Oh, Those First 90 Days!

The first 90 days of ANY relationship…employee-employer, customer-company, boyfriend-girlfriend, player-coach, etc…is, BY FAR, the most important & telling period of all!

Data will clearly demonstrate that you lose the most employees during their first 3 months on the job.

Same goes for customers, love interests, team members & just about anything relationship you can think of.

It’s the most fertile period as well for building a solid bond, a sense of belonging & togetherness, on a most impressionable party.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to care too much during this time.

IMPOSSIBLE to teach them too much or too often what it’s all about.

IMPOSSIBLE to hold their hand & provide a safety net too much.

IMPOSSIBLE to show them that you’re the real deal enough.

Whatever time, money, resources, attention, etc. you spend on these “90-dayers”, be they employees or customers, it will be, BY FAR, the very best investment you could ever make in business.

The very best investment you could ever make.

This is when they’re most likely to make that ever-important decision…

“Do I stay or do I go?”

It truly is “make or break time”!

They have very little history with you. They don’t know if their current apprehension or nervousness is simply temporary or a true sign of what’s to come. They can’t look back on the “good times” and take a more “holistic” look at their current situation.

And for all you leaders out there, these newbies don’t know you from a damned hole in the wall & have no idea whatsoever the kings of leader you are.

Unless, of course, you show them!!!

The best thing a new boss ever told me was when I assumed responsibility for CitiPhone (for the Brooklyn/Long Island/Staten Island Region) in September of 1983.

First off, I never even interviewed for the job. I was informed by senior management that they would be “extremely pleased” if I accepted the position.

And I had never even met my new boss, John Gang!

But he was a great guy & quickly put me at ease…

“You come highly recommended. Just take it easy. It’ll be a good 6 months before you even start to feel comfortable in your new position.”

(Thank you, John!)

And regardless of how “wonderful & magnificent” your new hire training program may be, it is NEVER enough to completely & effectively teach your new employees what they need to know.

To be comfortable.

To be successful.

Not nearly enough, especially since you’re doing all this in a sterile, stress-free environment.

I don’t care how many tests you administer, nor how many role plays you conduct, nor how many practice calls or transactions or whatevers you have to help bring them up to speed.

They still have NOT experienced what it feels like to spend an entire day out there in the real world.

Or learn to basically, sink or swim on their own.

Or venture out into the deep end of the pool with their li’l floaters on their arms.


And happiness.

Everything that you now take for granted (what’s on the cafeteria menu…how HR can be a useful resource…the employee handbook…sick child in the morning…a back-up babysitter…all the benefits/services/assistance that the company provides…tuition reimbursement…what nice, affordable places are nearby for lunch…what’s the best route to take to work…how does this overtime thingie works…how we select days off & vacation time…who are the go-to people in our area…what to expect when dealing with other areas…what freebies & discounts are available to employees…how do I apply for a different position or a transfer…what happens if I find my car has a flat when I’m leaving or going to lunch…can I wear headphones…what are some of the no-no’s with the dress code…how do I address our boss & senior officers…where are the best places to take a break…etc., etc., etc.) is totally new & different for those employees.

I have ALWAYS been a proponent of the buddy system.

Assigning (asking) a senior member of your team to “foster” a new/junior member of the organization.

Scheduling their lunches & breaks together.

During slow periods, giving them time to sit together & review difficult cases/calls/customers, handle questions, resolve possible issues, etc..

The new employee needs to keep a notebook of ANYTHING & EVERYTHING for which they’re not 100% comfortable or knowledgeable…everything they handled that they considered “difficult or complicated”.

And while you should always use different people to “sit with & shadow” your new employees once they leave the training classroom (as volume & staffing capacity permits), they should have a consistent & regular “senior buddy” with whom they can ask the dozens & dozens of other questions they’ll have during their first few months on the floor.

I’ve always referred to them as “buddies”.

The other day, in LinkedIn, I saw them referred to them as “ARRIVE AMBASSADORS”.

They will:

– Motivate
– Support
– Network
– Self-reflect
– Learn
– Inspire.

Seriously consider this hands-on approach as new employees join your organization.

Although administered quite differently, the same basic philosophies with work well for your new customers as well.

You should proactively place a call to them during their first 30 days to ensure that they fully understand their statement/bill, see if they have any questions, determine if they’ve had an issue (perceived or otherwise), realize what helpful resources are available to them (Customer Service, client officers, on-line capabilities, branch offices, mobile apps, etc.) & so forth.

Place another call during the next 30-60 days to see if there’s an additional product or service from which they could greatly benefit.

Perform a complete financial profile if one has not yet already been completed.

Continue to make them feel that they have people who care about them.

In summary, since the first 90 days of EVERY relationship is the most important…in terms of attrition, predicting future success, establishing a sound & profitable foundation, creating knowledgeable & empowered employees & customers…you just CANNOT do enough to ensure everyone emerges from this volatile & disruptive period with a great base upon which to build a wonderful & long-lasting relationship.

Assume they know NOTHING about their job, assignment, responsibilities, account, benefits, etc. and take TANGIBLE, PROACTIVE steps to improve their knowledge & understanding.

And DON’T merely rely on their questions as determining what areas need to be addressed.

One of my favorite – – and most appropriate – – sayings is…

“You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it!”

Oh, one more thing (and I know this’ll piss off many of my friends/associates/colleagues that are involved with Training)…

Do NOT trust that what the new employees are being taught in new hire training is correct, complete, understandable & appropriate!

Listen, when it came to certain things in business, I’ve forgotten way more than most people (including the so-called “experts”) will ever know.

That’s one reason why I ALWAYS maintained a very close working relationship with our Training organization & with the individual trainers themselves.

It was NEVER, ever done to “one up them” or brag or point fingers at them.

It was ALWAYS intended to ensure that my people got the very best possible training experience & that our Training organization realized that things are ALWAYS changing & that there’s ALWAYS room for improvement.

You learn something new…every…single…day.

Without fail.

Once you stop trying to learn, or lose that burning desire to increase your knowledge & hone your skills, then it’s time for you to find something else to do.

I always challenged my people that if you ever believe you “know everything” (or even enough), I’d be happy to give you a little test…and bet my weekly salary against a couple of hours of your wages!

And there were so many things that I didn’t know!

Just imagine what your newbies are going through. One sign of a great leader is the ability to put yourself in your people’s shoes & imagine what it’s like to do their job.

Every day.

And as you’re thinking to yourself right now, “Hey, Mike, I started out doing their job…I know what it’s all about!”, just think…

Were you doing it yesterday?

That’s one reason why, back in NY, I always tried to have my managers spend 1/2 day every 2-3 weeks doing their people’s jobs.

I ain’t from Missouri, but show me!

Good luck with the challenges you face going forward. (And even if you’re not a supervisor or manage people, you can still greatly help your organization by sharing YOUR experiences, especially what you went through when starting a new position, to help improve things going forward.)


As always, thank you so very much for listening!

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