The Employee's 1st 30 Days...
It's Now or Never.

By: Harold Lloyd

This economic recession has had one silver lining; we can certainly find good employees to hire. Unfortunately, with business the way it is, we don’t need them.

True, in our business, we’ll always have some turnover. Maybe a bit less now with this economy but they still leave for a multitude of reasons and with every departure, our bottom-line takes a hit. Depending on which source you read, the hit we take is estimated at somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000 per terminated employee. More for full-timers and managers, less for part-timers and temporaries.

In any case, the economic impact of turnover on our profitability is significant…not to mention the customer relations hit we take when a trained staff member is replaced by a ‘rookie.’ When the economy makes a complete recovery, we will again be aggressively competing for ‘bodies’ like we were only a few short years ago, and the turnover cost of those precious employees will, once again, approach ridiculous.

This column is dedicated to improving your profitability by illustrating the importance of nurturing new recruits during their first 30 days. Why the first 30 days? Because that’s when the new relationship is so vulnerable and because over 30% of all terminations happen in the first 30 days. Check it out for yourself. How many employee terminations did you process last year? How many occurred in the employee’s first 30 days? This is a research and mathematical exercise worth performing. If we knew these numbers, we could use them as a benchmark and a target for the next 12 months.

For example, what if we discovered we lost 75 people last year, 23 of them during their first 30 days. With the ideas in this article and a target of reducing the 23 terminations let’s say down to 13, we could realize a $30,000 to $50,000 annual savings for the store.

Before showcasing the ideas that could be used to reduce employee turnover during the first 30 days, let’s analyze why so much turnover occurs in the first place. Is it typically the recruit who makes the bad job selection decision or is it your organization’s failure? Since it’s not possible to truly understand the analytic process used by each potential candidate, let’s look introspectively at what I see are the two predominant causes.

The main cause is a prevalent, self-fulfilling prophecy that, “Since no one really likes/wants to work at retail, they’ll probably be leaving soon after they start anyway. Why then, spend the time/money on an elaborate orientation program? Let them prove they’re committed to us first. If they stay on past a few months, then I’ll invest some time in orientation and training.”

It is my belief that since we are the leaders by definition, we should take the lead and demonstrate a commitment to the success of the new recruit beginning on or before day one. The acronym, G.I.G.O., applies here. When it comes to new employee orientation, a Garbage orientation going In, results in a Garbage relationship and a more than likely terminated employee going Out.

The second cause is that retailers are always so busy fire fighting, that they typically don’t take the time to focus on anything that’s not “on fire.” Once the vacancy is filled, the fire’s out and management typically turns their back on the new recruit and go looking for the next “fire.”

There are at least three other operational foibles in our stores that contribute to higher turnover in the first 30 days such as:

  • We oftentimes have less than the ideal employee greet the employee on the first day. This could result in a less than desirable first impression.

  • The plan for the employee’s first day is oftentimes unstructured, unimaginative, and un-motivating.

  • The employee typically leaves his/her first shift feeling exhausted, confused, frustrated, inadequate, and/or alone. There is usually no ‘exit interview’ done on the first day.

Warning: Do not proceed with this article without first admitting to and/or dealing with the above five issues affecting new employee turnover. It makes no sense to try to fill the proverbial pail with water (hire new folks) that has numerous holes (orientation glitches) in it.

Here is an array of 24 best practices to bolster your employee orientation process. There are eight best practices for the employee’s first day. Eight within the first week and eight to be done sometime before the end of the first month. How well your company/store executes your orientation now should dictate the number of ideas you adopt. I would argue that all 24 are reasonable, affordable and effective and that there is no reason not to incorporate all those you are currently not using.

The Newbie’s 1st Day

Set your phone or watch alarm 5 minutes before the new recruit’s (Newbie) scheduled arrival. Prepare yourself for a warm and enthusiastic greeting. Nothing is more awkward than to approach a group of strangers and having no one step forward to greet you.(#1)

Never schedule a Newbie to start on the store manager’s day off. (#2) Theoretically, the store manager is THE role model and the one who knows the store, its people and procedures the best. Who better then to make the best, first impression? Also, try not to start a Newbie after Wednesday. The added pressure of the weekend business might just send some good Newbies over the edge.

