Make or break in the first few days

“We used to have such programs in a Star Hotel earlier. Any reason why we are not doing that now?”

“I’ve heard that the Induction program used to be all week long, with awesome lunch provided. Why is the duration reduced to just 2 days? And, why isn’t lunch provided anymore?”

“My team members say that the first few days after they joined, they played a lot of interesting games. We want to play too!”

I hear the above way too often. Some questions come up as soon as I walk-in to the session to address a new batch of employees; some come up after the scheduled session for a day or two is complete. And, some come up out of the blue, in lunch lines, coffee breaks and lift lobbies.

Unarguably, some are rhetorical questions. People take solace in asking those questions when they are well aware of the answer. It’s just that they are not happy with the answer.

Team Building Session

Here is why I think the first few days are important for an employee at an organization:

  • When the Induction program is conducted in a better environment (eg., a Star hotel), with luxury treatment and free lunches, the impression that is made of the organization is of a high standard. It shows the employees that they are cared for. Even when the times turn bad at the organization, these are the employees that think of ‘good times’ and hope for better everything, but stick with the company telling these tales they were part of.
  • When you are high up the ladder making financial decisions, saving money counts up to your effectiveness, efficiency and all those factors that make you look good. So, cost-cutting is a natural choice that is of course explored in every possible area. The more money you save, the greener your graph looks. Unfortunately, it’s evident. It shows that you don’t consider your employees important.
  • “There are no free lunches” works better as a metaphor than as a literal statement in situations like this. Believe me you can impress people with a free lunch or two! 🙂
  • I personally think that the impression that is created matters more than the cost involved. I’d rather you consider it as an investment, and not cost. When the employees are impressed in the first week or two, it goes a long way. They feel that they ‘belong’ and not just work.
  • When a later ‘batch’ attends the same Induction program in-house, in a cramped over-crowded room with a few cookies/ eclairs, it doesn’t set the same high standard impression. There is already little discomfort inducted that will only get worse with the time.
  • The initial time we ‘invest’ in grooming the employees, especially campus recruits, does a lot of good in the long run. Time and money invested in helping those individuals to get accustomed to the corporate environment is directly proportional to their relationship and stay with an organization.
  • Something that appears as trivial as a organization handbook that an employee receives on Day 1 has an impact too. That’s the direct sales promotion of the company’s image! Imagine a photocopied and stapled two page document left at your table, versus a printed brochure in color on hard paper, that comes in a ‘packet’ along with a small notepad and a pen – get the idea?

This list is not definitely exhaustive but a start of how the first few days can be perceived by employees at an organization, and why the first few days of the employee are important for an organization.

Whatever you aim for, or settle for in the first few days, makes or breaks the deal.

The art of motivation

I bumped into one of the simplest articles about Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Here is a copy-paste of one of the paragraphs and then follows the link to the complete article on the web.
So, if I perceive that any one of these is true:
  1. My increased effort will not increase my performance
  2. My increased performance will not increase my rewards
  3. I don’t value the rewards on offer
…then Vroom’s expectancy theory suggests that this individual will not be motivated. This means that even if an organisation achieves two out of three, that employees would still not be motivated, all three are required for positive motivation.
Here is the complete article. Here is the Wikipedia page for Expectancy theory.
What am pondering while I compose this post is- What percentage of the day to day activities we perform everyday cover the three points above? And is paycheck a ‘given’ or a ‘reward’?

Interesting Angle!

This isn’t the first time I ran into this story, and most probably same will be the case with you too. Every time I read this one till now, the answer was missing. So, I made up my own answers, a different one each time. And, I always wondered who creates such instances, if only they were to be ‘hypothetical’.

Well, I received this as a forward, again! And, it has an answer from the person who created this ‘what if’ case. May be right, may be not. It’s an interesting angle though!

 Group of children were playing near two railway tracks, one still in use while the other disused. Only one child played on the disused track, the rest on the operational track. The train came, and you were just beside the track interchange. You could make the train change its course to the disused track and saved most of the kids.

However, that would also mean the lone child playing by the disused track would be sacrificed. Or would you rather let the train go its way?

Take a pause to think what kind of decision we could make?

Most people might choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. You might think the same way, I guess. Exactly, I thought the same way initially because to save most of the children at the expense of only one child was rational decision most people would make, morally and emotionally. But, have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place?

Nevertheless, he had to be sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was. This kind of dilemma happens around us everyday. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority are. The child who chose not to play with the rest on the operational track was sidelined. And in the case he was sacrificed, no one would shed a tear for him.

The great critic Leo Velski Julian who told the story said he would not try to change the course of the train because he believed that the kids playing on the operational track should have known very well that track was still in use, and that they should have run away if they heard the train’s sirens. If the train was diverted, that lone child would definitely die because he never thought the train could come over to that track! Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe. If the train was diverted to the track, we could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake! And in your attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one child, you might end up sacrificing hundreds of people to save these few kids. While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the right one.

“Remember that what’s right isn’t always popular… and what’s popular isn’t always right.” Everybody makes mistakes; that’s why they put erasers on pencils.

The Turtle Story

turtleA turtle family decided to go on a picnic. The turtles, being naturally slow about things, took seven years to prepare for their outing. Finally the turtle family left home looking for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey they found a place ideal for them at last!

For about six months they cleaned the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements. Then they discovered they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed. After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt from home. Although he was the fastest of the slow moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell. He agreed to go on one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left.

Three years passed and the little turtle had not returned. Five years… six years… … then on the seventh year of his absence, the oldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and begun to unwrapped a sandwich. At that point the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, ‘See! I knew you wouldn’t wait. Now I am not going to go get the salt.’

[Some of us waste our time waiting for people to live up to our expectations. We are so concerned about what others are doing that we do not do anything ourselves.]