june 1990

People usually begin new jobs with great expectations. But the enthusiasm can fade long before managers are aware problems exist. One way to minimize the disillusionment, says Andy Plata, CEO of Computer Output Printing Inc. (COPI), a 23-employee laser printing specialist in Houston, is to develop ways of staying in touch with your workers.

His approach: have new employees write him letters.

Before new people come to work at COPI, Plata and his managers ask them to write a letter to management about why they've chosen to work there. After the first week they're asked to write another letter describing "what they hope to accomplish at COPI and what contributions they feel they can make."

Seven weeks later they write a third letter detailing their progress. "We want to know if they're still turned on," says Plata. The letters become the focal point of managers' discussions about employee goals and how work relations can be improved.

He thinks new employees have adjusted to working at COPI more easily since he came up with the idea two years ago. "It helps us determine early how a person likes to work and what he or she needs from us."