Next, the store manager should begin a 30 minute tour of the store after showing the Newbie how to “clock in.” The tour should begin in the parking lot and last for 30 minutes. (#3)

After seeing the store and introducing the Newbie to some friendly faces, take him/her into the office for a 30 minute conversation about your Top 10 Expectations and Top 10 Promises. (#4) Introduce the Newbie to the glossary of business terms (#5) we use each day. Landing in a foreign country that doesn’t speak your language can be unnerving and extremely awkward. After introducing the Newbie to his/her department manager, have the Newbie’s ‘Buddy,’ (an employee assigned to shadow the Newbie for the first 30 days), nearby to make the appropriate introductions. (#6)

The ‘Buddy’ can assist the Newbie in clipping on his new temporary name tag that, in addition to the Newbie’s name, has bold lettering that reads, “I’m New and I’m Trying My Best. Thanks.” (#7)

At the end of the 1st day, invite the Newbie back into the store manager’s office for a 10 minute ‘debriefing.’ (#8) “What was the most surprising experience you had today?” “Have you made any new friends today?” A few questions like these will help you determine whether the ‘Newbie’ will show up for the next scheduled shift. Watch his/her facial reactions. Listen to their tone of voice. There will be clues to their first impression of you and your operation. Keep talking if you detect any sign of dissatisfaction. This demonstration of your sincere interest in their first day may be all it takes to cement the relationship for at least the first week.

The Newbie’s First Week

A meaningful Orientation Program consists of a minimum commitment of 20 hours of activities (#9) all designed to ease the Newbie into the operations. During the first week on the job, store employees are becoming acquainted with the Newbie by the photo and bio sheet posted on the employee bulletin board (#10).

The store manager is encouraged to announce the hiring of the Newbie over the intercom with the store announcements broadcasted each morning at 9:00 am (#11).
The store manager might also invite the Newbie into the weekly department manager meeting for 5 minutes to be personally and individually introduced to the management team. (#12)

The Newbie will become better acclimated to the store by playing a great orientation game called the Scavenger Hunt. (#13) Here, the Newbie has a list of 25 hard-to-find items on a sheet of paper and is timed as he tries to locate them. He also has a “Passport” in his pocket that looks like a real passport with photos of 16-20 managers and veteran employees and a pertinent question under each photo. Such as, “What is the difference between Prime and Choice beef?” Or, “How many loaves of bread do we make, on average, each week?” The Passport Program acquaints the Newbie to the key people in the store and educates them in the process. At the end of the week (or month), the Newbie turns in the completed Passport for a free lunch coupon. (#14)

At the end of the first week, the Newbie is offered a “Goodie Bag” (#15) filled with five or six signature and private label products. Shortly thereafter, on payday the store manager, and only the store manager, personally hands the Newbie his/her FIRST paycheck with a warm, “Thanks for joining our team. We’re proud to have you on board.” (#16)

During the 1st Month

A best practice to demonstrate sincere and personal interest in the Newbie is to call him/her after the 2nd or 3rd week at home, on a day off, between 7 pm and 9 pm. (#17) A two minute conversation about their feelings for the job will go a long way to form a stronger bond between the Newbie, his/her family, and the store.

Another ‘bonding’ suggestion would be to introduce the Newbie to the regional or district manager when they pay a visit to the store. (#18) The Newbie receives a dose of respect and attention and the company executive gets to make a quick assessment on the quality of the store manager’s new recruits.

During the last week of the 30 day orientation, the store manager could invite the ‘Buddy’ in for a quick meeting with the ‘Newbie’ to discuss their progress together. (#19) This way, the ‘Buddy’ gets some credit/recognition for the Newbie’s development and the Newbie gets to express his/her concerns about the job going forward.

The New Employee Orientation Meeting (NEOM) held on the last Saturday for four hours every month, is the final act of a complete Orientation Program. (#20) During this meeting, the Newbies temporary nametag is replaced with an official , permanent one. (#21) After the loss prevention and human resource folks do their presentations and the store manager makes some final inspirational remarks, the Newbie is:

  1. Given the date of his/her 90 day review. (#22)

  2. Assigned to a store committee, (i.e. newsletter, safety, best place to work, picnic, etc.) (#23)

  3. Then, asked to complete a confidential, 30-day orientation questionnaire which is returned to the main office. (#24)

There you have it. Twenty-four best practices to revitalize a moribund orientation program or to fine-tune an already successful one. The 24 ideas/suggestions might appear attractive to you because they look so easy and make so much sense. But don’t underestimate their ability to contribute to your bottom line as well.

As an industry, we must be more conscientious about how we introduce new folks into our organizations. Instead of bringing them in and immediately placing them “on probation” for 30 days, let’s embrace a new employee orientation paradigm that will ultimately yield a more cohesive team, superior customer relations, and an improved bottom line.

Harold Lloyd was the President and C.E.O. of a 14-unit retail organization for 10 years. The company consisted of 10 convenience stores with gasoline, two combo supermarket/discount stores, one conventional supermarket, and one deep discount health and beauty aid supermarket. His team of 1000 associates were market leaders. They were innovative and dedicated to superior customer relations.

Copyright © 2012 Harold Lloyd. All Rights Reserved.

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COPYRIGHT © 2012, Dynamic Pathways, Inc. All Rights Protected.