Monday, July 9, 2012

Of new dogs and new employees: communicating value is key

Last Thursday, my family and I drove to Battle Creek, Michigan, to pick up our new puppy. I cannot give the breeder (Jon Peck, Midnight Run Vizslas) higher marks. He spent two hours with us explaining the ins and outs of what we could expect with our new dog. He provided pointers on the peculiarities of the breed, and what he had observed with our particular pup over the eight weeks since she had been born. He even cleaned her ears and bathed her before we took her home. I don't know what your experiences have been when acquiring a new dog, but, based on mine and my wife's, this was above and beyond. Most importantly, it made us feel valued—that Jon truly and deeply cares not only about his dogs, but also about the homes to which they are going and the positive experiences of new owners. We are making a substantial investment of time in our new dog, and the time spent with us before we took her home shows that out commitment is valued.

This lesson translates well to the workplace. Each employee you hire is an investment. Yet, what is the first day of work like for many employees? A quiet room with a stack of forms to sign, maybe a cursory explanation of the employee handbook, and a tour of the facility? What does this half-assed stab at an orientation say about value? Does your new hire feel like a valued part of a team, or like a fungible and replaceable cog? An employee's first day of work—the orientation to your workplace and culture—should be the first step in communicating to that employee the investment you are making (i.e., that they are valued). It should not be viewed as an administrative burden to be overcome before the employee can start producing.

We would not love our dog any less if our experience was a simple exchange of a check for a pup. Yet, the time spent with us reinforces that we made a great choice for our family. The same should hold true for your relationship with your employees. Teach them their import from day one by making orientation a meaningful, and memorable, experience.