Many moons ago on a crisp July morning, I walked in for my first job. Since then, and especially as HR head, the months of June, July and August have always fascinated me. The tensions of the compensation review and the difficult explanations regarding the performance distribution curve to aggrieved and agitated employees are over. And here we are in this quarter with its youth, spontaneity and eager anticipation. For this is the time when the freshers stream in—the ingenue engineering graduates, the seemingly worldly-wise MBAs, and the babes from the BA/BSc streams.
Remember your first day at work. The wonder and self-importance of stepping into the corporate campus, the anticipation of what the day will bring and at dusk, the need to introspect, if lucky relive, the precious moments. Which is why smart organizations invest seriously and sincerely in creating a distinctive and memorable first day at work.
This cannot happen without some hard work and out-the-of-box thinking.
A few years ago, a TV channel ran a rather interesting series—kind of a first day at work for the CEO. And I remember mine debriefing us at the end of his shoot—“Did I really need to fill so many forms? Hema, please find some ways to rationalize this?!” Yes, a typical first day at work is mountains of paperwork (or gigabytes of information to be filled in, screen after screen). But every well-meaning HR professional will tell you this information is necessary and best collected on Day 1. They will cite the tragic implication of an unfilled provident fund or superannuation nomination form should an unforeseen event occur. But the important question to ask is does it need to be done only in those precious first 8 hours or even 16 hours when there are so many more memorable tasks to be done?
Why can’t we think different?
An interesting company workshop I attended once focused extensively on deconstructing Day 1. One of the first things the organization did was to identify as many activities as possible (form-filling included) which could be done well before Day 1. Of course, this will mean sending out forms to some who may not join and developing an IT-enabled system which is candidate- and HR-friendly in porting mountains of data seamlessly.
As an HR head, have you thought of relevant material prospective employees could browse through before they join or forward to key decision makers in their family? Capsules of information on lodging options, good realtors, paediatricians and recommended schools are a godsend (and a buddy, even a virtual one, will go a long way in addressing frequently asked, but nevertheless important, questions and concerns).
As the economy booms, candidates will have to hit the on-the-job phase running. This in turn will mean the time for induction process will be even more crunched. Invest available time in giving candidates insights about themselves, group work, team success and corporate dos and don’ts. Make the traditional corporate presentations vehicles that enable new entrants to meet people who matter. And if a Mr X who counts is listed in the schedule, don’t shatter young dreams by substituting with a Mr Y who unintentionally becomes a disappointing stand-in! A sensitively crafted dinner or high tea hosted by a senior executive will be treasured by many an entrant for years to come.
Anchoring induction programmes is a great training ground for young HR professionals to earn their spurs. They can relate to the newcomers and feel empowered addressing their concerns. For a superior, it helps gauge the said anchor’s programme management abilities, attention to detail, creativity, initiative and EQ all at once.
And, finally, a personal fetish. If you walk into an assembly of young trainees on their Day 1 in a company, you cannot fail to notice the parents or uncles or sometimes even a grandparent who accompanies them; especially true where girls are concerned. Spare a thought for these fretting elders and treat them kindly. A hot cuppa, a room to wait and rest in, clean toilets and maybe even a corporate movie and brochures will go a long way in acknowledging them respectfully. Some companies have senior executives spend some time exclusively with them. One mid-size company which features in many a Best Employer Survey even ran a campaign around them. The line read: “Thank you Mrs… for giving us your daughter. Now she is our responsibility.” What a beautiful Indian touch to induction!
Hema Ravichandar is a strategic human resources consultant. She also serves as an independent director and an advisory board member for several organizations.
Write to Hema at email@example.com