You want the best company with a great culture and strong, hardworking employees. You know that means you need to get your new employees on board, understanding the company mission, and making a meaningful contribution, so the first day on the job is obviously an important day in your new employees' lives. But, Adam Ochstein, founder and CEO of StratEx, a Chicago-based firm that provides HR services and software, says it's not just the first day that's important, the last day is as well.
Ochstein calls this "Bookends Culture." "Oftentimes," he says, " the focus is on heavily retaining existing employees who may already be bought into the vision rather than helping new hires understand and get acclimated to the culture."
On the other end, managers often make big mistakes when an employee resigns. Ochstein says, "One of the biggest mistakes managers make is giving a top performer the cold shoulder when they quit." Why is that a mistake? Well for lots of reasons. Someone who has been a top performer for you will likely be a top performer for someone else. Your former employee could someday become your client or your vendor. Additionally, Ochstein says, "people associate with similar people, so top performers will know other top performers in their network."
Employees think about maintaining a good reference when they leave, but bosses need to think about the good references from their former employees. While it's true that recruiters don't often call your former employees to check what kind of boss you were (although they probably should), in today's age of easy LinkedIn connections, your bad behavior towards a low level person could come back to haunt you.
So, what should you do to ensure that the "bookends" for your employees are the best that they can be? On the front end, you need to plan in advance. Here are Ochstein's focus points.
Pre-start: Don't just let the employee show up! In a small company, Ochstein suggests that the CEO send a "we're excited to have you" email to the new hire. In a bigger company, that task can be taken on by someone a bit lower down the food chain. Regardless, someone in leadership should reach out. As for the direct manager and team members? Ochstein recommends a handwritten note as a pre-welcome, along with a phone call.
Day One: This is overwhelming, as everything is new. Make sure you are set up for the new hire-which means you don't say, "Hey, we don't have a computer for you yet, and planning on ordering a new chair, but for now, use this stool." Instead, the work area should be ready to go. Someone should greet the new employee and take them on a tour. Don't just leave this to HR, you want the employee happy to be in your department. A team lunch is also in order.
Week one: Make sure that the new employee feels cared for. Ochstein recommends that each team member should schedule a time to take the new person to coffee to get to know the person. "The first week at a company can affect whether the employee stays or leaves," Ochstein says, " and in today's employee driven jobs market, companies can't afford to lose top talent, especially when it's something they can control." This means you need to make sure your onboarding program isn't just about filling out benefits paperwork.
And what about the other bookend? When employees leave. Ochstein divides employees into three categories: Top Talent, Underperformers, and Boomerangs.
Top Talent: You want to run into these people again. Be kind. Congratulate them on their new jobs. Connect via LinkedIn if you haven't already, and keep in touch.
Underperformers: When you have someone who isn't performing well, Ochstein recommends giving them a heads up "that it's no longer a fit" and that the company is looking for a replacement. Help the employee look for a new position that is a better fit for his skills. Even though this person didn't work out for you, doesn't mean future business or your reputation won't be affected by what this person thinks of you.
Boomerangs: These people come back. If you want to turn a former top talent into a boomerang, keep in touch. The former employee may realize it was a mistake to leave, and wish to come back. Or, leaving may not have been a mistake, but after a couple years somewhere else, your company becomes the right place again. Encourage your alumni to sign up for the company e-newsletter and take them to lunch now and then.
When you take care of both bookends, you reap the benefits of happy employees and happy alumni, all of which is good for your business.