Earlier this week, Michael VanDervort shared a post on his blog The Human RaceHorses about his first day on the job in HR. It’s a great read and made me think about my own “first day” experiences. Unfortunately, I’m long overdue for a good one.
My first job post graduation was at Margaret’s Employment Service. I responded to a “Help Wanted” sign in Margaret’s front yard and when I met her – a recruiter for 30+ years – she put down her phone only long enough to say “You’re hired”. I was provided a desk, chair, phone and the Yellow Pages and my training consisted of “Make calls”. So I smiled and dialed. Within a couple of weeks, someone actually talked to me at a bank that was hiring and I scheduled an interview. For me. I don’t think Margaret noticed when I left.
My new job was an Internal Auditor position – a job typically filled by Finance grads and MBA’s. Clearly, someone wasn’t paying attention in the interview process. (Me.) My first day involved showing up in the wee hours of the morning to drive to a branch office where, like Ninja, our secret arrival was timed with the opening of the doors. Once inside, the auditors scurried off immediately to capitalize on the element of surprise. I was instructed to count and balance the cash drawers of the Tellers. And I had no idea how to do that. Left alone to count more money than I’d ever seen in my life, it wasn’t pretty. One. Two. Three…
After 18 months of terrorizing bank employees, I networked my way into an HR Manager position in a small company. On my first day, I entered the Plant Manager’s office full of youthful hope and exuberance. He looked at me and said: “I don’t know anything about HR. Don’t expect me to help you. There’s some books in your office.” And he went back to smoking his cigarette. So I found my office and started looking at books. I was a little less hopeful, but thrilled to finally be working in HR. Even if no one else cared.
A few years and a relocation later, I took an HR role with a new start up that was part of a bigger company. On my first day, I showed up at the main office as instructed, but since I’d been hired for the new company (still being built) and I wouldn’t be located there, there was no place for me. My boss suggested I find an empty desk and make plans for recruiting and training the new employees that would be needed. I worked on that project (making plans) for the next 5 months at random locations before the new building was finished. During that time, I worked in a crowded office, but wasn’t really part of a team – because there wasn’t one for me yet. As a result, I attended lots of meetings with myself. They were very efficient.
Eventually, I was recruited to a position at a company with a new CEO who’d been brought in for a turnaround and wasn’t seeing eye to eye with the VP of HR. It was a confidential search, so once the current VP was notified of his unplanned departure, the CEO and I were supposed to meet with him the following weekend while the offices were closed so he could pass the torch and provide me with the keys to the kingdom. Except the CEO forgot to show up that Sunday so it was just the two of us. Awkward. The next day I met with the HR team that had just been informed of my arrival the Friday before. They told me that because of the changes that had taken place and the way things were handled, they felt like outcasts. And I knew how they felt because I’d been there before. Thankfully, we were able to fix that.
So Why The Big FAIL When It Comes to Onboarding?
All of the companies that I worked for were great places to work (except maybe Margaret’s) and they were filled with smart and capable people. A couple of my bosses were even amazing and inspiring Leaders to work for who really challenged me and helped me to grow. But all of the companies I’ve worked for – both the small ones and those in the Fortune 500 – failed me as a new hire on my first day because they didn’t plan effectively for my arrival or take the time to make me feel welcomed.
Research shows that 90% of companies believe that employees make their decision to stay at a company within the first six months, but many of us have experienced an onboarding process that started our career with the company off on the wrong foot. Things that make you go hmmm…
Do you have an awful new hire experience similar to or worse than mine? What was your worst (or best) first day/week on the job like?
I showed you mine. Now you show me yours. Tell me about it.