first day jitters

“Will I like it here?”

“Is this going to be a good year?”

“Will I like the person in charge?”

“I wonder what the people sitting around me are like?”

“Where will I put my stuff?”

“Where are the bathrooms?”

“Is lunch any good here?”

“I hope work will be interesting.”

“Did I wear the right clothes? I wonder what others are wearing?”

“How early is too early to show up? How late is too late?”

“How long will it take to get there?”

“I don’t want to be here.”

“Will I make any friends?”

“Should I have styled my hair different? My hair never looks right.”

“Which door am I supposed to go in?”

“Wonder what I should do first when I get there?”

“Is anyone else new here today?”

“Hope I don’t do anything that makes me look stupid.”

“Should I have brought anything else?”

“My stomach hurts.”

“I hope they like me.”


First day of school at 8 years old or first day of work at 56, it’s all the same. Insecurities, doubt, and “what if…?” questions loom large.  I wonder what the answers will be.

was it the right decision?

[NOTE: the other day I did a post on customer service called ‘why did you bother?’ I had a great conversation yesterday that reminded me that the same issue applies to HR and onboarding.]

First day at work and almost everyone suffers buyer’s remorse. Was it the right decision? Would it have been better to stay at my old job? Will I like my co-worker? What’s my boss like? My old job wasn’t perfect – I hated parts of it – but there was some good stuff, too. I wonder if they’ll take me back if this doesn’t work out? I don’t know anyone here.

Was it the right decision? That’s what almost everyone is asking themselves when they come in to work that first day. Was it the right decision? Even when it’s a step up in pay, title, responsibility, or moving to a great company. Was it the right decision?

Based on the first hour of the first day on the job at your company, how do you think they would answer that question? How would they answer it at the end of the first day?

Some factors to consider:

Did they know what to expect?

Did they know how to prepare, what to bring, what clothes to wear?

Was someone there to greet and welcome them? Was that person excited to see them?

Were they given a tour of the building so they know where to park, find the bathrooms, and get to the cafeteria/break room/vending machines?

Was their boss there to welcome them, introduce them to the team, show them their workspace, discuss expectations, and help them get settled in?

Was their workspace clean and ready for them? Or did they have to spend time figuring out where everything being stored there needed to go?

Did someone offer to take them to lunch? Or did they have to eat alone?

Was there a plan in place for what they would be working on or doing the first day, and then the first couple of days? Did that plan make sense?

Was someone responsible for creating a fantastic onboarding experience? Is there even an onboarding plan or process in place?

Basically, it comes down to: did they feel expected, welcomed, important, and successful that first day? Did they leave feeling like they made the right decision to work at your company?

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, give serious consideration to this one: Why did you bother?

It’s like a car dealer spending huge money on advertising and promotions getting you to come down to their business, set you up to get a car that you think you’re going to enjoy, and then make the actual negotiating and purchase experience miserable. So miserable, that even though you love the car you vow to never buy from them again. And you tell all your friends to never go there. Why did that dealer even bother?

You (hopefully) put a lot of time and effort into advertising for positions, finding candidates, interviewing, and putting together an attractive offer. You have a lot invested in them before they even walk in the door. After all that work to hire them, why not set them up for success from the first moment?

Did they make the right decision? They’ll know after the first day. What’s their answer going to be?

two crucial activities for leadership success

Yesterday, Steve Boese posted “Onboarding for the rest of us” and referenced the employee handbook from the gaming company Valve. You may have seen this handbook posted elsewhere, but it is very worth a read. It’s fun, irreverent, and does an amazing job of helping a new hire understand how to succeed in a unique company.

Crucial Activity #1

Valve is a completely flat organization with no (ZERO) managers so I found the insights into how that works enthralling and, although, I’m not going to be changing my company’s structure anytime soon, it would be easy to share the same types of information with new hires: your first day, facts about the company, your first month, office culture, how your performance will be evaluated, your first six months, company history, what the company is good at and what it isn’t, etc.

Yes, new hires need to know where to park and where the bathrooms are and how to sign up for benefits. AND it would be a huge boost forward if they also knew the things that Valve does such a good job of sharing.

Crucial Activity #2

Onboarding is important, but the part that left me slack jawed is in a section titled, “Your Most Important Role”: Hiring well is the most important thing in the universe. Nothing else comes close. It’s more important than breathing. So when you’re working on hiring – participating in an interview loop or innovating in the general area of recruiting – everything else you could be doing is stupid and should be ignored!

Pause. Let that sink in. Go read it again. That’s right. They consider getting selection right is so important to their organizational success that: 1) It’s in the new hire handbook; 2) it’s in a section titled, “Your Most Important Role”;  3) it’s more important than breathing; and 4) when you are hiring, anything else you could be doing (like your regular job) is stupid and should be ignored.

Pause. Let that sink in. Go read it again.

But Wait, There’s More

Further in, they are very clear that they understand that because their company is so unique they miss out on hiring some great folks, and they’re really ok with that. No vanilla here. They are not trying to be all things to all people – they are very clear on who they are.

When we talk about interview questions, we almost always look at what we’re asking the candidates. It’s also important to think about what we’re asking ourselves as we evaluate the candidates responses. When evaluating candidates, they ask themselves three brilliant questions: Would I want this person to be my boss? Would I learn a significant amount from him or her? What if this person went to work for our competition?

Imagine if you had the hiring bar so high that you only hired people you could learn something from; people who helped you be better. That’s very intimidating for most people so few do it. And that alone is a great reason to start. Over time, this will transform your company.

Get hiring right by making it a super priority and managing gets much, much easier. Get it wrong by treating it like a distraction and an afterthought and managing gets much, much more difficult.