No one joins a company with a bad attitude. New employees come in wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. And the best welcome that many companies can muster? Forms to fill out, directions to the photocopier, and keys to the rest room.

An employee's first day is worth putting a little more thought into. Rosenbluth Travel, in Philadelphia, has developed an imaginative two-day orientation that every company can learn from. Here are some of the program's key components:

* A theme. This is your chance to convey a consistent vision of your company. At Rosenbluth, the ideal is "elegant customer service" -- attentiveness to the customer that's beyond the call of duty. To illustrate it, a company trainer asks a group of new hires to come up with an example of a truly awful service experience they've had. Then, they're asked to define and act out the improvements that would warrant a good rating and those that would constitute elegant service.

* A symbol or slogan. You tread close to the abyss of corniness with this one, we know. But a motto can actually be an effective way to amplify your company's goals, provided (1) it's in harmony with all the other messages on the company airwaves, and (2) it's true.

Though it sounds like a cheerleader's mantra, Rosenbluth's "Live the Spirit" rings true to Kristen Mores, a Boston-based travel agent who went through the company's orientation last spring. "Everyone does help each other," she says. Warning: nothing turns a slogan into a punch line for a joke faster than insincerity. You and your top managers have to walk your talk.

* Respect. Surely everyone who comes into your company deserves not only your respect but also your gratitude and a few minutes of your complete attention. Hal Rosenbluth makes a ceremony out of this by serving high tea to new employees. You don't have to be so formal, but aim for an act that's memorable and demonstrates your personal interest. It might be as simple as pointing to a stack of résumés and saying, "Rich, we had 150 people apply for this job, but you were by far the best candidate. Here's why. . . ."

-- Ellyn E. Spragins

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