The Red Carpet Treatment

Donna Cutting
 


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Remember your first few days at your present job? Were you excited? Nervous? Did you worry about your ability accomplish the tasks given to you or the impression you would make on your new co-workers? Perhaps you were concerned about the impression your new co-workers would make on you.

You would not be alone if you were feeling a little lost during your probationary period. Many people do. Since you know how it feels to be “the new kid on the block” you may be the perfect person to welcome other new employees to the fold. Regardless of your job title, you can help to make the difference between whether a new recruit stays or leaves within the first 90 days.

Studies have consistently shown that each time an employee leaves it costs between 50% - 150% percent of that employee’s salary to replace them. Companies often find that much of their voluntary turnover happens within the first 90 days of employment. If this is the case in your company, the first thing to look at is your hiring process. Are you hiring people who fit with your company’s culture? As Joan Brannick, Ph. D. and Jim Harris Ph. D. , authors of Finding and Keeping Great Employees say, “Employees can find a job anywhere, but they commit to and want to remain with an organization whose culture they connect with. ”

If you are convinced that you are hiring the people who “fit” with your company, then it may be time for The Red Carpet Treatment. Traditionally, a red carpet is laid out as a welcoming symbol to dignitaries in other countries, or superstars attending award shows. Why not treat your new superstar’s arrival as something truly special by setting out your own red carpet? Here are some immediately applicable ideas you can use to welcome your new recruit to the fold.

Before The First Day

Send a letter welcoming your new team member to the fold. Include an agenda for their “premiere day” and an invitation to have lunch with the boss.

Dwayne Clarke of Aegis Corporation sends letters to the family members of senior executives he brings on board. He welcomes the family to the company and lists specifically the qualities their loved one possesses that got them the job.

Be sure to set up realistic expectations of what the job entails. As Brannick says, “If you are losing people during the first 90 days The problem could be that you are creating unrealistic/inaccurate expectations during the recruiting/hiring process that are NOT met during the first 3-4 months on the job. ”

Prepare your current employees for their new co-workers arrival, asking them to be particularly encouraging and supportive.

Survey your current employees about their first day on the job. What would have made it special? Make preparations using their suggestions.

The Premiere

Be ready for your new superstar’s arrival. Don’t leave them waiting out in the hallway alone for 15 minutes while you take care of other business.

If you, as their supervisor, do find yourself involved in other things when they arrive, appoint an ambassador to welcome the new recruit with a smile and a cup of coffee.

Why not literally lay the red carpet out? Go ahead, have some fun!

Plan to spend the first part of the day with your new person. Go over the agenda you sent, make changes as needed – plan your day together.

Make it clear this is a special day. Serve refreshments and add a welcome sign to the front door.

Post the person’s photo in the employee break room. Having a book or board with other employees’ photos (or at least department heads) will enable him/her to get to know names without being put in the embarrassing situation of having to ask twice.

Have your new team members work area prepared. Do they have all the office supplies they need? How about a list of contact phone numbers? Flowers or balloons on the desk or locker for the first day would be a welcome touch.

Provide free lunch for a week.

Offer a form that the new employee can voluntarily fill out, listing their hobbies and favorites. In other words, find out who the person is as a human being. Then be sure to introduce him/her to other co-workers with similar interests.

Orientation

Take a look at your orientation process. Are you guilty of showing boring training videos and calling that orientation? Strive to make your training process more effective. Use real people. Take your time. A good orientation can not be accomplished in 1 day.

Make it fun. Turn your orientation process into a game show format with candy and prizes. Send your new recruit on a scavenger hunt, asking them to collect signatures of other employees.

If you absolutely must show those boring training videos, at the very least serve popcorn and a soda.

Or……make the videos fun. According to Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg, new Southwest Airlines’ employees get treated to a video taped rap song led by former CEO Herb Kelleher during their orientation.

During the first week, check in periodically to make sure the new employee is comfortable performing their job duties. Listen to and address their concerns.

Be Friendly and Patient. Use diplomacy when correcting errors. More importantly, notice the things they are doing well and praise them out loud.

Ask your new recruits to evaluate the orientation process and strive to continually improve it.

Co-worker Support

Remember the Welcome Wagon. When a new neighbor moved into a community, a smiling face would appear at their door with a basket of goodies and a warm welcoming smile. When a new employee joins your company they become part of your community. Why not bring the Welcome Wagon concept back on the job? When people work together for a long time, there is a tendency to get close. This is a good thing, except that it makes it difficult for a new employee to feel part of the group. If employees are leaving your company within the first 90 days, exit interviews may reveal that they simply did not feel they fit in. Current employees can do a lot to change that perception and ensure the new “community member” feels immediately welcomed.

Establish a red carpet committee. These are current employees who volunteer to be ambassadors for new employees. Hold a brainstorming session and come up with as many ways as you can to make the new person feel special during their first 90 days.

Put together a “Welcome Wagon Basket. ” Include the fun stuff – a list of nearby restaurants, fun toys for the office, snacks, humor, etc. Get creative. Have one of the Ambassadors deliver it.

Assign an Ambassador to your new employee. Post a sign that states “Your Welcome Ambassador is…. . ” at their work station. The Ambassador should proactively check in with the employee for the first 30 days, invite him/her to lunch and introduce him/her to other co-workers and customers.

Ambassadors should be upbeat and positive about themselves, the company and the job.

Host a monthly potluck or breakfast to welcome new employees to the fold.

Ask co-workers to make a positive memory for new employees. For instance, provide post it notes™ that co-workers can write welcoming phrases on and stick them all over the new person’s work station.

Encourage every employee to develop their own personal Red Carpet Policy. Spend a staff meeting coming up with as many ideas as possible for welcoming new people.

Evaluate your current employees on how well they welcome new employees.

Once you’ve welcomed a new employee securely into the fold, invite that person to be part of the Red Carpet Committee and spread the enthusiasm.

Finally, ask yourself, when the 90 days is up how do we keep that red carpet out. Do we continually reward and recognize employees? Do we strive to care about them as human beings and not just employees? Do we continually ask for feedback and try to improve? As co-workers, do we refrain from gossip and try to work out our differences in an amiable way?

If you are hiring well, laying out the red carpet and keeping it out for the long haul, you may find that employee turnover lessens and superstar spirit just grows and grows. Never miss an opportunity to say – “Welcome. We’re glad you’re here. ”

© 2004 by Donna Cutting

Donna Cutting is a speaker and consultant who helps managers create places where employees get standing ovations and customers get star treatment. She can be reached via her web site at http://www.donnacutting.com/ .

Note: This copyrighted article may be reproduced for your company newsletter or publication if you add the by-line above including the author’s web site. A copy of the issue that this article appears in is appreciated by the author. You may send it to: ShowStopping Solutions, PO Box 76461, St. Petersburg, FL , 33734

Companies and Associations across the United States have brought Donna in to deliver uplifting, fun and interactive keynotes with nuts and bolts, ACTION steps the audience can implement immediately. She is currently writing her first book, estimated to be on the shelves in late 2007.

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