Why don’t companies embrace “your first and last months should be your best”?
We’ve all heard time and time again… “Your first and last months should be your best.” Which is great advice for anyone working, but, why don’t companies do the same? Companies damage morale, their brand and engagement levels through small, seemingly inconsequential acts, or lack thereof during those crucial first and last months.
The number of times you see a new hire looking lost, bored or ignored in their first few weeks is astonishing. While some firms onboard new hires brilliantly with welcome packs, great orientation, activities, and team bonding, the vast majority seem to adopt a haphazard approach. There tends to be a detailed orientation for senior management ,but when it comes to the rest of the team, that’s where the gaps happen.
Too often a new hire arrives early or on time only to cool their heels in reception while they wait for the appropriate person to stroll in…. late. The excitement of starting a new job, a new challenge, dwindles. From there, that feeling of company apathy intensifies … desk, computer, IT access rights, security badge, information decks, business cards, etc, one, some or all are not ready. The department head doesn’t have any time scheduled in their calendar just to say hi and give a quick welcome. The line manager abdicates responsibility to the person who is leaving the company to do ‘hand over’, and that person doesn’t have a clear plan. Nobody knows who you are because there’s not been an announcement. There’ll be one team lunch scheduled in the first week and that’s it. After that it’s sink or swim time.
A lot of time has been spent finding the right person. Yet once they start, there is a noticeable dip in energy and investment. That first month is prime engagement and branding time. You have a blank canvas, eager to embrace company culture and its vision. All too often new hires are abandoned quickly and expected to just make it work.
New hires bring with them a bounty of new ideas, enthusiasm, and optimism which can be infectious, providing the team and other co-workers with renewed energy and focus. Hires will discuss with their new colleagues, any information they’re given. If you arm them with the right information they’ll help to spread the word about the company’s mission and vision. Do it really well and your new team member will espouse enthusiastically about their new role and company to friends and family, thereby further enhancing the company’s brand. Stick them in a corner and leave them alone and a golden opportunity is missed.
All firms have different policies for terminations, redundancies, and when someone resigns, however, there are a lot of organisations where the person who has resigned works some or all their notice period. Just like the employee is often told to make their last month count, the company needs to do the same.
Why should they, you may ask? The person has decided to abandon ship, move on to greener pastures, doesn’t want to work there anymore. So why care about them after they’ve made the decision to leave. Stop engaging with that person, treat them with indifference, ignore the fact that they are leaving and you lose a valuable opportunity to leave a positive memory.
Colleagues express sadness that a friend and co-worker is leaving but rarely do you see the line manager or department head getting involved. Rather than time being spent with their manager and there being an expression of gratitude for their hard work with a celebration of the team, too often you see people’s last days spent twiddling their thumbs and their last hours with a company handing over access passes, laptops, phones and signing HR paperwork. When that sort of disassociation happens, and management disengages with someone who is leaving, it intensifies the person’s desire to leave and never look back. This then amplifies their disappointment with the company and that message of disillusionment gets broadcast more often and further afield than you realise.
No matter why someone is leaving, they have an audience, a large one. That audience includes not only their current and soon to be new colleagues, but clients, vendors, friends, family and acquaintances. If their last impression of the company is unfavourable, because management frankly just didn’t care enough, they are going to be pretty negative. Further down the line, when the company is trying to attract talent, potential applicants may talk to people who have worked at the firm before and they’re going advise anyone who asks, not to apply. If instead their last month was a positive experience, you can turn serious negativity into something bordering neutrality even positivity. They may have made the decision to leave but the message they will share will be more about seeking a new challenge vs a hatred of the firm. They might even choose to come back to the firm later, after having gained new skills and experience, and they will more likely encourage others to join the firm. Finally, people notice how those leaving are treated in their last days – if it’s positive it helps team morale and engagement levels, if it’s not, then you risk disillusioning those that remain.
The message that a new employee or a leaving one spreads matters. One is ready to become an evangelist of the company mantra, the other is feeling disillusioned and off script. With a little bit of effort and time spent you can capitalise through the new hire and turn a negative into a positive with the one leaving.
If a company is serious about employee engagement, it’s time they get serious about everyone’s first and last months.