Sunday, May 29, 2016

First Impressions at Work - Employers Point of View


  

As a consultant, I have been moving between jobs more regularly than a normal employee would. In the past I have moved between couple of jobs as an employee too. Along the way I have picked up a few tips regarding how to make the life of a new recruit better. Sadly, as excited you are on taking a new job, there’s always the inevitable disappointments associated during the first few days at the job. What I want to discuss is, as an employee how you may improve the situation. This is quite important, as our human nature is to put more weight towards how you feel at the first few days at the job. Unfortunately these first impressions might go a long way towards how you feel about the job overall.


So it makes sense from the employer's’ point of view to at least get the first few days correct. Try to welcome the new team member with enough professionalism and friendliness which will re-enforces that he has made the right decision.


I will start with the real fundamentals and list down some of the more exciting ones towards the end. (Some of the items may obviously biased towards software engineering)


Infrastructure


  1. Please make sure they actually have valid access to the building. I have worked in places where for few weeks my building access was not sorted. You basically get a visitor pass and it’s not fun to ask for a colleague to escort you to the toilet every time because you may be locked out of the working floors if you walk out.
  2. Have their desk ready. No - you don’t need flowers and balloons, just a clean desk with a computer is fine. Yes, that includes a chair too.
  3. Having a desk and computer is a good start. But also make sure they can actually login to the network and have proper access rights. I have worked in big corporations and government organizations where it takes them few weeks to sort out Active Directory access.
  4. Please take the time to show the new guy the office facilities and how to use them. Toilets, printers, kitchen, vending machines...anything. Teams may overlook these simple things specially if the team is quite busy, but a few minutes of effort may go a long way in communicating that the team actually cares about the new employee.


Work
  1. The computer should have all the necessary software installed. If not installed, the installation process should at least be properly documented (in a wiki page with links to each software package). This can be the difference between someone either spending days to set their machine up or realising after few weeks that they’ve set it up in a slightly different way so they have to start it over again.
  2. Should be given access to credentials required to login to different systems. If installation of security certificates or keys are required, this is the time to do so. It will certainly help to have a password/key management software like keepass or lastpass.
  3. Admin rights to the computer. I can’t stress this enough - especially if you are a software engineer. Not having admin rights to the box could easily add up to days and days of support calls and productivity issues down the line. Not to mention the sheer frustration of the user.
  4. May be have a starter pack documentation in wiki.
    1. Page with the team with photos and details
    2. Organization/Project terminology
    3. FAQ
  5. Organize a meeting with few team members they would work with and clearly provide details around what they will be working on and the expectations. This is not to scare the poor fellow, but to show that you have planned his work and is serious about the responsibility of each team member.
  6. Get an experienced team member to briefly demo some of the common workflows and tools used. It could be JIRA, IDEs, Version Control, Build Systems, Messaging etc…


Team


Even if you get most items from the above two lists,  it’s imperative that the new recruit feels part of the team.
  1. Take them around the office floor and introduce to each team member - one by one. Doesn’t matter if he doesn’t remember any single one of them - it’s the act that matters. This should also cover off-shore team members (or clients) if that makes sense.
  2. Invite them for lunch. A new recruit is reluctant to suddenly ask strangers to join in for lunch. It’s not a great feeling to have lunch on your own at your first day.
  3. Invite them for coffee - specially if lunch doesn’t work out.
  4. Get a friendly, outgoing (but knowledgeable) team member to act as his buddy for few weeks. This can be set up informally before the arrival so that it doesn’t become too uncomfortable.


Extras
There are some additional actions you can take which can really make an impression.
  1. Organize a team lunch on behalf of the new recruit. This could very well be the regular weekly lunch the team goes out to - but it has a theme just for 1 week. To welcome the new recruit. If the team culture is different, you may replace lunch with drinks after work.
  2. The lunch could be sponsored by the company. This gives the existing team members a tangible benefit due to the arrival of the new recruit.
  3. Offer to sponsor a tool or a software that the new recruit would like to use for his own efficiency. This really drives homes the fact that the company cares about the time of the new recruit - not just his output.
  4. Encourage them to improve their skills and offer to sponsor for online courses that they are interested about. Important thing here is not to be restricted to purely work related courses. Could be anything. (Coursera offers good quality courses from reputable universities for affordable pricing)

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