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Posted: February 22, 2013

Logo mug versus paper cup

A look at the onboading-probation distinction

Merit Gest

In a recent Vistage presentation, Chair Phil Liebman, posed a question that sparked an interesting debate about the distinction between a probationary period versus an onboarding period.

The conversation came about as I was sharing my top 10 list of tips to instantly improve your onboarding process.  Number five on the list is “create a care package of your company logo gear, wrap it and have it waiting on the new hire’s desk on day one, or send it in advance of their start date.”  

One of the CEOs said that he gives one logo item on day one, but they don’t get the water bottle until day 30 and on their one year anniversary they get the sweatshirt (and he proudly added that it comes wrapped).  Essentially, he has created a probationary environment.

You can onboard people into your company from two distinct perspectives.

  1. Prove to me that you are good, and then I will invest time and money into you.
  2. I will invest time and money into you now so you can prove that you are good.

The challenge for business leaders today, especially self-made successful leaders, is that they were not onboarded well themselves, and yet they still thrive.  From our vantage point we did it, so they can too.  Why should I have to have a formalized onboarding plan? I didn’t need one.

Maybe you don’t need a formalized plan for onboarding.  Maybe you have a brand that attracts top talent and you have managed, but not excessive, turnover.  Or maybe you have those things because you have a formal onboarding plan.

Imagine you are a new hire.  You walk into ABC Company for your first day, excited about your new position and are immediately introduced to several co-workers, each holding a logo coffee mug.  They hand you a Styrofoam cup and inform you that you’ll get your own mug if you make it after 30 days.  How would you feel about your new job?  If they said, “You’ll earn your own mug after 30 days” would that make you feel any better?

A mug costs $5.  After all the expenses incurred in the recruiting process it seems silly to try to save the price of a mug.  Give them the mug and the water bottle.  In fact, give them everything you can as soon as you can because that’s where your buzz will begin out there in the marketplace.

Every new hire knows there is a probationary period.  If you wait until they pass your test, sink or swim, you may save the cost of the mug, but you may also discourage a potential top performer.

In any small way you can make your new hire feel like part of the team, do it.  The sooner they feel connected, the sooner they will put in the effort you are looking to see during the probationary period.

You will get more out of a person by demonstrating evidence that you value them than you will trying to incent them with aspirations of their own logo mug.

Merit Gest is President & Founder of Merit-Based Development, a Denver based firm specializing in on-boarding top sales talent.  She is one of a small handful of specialists in the world certified and trained in Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Transformation Tools, giving her a unique perspective for hiring, on-boarding and retaining top sales talent.  Reach Merit at 720-980-1286 or Merit@MeritGest.com
 

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Readers Respond

Love this article!! Need to show it to my accounts!! Jane Bruce Promotional Products Expert By Jane Bruce on 2013 02 22
Agree with you completely, Merit. In today's employment world where workers often expect not to be valued, a little love (with a logo on it!) is a small price to pay to welcome that new employee. With an inexpensive bit of branded product, you're letting a new hire know that you're glad you brought them onboard and confident in the choice you made, not skeptical of their ability to succeed in your workplace. By Sandy on 2013 02 22
I love the coffee mug challenge - that could be used as a question on one of those "What type of personality are you?" tests (multiple choice answers, of course) designed to pigeon-hole us to perceived traits. By Vicki on 2013 02 22
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