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Aug

Making a first impression – key to nurturing a positive culture. A Praxis42 Practical4U.

Posted by Tom Paxman

The origins of ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’ seem uncertain, but most would agree that this adage tends to be true.  From ‘love at first sight’ to the efforts we make to dress to help those we serve to feel at ease, this aphorism is appropriate in many areas of life.

A recent piece of research concluded that 22% of employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days.  If true, imagine the cost implications of consistently recruiting and then losing almost a quarter of the total workforce within six weeks…

As with many ‘softer’ aspects of business, some company leadership teams know how important it is to make a great first impression, but fail to convert this knowledge into a management process to ensure that it happens, on time, every time.  Here are five key tips to help you to create the right first impression.

  1. In line with the second point listed here, find ways to see your organisation and your brand as others do. Whether you are a disruptive start-up which has matured to the point that you are hiring regularly, or a well-established management team, the chances are that your view of your organisation and your brand is very different to that of others. Start by listening to your colleague’s opinions.  If your organisation is small enough, talk to them – but be aware that they may feel uncomfortable communicating their true feelings to leadership figures for obvious reasons.  One way around this is to hold multiple sessions with different combinations of people in each.  If you are a larger organisation, then treat your employees like your customers and use readily available tools to conduct Net Promoter Surveys and similar.  The findings will help you to understand what is great about your Talent Brand, and, moreover, where you can improve.  Only by understanding this can you make the most of point 2.
  1. Make the assumption that your website and your supporting social media platforms are the windows through which the vast majority of your prospective employees will either first encounter your organisation, or where they will go to further develop their initial impressions formed. Don’t forget, hiring is occasional, but your Talent Brand is constant; so there is no point in moving on to the following points until this is done. Start by looking at your site now.  Does it explain your organisation’s beliefs and why you do what you do, as well the usual whats and hows?  Does it explain your Wellbeing policy, and the benefits which you provide? Does it help your clients to understand that you engage and inspire the best talent in your sector, and ensure that they have all that they need to meet your clients’ needs? What is your compelling story?
  1. Your Job Advertisement, and any accompanying Job Description and/or Person Spec, need to be written to form the very first phase of your induction process. Above all, think not only of what you expect the prospective employee to do for you, but of what you are going to do for them; for their careers and for their lives. Having already explained the overall importance of your online presence as the ‘go-to’ place for most prospective employees, in chronological terms the Job Advert is the first thing most applicants will see in terms of the process of onboarding.  It is ‘the first impression’.  And as well as specific job information, consider either producing a printed/PDF ‘Candidates Pack’ containing general information about working in your organisation to provide to interested candidates.  Or, similarly, include a ‘Working at…’ (or similar) section on your site.
  2. Your employees are both your best recruiters and your Talent Brand megaphone. If they are not, then they should be… Your best employees are likely to be networked with all kinds of professionals with similar interests – from former college and work colleagues, to those met through social media groups and forums.  So, at its most basic, you can hope that they will share recruitment messages via LinkedIn.  Imagine; if you have 30 employees and they have 300 contacts each, then your carefully drafted job advertisement can reach 9,000 industry-related people instantly with a quick ‘email to all’ to prompt them to share!  If just 10pc of their network share with their 300 contacts, that’s a mind boggling 270,000 more contacts reached.  And that is without using tools such as Hootsuite which amplify and accelerate.
  3. Following the interview and selection process, (which can follow many different formats and sits slightly apart from this process – although obviously part of it too), plan the first three months of your new employee’s induction, integration and engagement – which would typically run concurrently with a Probation Period. Here are a few pointers for this Induction Plan:
    1. Depending on the size of the company, the Induction Plan might involve HR, Health and Safety, IT, Heads of all Departments and, preferably at the centre, the new recruit’s Line Manager.
    2. Particularly if a new employee has a long (3 months plus) notice period, make it someone’s responsibility to touch base with them occasionally throughout that period. Typically, there will be formalities to be completed, such as New Joiners Forms etc which provide a structure for this, but aim to keep communications ‘human’ during this period.
    3. Aim also to send a letter to the new joiner a week or so prior to them starting. Remind them of the time and date and who to report to – but also help them to have a pleasant experience on their first morning by, for example, ensuring they know where to park or letting them know how long it takes to walk from the nearest stations and putting their minds at rest regarding any dress codes. These little touches help reassure and prove that you care.
    4. Unless they involve any sensitive material, ideally send a Company Handbook and/or key Policies in advance of the start date, once the Employment Contract/Service Agreement has been signed.
    5. Someone in the organisation should be able to present a presentation including all the basics on day one – from Vision and Values through formalities like Pensions and key Policies, to necessities like the names of the First Aiders and how to arrange for business cards, to trivia like tea and coffee rituals. This should also include a roadmap of what the employee should expect by way of the plans for the period (such as periods spent in other departments and formal review meetings).  As with all such sessions, aim to make this as engaging and interactive as possible.
    6. Ensure that they have the resources they need to start work. For example, do they need a new desk, or is there a vacant one?  If digital devices and any systems are essential to the role (or any other tools), make sure these are set up in advance – plus the email address and access to any systems.  Naturally full training needs to be planned in for this, as does time to become familiar with new devices and systems.
    7. Ensure that the Health and Safety compliance arrangements required for the role are in place. Typically, this may involve eLearning or face-to-face training, both available from Praxis42.  Also, make sure that the new employee understands that your organisation has a positive approach to keeping them safe and healthy, and that you expect them to practise and promote these values too.
    8. Make sure that the Line Manager has sufficient support to be able to both conduct the induction and integration of the new employee whilst not compromising their own case/operational work and any performance related rewards.
    9. In conclusion, all that you do as the employer should serve to provide clarity to the employee so that they know exactly what is expected of them – both in terms of important matters such as performance metrics, and human matters such as parking availability.

And finally, although this piece has been about ‘the process’ of creating the right first impression, the root cause of any past failure to do so is likely to be an absence of a positive culture.  Among the pressures and metrics involved in competitive organisations, some leaders and shareholders may have lost sight of the importance of so-called ‘soft’ management skills.

This issue is captured in one of Einstein’s favourite quotes – “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”  And while you may not be able to count the goose bumps which prospective employees feel when they see your website and dream of being part of your team, you can count the cost of consistently losing nearly quarter of your employees within six weeks.  Which part of this equation is the more important; the part that you can’t count or the part that you can count?

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