It is probably all this talk of Valentine’s day. But it got me thinking about the rollercoaster of emotions you go through when you meet someone new. The nerves, the anticipation, the excitement, the self doubt. The thrill of new experiences through to the cosiness of feeling part of something special. And then onto the realisation, when everything settles down, that this is what the day to day is going to be like.
This is it.
And then I got to thinking about how the first year in a new job is a lot like that too. The same emotions, the same journey from excitement about the unknown through to the reality of everyday.
And whether it is a marriage or a job, you know the reality will be different from the first heady days but you really want that reality to be great.
That doesn’t happen by accident. Whether you are the future spouse or future employer, you have work to do. You want to be celebrating that first anniversary together looking to the future, rather than wondering about what might have been.
What have we learnt from nurturing new personal relationships that can be applied to working with new employees in our business? Let’s see.
Job description : Online dating profile
We all get turned on by different things. Some people seek out the stability and maturity of a large multinational, whilst others crave the intensity and unpredictability of a start up. A job title that has me clicking for more may, in your opinion, be really quite unattractive.
For the online dating profile it is the photo that is likely to pique your interest. For the job description, it is the company name and job title that will make people want to know more.
But the good news is that you don’t need to be a big name brand with a sexy job title to get all the dates. There is someone out there for everyone.
Tell them about yourself.
Just like a dating profile, it is a good idea to get a job description checked over by someone else. Firstly, to make sure you are being, ahem, honest. Secondly, to make sure they understand it.
If you think people will need to read any sentence more than once just to understand it, change it.
“The ideal candidate will leverage assets across business units to achieve our business goals”
What?! How about….
“ You will spend a lot of time working with your colleagues in operations and engineering to make sure we can deliver on the promises we make our customers’
This is like when you meet someone at a party. “And what do you do?” you ask. They respond for three minutes in great detail. Suddenly your interest has gone because you have no idea what they were talking about.
No one likes Peter Perfect. Don’t talk about the role as if it is paradise. For example, let’s say you are looking for a Customer Services Representative in your call centre. Everyone knows that being strapped to a headset with little break between calls is tough. Don’t pretend it isn’t. But you can also mention that the great team spirit makes it a great place to work.
Who would you like to meet?
Don’t be too picky at this stage.
When you are looking for love, what do you actually want? Let’s say you crave someone who makes you laugh even in the most difficult of situations and who shares your passion for orienteering in Wales in the wintertime. Does it matter if this person is two years above your ‘ideal age range’ and has black hair instead of blonde?
So with your job, think about what you want them to achieve. Imagine that you find a person who is a great fit for your company and can bring in the sales you desperately need this year. Or who can nurture your customer base so they are more enamoured than the One Direction fan club. You wouldn’t really care about their qualifications or specific experience, would you?
Interviews : Dating.
The dry mouth, the goofy smile, the high likelihood of making a fool of yourself. Do you think he will want to see me again? What do you think it meant when he said this? And why oh why did I say THAT!
As an employer, how do you get to know the person behind the nerves and bravado to make sure you find ‘the one’?
Have a conversation. Don’t interrogate. One way, rapid fire questions would not work on a date. Why should they work at interview?
Precede a question with the reason you are asking it. This will hopefully make their response more relevant and give them more of an insight into what you do. Ask questions for clarification. Empathise with their experiences. Congratulate their successes.
Look at the role. A traditional interview may not be the right way to find the best person for every job in your business. Find alternative ways to bring the best out in your candidates.
Meeting the family
Rarely would you take the relationship to the next level without some input from family and friends. So do the same with interviewing. Plan for any serious contenders to meet members of the team.
Just as you wouldn’t immediately introduce your new date to your Uncle Burt, (his ‘alternative’ views should be enjoyed by only those who love him), select wisely from your team. Find a team member who won’t sugar coat everything. Or make the candidate run from the building, sobbing.
Often, when being honest about the challenges in tough roles at interview, I have seen a glint in the candidate’s eye. That glint is the same you see in a new girlfriend who wants to tame the bad boy. That commitment is already there to make a difference but they know it is not going to be easy.
Going into a marriage with secrets is a bad idea. Likewise when employing someone under false pretences. They will almost certainly leave.
Don’t rush it.
Just as you would be unlikely to propose after a first date, use the same caution in offering a job after just one interview. Candidates that have had a more thorough interview process feel like they have been chosen for what they can bring rather than grabbed to fill a gap. It is easy to think about the cost of additional interviews, and the delay this will cause. But think of the cost of a bad decision made in a hurry.
Job offer : Proposal
The decision is made. The question popped. They accepted!
Would you really ignore your fiance from the proposal until the wedding day? Well, this happens too often in the new job world. And guess what, just as most people have a moment of pre-wedding jitters, your new hire may be having the same doubts about taking this job.
You don’t want to lose them after all this work.
Regular contact to reconfirm that you are delighted they are joining, you are planning for their arrival and that they have made a tremendous decision is critical.
Prepping for the new job : The wedding planning
Unfortunately, just like with a wedding, planning for a new job can often be done more enthusiastically by one side than the other. Sadly, it is often the candidate that shows the most initiative. Buying new suits, testing out the commute, booking onto the intensive course for the language they said they were fluent in.
On the other side, the planning may be a little lack lustre. Ignore this planning at your peril. You know how it feels to start a new job. Make sure it’s a great experience for your new hire. You will want to make sure all their equipment is ordered, all their training is set up and you have scheduled meetings with anyone that will help them be successful.
Imagine you have your future mother-in-law looking over your shoulder if that helps you focus.
First day : Wedding day
The big day has finally arrived.
The day that disappointment is not an option.
The new employee is on time, resplendent in their new outfit. The family and friends, although not there with them, are routing for them. (The father secretly relieved that someone has taken his child on). You need to make your new hire feel like this is the best decision they have ever made.
A great first day needs structure. You need to make them feel welcome, excited and that this is a place they will be successful.
The first few weeks : The honeymoon
Oh the unbridled optimism of the honeymoon! Everything should feel exciting and they should feel justified in this big decision they have made. Your planning should stretch beyond day one so they get a real feel for your company and become productive even faster. Keep it varied – a honeymoon shouldn’t be boring. Throw in some surprises, maybe a trip to another site, a day with one of the guys on the road, a call from the CEO. Think about everything they need to know to help them succeed in their job and feel loyalty to your company.
The first month and beyond : Married life
This is where things become a little more familiar. You know what winds them up and what makes them laugh (although, just like marriage, this doesn’t always go the way you expect)
Reality starts here – and is it good or bad? Is this the job they were looking for? Are they the employee that you hoped they would be?
I asked a 95 year old friend recently what had been the secret to his long and happy marriage. We could learn a lot from these simple points.
“Listen. And talk. And listen some more.”
If you don’t do this, you won’t spot the warning signs that they may be about to stray. Tell them what is happening in the business and what is planned for the future. Share as much as you can and listen to how they respond.
“No one is perfect.”
As you get to know each other, you will understand how to best make the relationship work. They are never exactly 50:50 give and take. But do make sure it is not perpetually unbalanced. Focus on their strengths and put their weaknesses in perspective.
Make each other happy
“I was always happy to come home”
If you want to keep staff, make your business somewhere they want to keep coming back to. They want an environment that is supportive and productive. Where they feel like they belong.
In all reality, you don’t know how many anniversaries you will be celebrating with your new hire. But an amazing first year should set the foundations for a long and happy future together.
Any other similarities I have missed? Let me know in the comments.
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