Day One: you show up early, eager, and overdressed, ready to give it all you've got. After all, when you start that new job, it's "the first day of the rest of your life." Right? Not exactly.
For all the creativity and energy that companies put into hiring the best people, when it comes to welcoming new hires into the fold, most draw a blank. But not all companies are clueless. The best of them have found that, like their recruitment process, their approach to Day One should fit perfectly with the company's larger way of doing business. At Greet Street, for example, a three-year-old San Francisco-based company that offers personalized greeting cards and other multimedia products over the Web, Day One is informal and creative. At Intel - fast becoming the world's most profitable company - Day One is the beginning of an intense, highly structured, carefully measured process that stretches over six months. Here's a primer on two ways to make that first day the start of a great job experience.
When you show up on Day One at Greet Street, there's no HR manager, no personnel office, and no title waiting for you. Everyone at the 30-person company works in the same large, open room, and everyone has the same first assignment: "You walk in, and your job is in a box," says Elizabeth Cox, who joined the company as a promotions manager on January 2, 1997. "Your desk is in a box. Your computer is in a box. Your phone is in a box. The first thing you do is set it all up."
The Greet Street orientation kit doesn't come with a manual - which makes the second phase of the orientation ritual especially important: You talk to every other employee in the company. During your first two weeks, you're expected to get acclimated by sitting in on other people's meetings, talking with new colleagues, and observing how things work. "It's not like there's a mold here to fit into," says Cox. "Things change so quickly in this business that it's important to establish connections."
Step three at Greet Street: You come up with your own snappy job title. It's a tradition that started with the company's two cofounders: Tony Levitan, creator of chaos, and Fred Campbell, creator of substance. "They told me I was going to be a promotions manager," says Cox, "but they said not to put that title on anything. I came up with 10 titles, including 'minister of propaganda,'" but Tony vetoed them all. I finally picked 'pied piper of promotion,' because I want to lead people to our site."
Intel approaches orientation as it does everything else - as a source of competitive advantage. It has to. The company has been growing at an incredible rate: More than two-thirds of the its 65,000 employees have joined in the last five years, and the company has added roughly 31,000 people in just the last three years. To leverage that rate of recruitment, Intel has created a six-month "integration" curriculum for all new hires - a kind of orientation boot camp.
At Intel, your Day One starts before the first day. "We send you a packet that reaches you before you even come in the door," says Mike Fors, manager of corporate new-employee integration. "We want to introduce you to our culture and values, get you some practical forms that you'll need, and reconfirm that Intel is a good choice to be your employer." This Pre-New Employee Orientation packet uses an international theme - "Welcome to the World of Intel" - and includes a passport that doubles as a workbook.
When your actual first day arrives, you participate with other new employees in a day-long session that features a welcome-to-the-company video starring CEO Andy Grove and a briefing from a senior manager on Intel's business strategy, mission, and objectives. Then it's on to that eagerly anticipated, no-nonsense meeting with your direct manager. "It's important to get clear on what we call 'deliverables,'" Fors explains. "These are the tangible results that you'll be held accountable for during your first performance-review period."
The next critical point in the process comes about a month later, when you attend a class called "Working at Intel," a formal, eight-hour introduction to Intel's corporate culture. "After about one month on the job, you're starting to settle in and to do some work," says Fors. "But you need help in learning how to do your work within our culture." And just in case that message isn't strong enough, your coworkers will reinforce it - yearly bonuses suffer if all new hires don't complete the course.
Finally, at the six-month mark, an executive staff member runs you through a question-and-answer session - with the executive asking all the questions. In a structured, two-hour session, the executive covers your transition into Intel and then asks a final, long-term question: What do you think it will take to succeed at Intel?
Fors knows that every response to that question - and there are as many as 10,000 a year - contributes to Intel's overall success. "We believe that our culture has played a major role in Intel's success," Fors says. "We also know that new employees come in with their own experience and expertise to contribute. It's a two-way street."
For more information: contact Greet Street by email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Web http://www.greetst.com; contact Michael Fors at Intel email@example.com or visit the Web http://www.intel.com.
A version of this article appeared in the February/March 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.