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Opening Day

November 27, 2009

It is the most common of our experiences. It is one that many of us have experienced on numerous occasions. It is one that hundreds are experiencing this very moment. It is the first day on a new job.

How important is that first day? Is it important enough to effect your attitude for a long time, both on and off the job? Is it important enough that it can effect the performance of your business, your employee relations, your customer relations?

Look no further than opening day of the baseball season for the answer. Even the seasoned veterans will tell you that opening day is special. It is in fact the first day on a new job. It is filled with hope, great expectations, fear and anxiety.

You are the boss now, perhaps long removed from the employment line. Take a few minutes and recall the thoughts and images that were in your mind on one of your opening days. Whether it was your very first job or just the first day on a new job, they were all special and made lasting impressions.

What can you as a manager or business owner do to make that first day a positive one for the “new guy”? First, lets make our opening day last longer than 24 hours. As often as a new employee is neglected on day one, they are often showered with attention on day one and forgotten on day two. Let’s view opening day in the work place as a transition period that will vary in length according to the demands of the job and the background of the employee.

New employees will often seem confused. That’s pretty normal behavior because most new jobs are confusing. Make sure that you have a specific plan for indoctrinating the new employee. It should be well thought out, in writing and you should follow it.

I have frequently encountered organizations that hire regularly but treat each hiring as if it were a unique event. It is a routine but important event that your business should be prepared to handle in an appropriate manner. Another common error is having an antiquated procedure that doesn’t make any sense. Not only does it contribute to the confusion, but it is wasteful and sends a negative message about your business.

It is scary to be new. Particularly for those just entering or returning to the work force. How often have you heard a friend or family member say that they were scared on their first day on the job? Try to be sympathetic to your new employee. Give them the impression that they are amongst friends.

Even a veteran who goes hitless in his first few at bats in the new season begins to wonder if that next hit will ever come.

When teaching a job, teach slowly, one step at a time. When you are nervous, as is not uncommon, it is harder to pick things up quickly. Make it obvious that you have confidence in their ability. After all, you hired them. It’s the job of a good manager to insure that a couple of rookie mistakes don’t jeopardize the confidence that is needed for a successful career.

Because of the pressures of being new and the difficulties in learning a different job, new employees can often appear “dumb” if you are impatient. Be patient. Avoid trying to teach too much at one time. Even the best of us have appeared to be “dumb” when faced with new tasks in unfamiliar surroundings.

New employees may appear to be slow and will make mistakes. Learning thoroughly is more important than learning quickly. Don’t rush someone that is performing a task for the first time. Demonstrate each operation carefully and then let them show it to you. Expect some mistakes and don’t get annoyed.

The nervousness associated with newness can manifest itself in many ways. Some new employees may act “cocky” as a means of covering up their fears. Remember that you hired this person and you owe it to them and to yourself to give them a chance. Refuse to get angry. Take a “cocky” beginner aside and calmly talk to them to give them confidence. They will be more likely to drop their defenses in a more private setting.

Treating the opening day syndrome with premeditated care and understanding will pay handsome dividends. Your business will develop a reputation as a good place to get a job. Your new employees will get off to a good start and become a more productive asset for your business in a shorter period of time. Your product quality will be better as will customer service and satisfaction.

There will always be those employees who are not right or ready to work in your business. By being sensitive to the impact of those first days on the job, you will minimize the number of employees that don’t fit. By paying close attention to this critical time, you will also be better able to spot the “bad apples” before they have done much damage.

Because it’s your business, remember that opening day is a special time, even for crusty veterans like you and I!

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