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I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve handed out pizza samples in a supermarket. I’ve been a ski patroller. I’ve taught yoga and sailing. I’ve worked in every position in dozens of restaurants. I’ve sold everything from windsurfers to protein powder. When I married Hotrod, the plumber, I found my way to this wonderful industry. Since then, I have been on the ownership and management side of the business. But I have never lost the sensibility of an employee.
As an employee, I was often ignored, usually underestimated and rarely challenged. As a result, I was a troublemaker. I got fired a few times and quit a lot of jobs. It’s why I had so many.
Most of the time, when I would get a new job, the hiring and orientation process went like this:
1. I’d walk in and ask for an application.
2. A harried manager would say, “Can you start now? Go ask Bob in the back for a uniform.”
3. I’d find Bob, who would greet me with, “Sam hired you? Just what we need — another kid who doesn’t know up from down.”
4. Bob would scrounge up a scratchy, ill-fitting uniform.
5. I would put on the uniform.
6. Then, I would seek out someone who looked as if they knew what was going on. This would be a peer, never an owner or manager.
7. I’d ask, “What does it take to get fired here?” This icebreaking question let me know if I had found a fellow troublemaker. It wasn’t hard to find a friendly conspirator.
8. Orientation would consist of my new friend telling me who and what to avoid to stay just this side of getting canned. Shenanigans would ensue.
9. At some point, I would be assigned to someone senior to me to “show me the ropes.” This would be viewed, by my de facto trainer, as either an inconvenience or downright career sabotage.
A few times in my long and messy work history, I found jobs with good people who used sound systems to avoid problems and achieve great results. These experiences had a powerful impact on me. When the game was compelling, I would play. When I was seen and appreciated, I would shine. I wouldn’t cause trouble. I loved those jobs and, more importantly, the people with whom I worked.
Remember your first day?
As an owner or manager, it helps to remember — or imagine — what it is like to be an employee. Perhaps you cringed with recognition as I described my first-day-on-the-job experiences. Perhaps you are pretty pleased with how you structure your orientation process. Still, even the best of us can always do better. If we want to attract and develop great talent, let’s consider what can we do engage our new hires right from the start.
What would a great first day look like? How about this:
• “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to our apprentice program. Your first day is Monday. Be here at 7:30 a.m. to start your orientation process.” If your hiring process is thorough, people who make the cut realize they have already accomplished something meaningful.
• Day one of orientation — your first day:
1. Meet the service manager, who oversees your orientation, and introduces you to every team member.
2. Find your name and position on the organizational chart.
3. Tour the office, warehouse, training areas, locker room, restrooms and break area.
4. Learn where you are to park and stow your gear.
5. Receive your phone and tablet.
6. Complete the human resources hiring checklist.
7. Meet with the owner and review the company mission, vision and goals for the current year.
8. Introduction to the master project list and top projects.
9. Get assigned to your team and meet your field supervisor.
10. Go out to lunch with the owner and your field supervisor.
11. Complete the IT hiring checklist.
12. Learn how to access the manuals on your tablet and fill out the first section of your customized training checklist.
13. Review the employee/employer manual with your field supervisor.
14. Review the salary levels and career opportunities with your field supervisor.
Get the idea? Formal, specific steps that will help new kids learn about your company and how they can be successful. And with each step, you and your team members could get to know them. Engage them in conversation. Learn about their family and sports interests. Be kind and encouraging. It’s a nice start, right?
Note: The orientation process can take from a few days to a few weeks. We make our Zoom Drain orientation checklist available as a free download at www.findgreattechs.com.
Perhaps the above agenda will inspire you to create a more proactive and encouraging kickoff to a successful career at your company. The items on the agenda are just suggestions. More important than what you do is why you are doing it. Maybe you, like me, are motivated to be of service, to help people grow and develop, and expand their skills, understanding and personal power.
Day one of kindergarten
Nobody does this better than my sister, Trish Saccomano. Trish is a professor at the University of Utah. She has a master’s degree in education. For the last 15 years, she has been teaching early education students how to teach.
Before that, Trish was a kindergarten teacher for 29 years. A visit to her classroom was a lesson in management. One might expect chaos and clatter and all things the matter. However, in her domain, kids were busy learning, in all different ways. There was fun and excitement and focus and discovery.
I asked Trish how she created such a positive environment. She said her teaching success is grounded in these three strategies:
Get them to fall in love with you: This is job one, starting day one. You focus on each child and ask questions, such as what they want to be when they grow up. Ask them about their favorite movies and books. Ask them about their families and their pets. As you do, you will discover they are amazing and you will fall in love. They will love you right back.
Drill the systems and procedures: Suppose a 5-year-old breaks a pencil in class. If he doesn’t know where to get another one, he will become disruptive. Orientation includes showing kids where the tools are, how to use them and other Rules of the Room. This includes housekeeping and manners.
Load them up with meaningful, appropriate work: Start with the love. Establish the rules. Then give them lots of work to do. Make it challenging, yet appropriate for their skill level. Offer independent activities as well as group projects. Build on what they learn and increase the level of difficulty. Play games that use their expanding skills.
When Trish shared this with me, I told her I was struck by the universal applicability of this sound process. She agreed and said she uses the same approach with her adult students.
Wouldn’t this work for you and your teammates? It starts with the first day.