck party. We celebrate who they are and their contribution to the company. Why shouldn’t we start out this way as well?
Think about your kid’s first day of school: if the teacher spends most of his or her time demonstrating to the kids that it’s going to be fun, they are going to be accepted, they are going to like it, and will want to return. The first day of a new job should be no different.