The power of the five firsts

July 11, 2017 -  By

First impressions are lasting; hourly employees are not. Before they’ve been on the job six months, more than half of them are gone. Some were probably not a good fit for the job in the first place, but some productive, dependable, hard-to-replace employees bolt, too. And contrary to what they may tell you, they didn’t really leave for more money.

“More money” is the polite way to tell you they were unhappy and went looking elsewhere for what we all want from our jobs—a sense of accomplishment, some personal recognition and the “can do” teamwork environment that makes us look forward to getting out of bed in the morning.

So what happens between a new hire’s enthusiastic acceptance of a job offer and the day he or she leaves? Usually they discover their manager spends most of each day doing only two things: fire fighting issues that flare up daily and dealing with difficult employees (and the problems they create). This leaves the dependable, self-directed people to fend for themselves. It’s the squeaky-wheel syndrome, and there’s only so much oil to go around.

This wasn’t much of a concern when hourly employees were considered replaceable cogs in a perpetual wheel, but the labor pool keeps shrinking and sources of new hourly recruits are drying up. Now, more than ever, employee retention is crucial to customer satisfaction and your bottom-line results.

The good news is keeping good people on board doesn’t require a lot of time or money. All it really takes are the following small doses of personal attention that reinforce a new hire’s first impressions.

1. The first hour on the job. Use this time to make the best first impression possible. This is not the time for completing paperwork or going over safety rules. This is the time to make introductions and to make the person feel welcome and comfortable. It’s the time to explain why the job is important and how job performance will affect customers and coworkers alike. Ask if they have any particular concerns or worries. Take the time to share a little of your company’s history so the new person feels like part of the family.

2. End of the first day. Your new employee is reeling from a day filled with the unfamiliar—a new environment, new people, new procedures and new responsibilities. Spend the last 15 minutes of that first day answering questions and ensuring the new hire leaves with a positive impression. Once home, the employee will inevitably be asked: “How was your day?” Your goal is for the answer to be: “Wonderful! It seems like a great place to work.”

3. End of the first week. Just like at the end of the first day, it’s time to get with the new employee to now find out how the week went—not only to reinforce those positive first impressions but also to discover any inklings of discontent or misunderstanding and correct them.

4. First paycheck. Whether you hand them the actual check or the deposit slip, present the first paycheck in one of these two ways: 1). If the new employee has been great, this is the time to tell him or her what a pleasure it has been to have them on the team. 2). If the person has not lived up to expectations, now is the time to tell him or her that you wanted to personally hand them their first paycheck, but you feel they have only earned 50 percent of it and the specific reasons why. This puts employees on notice and gives them the chance to self-correct. If they don’t, it’s time to cut your losses.

5. First year anniversary. One of the other keys to keeping great employees is to create times of fun and camaraderie. Look for reasons to celebrate.

First impressions really are lasting, but too many employers still follow the old-world view that it’s up to their employees to impress them—and that still holds true. But it’s to your advantage to you make it a reciprocal agreement. Be ahead of the curve and take these five first opportunities to impress every new hourly employee with the respect, acknowledgement and appreciation that keeps them motivated and on your team.

Photo: ©istock.com/kchungtw

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About the Author:

Mel Kleiman is the author is the founder of Humetrics. He helps companies build high-quality, frontline, hourly workforces. Reach him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.

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