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DIY Recruitment – The ‘Rule of Four’ and Your New Hire

Getting someone to start with you is only the beginning of the employment relationship. The first 4 minutes, the first four hours, the first four days and the first four weeks are the critical milestones in laying the groundwork for the success and longevity of your new hire.

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner
Young woman offering a handshake

Finding the right person for your job is the first step. Robust and rigorous interviewing and reference checking comes next. And then you negotiate the salary and start date. Job done, right?

Not quite!

Getting someone to start with you is only the beginning of the employment relationship. The real work of performance and productivity has really only just begun. And you have a short time to ignite the spark and make sure your new team member doesn’t question their decision to join you, or be so nervous about it that their performance suffers.

It’s what I like to call ‘The Rule of Four’

The first 4 minutes, the first four hours, the first four days and the first four weeks are the critical milestones in laying the groundwork for the success and longevity of your new hire.

The first four minutes

Humans subconsciously start making decisions within 9 seconds of an interaction. That is, they’ve already decided if they like a place from the minute they walk in. A new hire’s arrival at a new job will set the tone for everything to come. The first four minutes of their experience will subconsciously determine how enthusiastically and openly they engage from that moment forward. Here’s a few great tips to make sure you make a great impression on your new team member:

  • Make sure they are expected – give your receptionist (or whoever will be the first point of contact) everything they need to know to make the person feel welcome – name and the job they’re coming to do are critical.
  • Make them feel welcome – a smile, a handshake, a ‘great to meet you’ will make them feel valued.
  • Have their desk or work area already set up – I always love a little vase of flowers or a welcome card to be sitting there waiting for them too.
  • Have their computer and phone (if the job requires one) all ready on their desk for them, along with the logins they will need to get started.
  • If you are the person to whom the new hire will be assigned on their first day, be on time and preferably be there to meet them yourself.

The first four hours

This is when you really win their hearts and get their confidence level high. Remember, they are still on an emotional journey – you want them to keep getting signals they’ve made the right decision to join you. The first four hours is the introduction to what should be a really comprehensive induction program. This is the time to appeal to their emotions and get them excited about being part of your shared purpose.

Try not to save time by jumping straight into the technical training for the job because if they don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and how important it is to the business, no amount of technical training will make sense.

Use these first hours to:

  • Share the company’s history, journey to date and vision for the future. Include some slides of photos etc from way back when, so they can get a feel for the passion and effort that has gone into getting the business to where it is today.
  • Talk about the company’s client base and the types of businesses they like to do business with.
  • Share the organisational chart so they can see where they sit in the bigger picture. I recommend you update this before they start so they can see their name already there! No bigger sign that they are a welcome addition to the team than that.
  • Explain their role and the context in which it has been shaped – e.g. if it’s a customer service role, what is the most important reason the role exists? Why is it critical to the business? This is a great opportunity to sit down and run through the Job Description with them.
  • Do a quick run through of the key people in the organisation and what their responsibilities are
  • Do a walk around and introduce them to everyone in the office – even the people they may not have much to do with
  • And don’t forget to do your mandatory WHS induction, pointing out the loos, the lunch room, the local coffee shop etc on your way!

The first four days

It’s easy to think that someone has got everything they need on the first day but it’s what happens in the days after that which reinforces all the work you’ve done on that first day. There’s no point in making someone feel really warm and fuzzy on their first day and then leaving them to their own devices, dazed and confused and uncertain of what they should be doing. You don’t want to be sending the message that they were important yesterday but you don’t care much about them today.

Over the first four days, buddy them up with one of your high performers. Let them be an observer for a while, listening in on calls, watching how things get done, understanding the ‘tone’ of the company.

Observational learning is the most powerful form of learning when we are in a new situation. Giving people the chance to watch, listen and learn in these early days is way more effective than ramming facts and instructions down their throats.

During this time, their buddy (who is ideally a good trainer) will get them to complete a few tasks so they can get an ‘on the job’ training and induction experience.

If you can, give your new team member some scheduled time with other key players who they will be interacting with once they are in full swing. It’s a great way to build that relationship while they’re getting an idea of what their role is.

Then, at the end of those four days, grab a coffee with your newbie and get them to share how they’re feeling, what they’ve learned and what they still don’t understand so you can answer their questions and make them feel secure.

The first four weeks

In most cases, your new team member will be ‘on the job’ in their own right in Week 2 of their employment.

Ideally, you’ll be informally checking in with them regularly to see how they’re going so you can catch any issues quickly.

At the end of their first month, sit down for an hour or so and do a formal In Probation Review. This is not to judge their performance to date, it is simply a chance to check in properly and see how things are going, identify any training requirements that are needed, chat about any concerns either of you may have and set the scene for the next month.

Additionally, it does give you the documentation you require if for some reason, things aren’t going well and the person may not last the 6-month probation period.

The things you want to cover in this first review meeting with your newbie are:

  • How are you feeling about the job and the company generally?
  • Is the job what you thought it would be? If not, what’s different?
  • Do you think you’ve had the training you need to do the job? If not, what training would you like?
  • Have you had the support of other team members throughout the settling in period?
  • Is there anything you’d like me to clarify for you – about the job, the company, our processes?
  • Have you been getting paid on time and correctly?
  • Do you have any suggestions for how we might be able to improve on the Induction Program at all?
  • How do you think you’re doing in the job? (You will then respond with your own thoughts about how the person is going so far).
  • Talk about the highlights of the job so far. And the moments that haven’t been quite so enjoyable.
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share.

You’ll then chat about what your expectations are for the person in the next month and agree on any training that needs to be delivered or any other required actions that may have come out of the chat.

I haven’t come across a single person who resents this one-month review. Quite the opposite – they see it as a demonstration of how much you care about how they’re settling in and confirms that everything they’ve experienced to date is authentic – you are a caring Manager in a company that values its people.

What happens after four weeks?

First of all, make sure you deliver on anything you promised at the four week review. Then allow the person to really ‘own’ the role, make some mistakes and have some wins. Each time supporting them or celebrating with them. And then, following a similar approach as before, do another review at the end of Month 2, and Month 3.

By this time, both of you will have a good idea if the relationship is working or not. If it’s not working, the employee feels they’ve been supported through the process and not set up to fail and you have the required documentation to satisfy the Fair Work Act if the agreement is to part company.

On the other hand, if the relationship is going well, which it will be if you’ve recruited, inducted and trained well, these regular check-ins will have boosted the person’s morale and confidence to the point they will be rearing to prove what else they can do.

You’ll be pretty much guaranteed of a successful End of Probation discussion at that all-important 6-month mark.

A happy, productive employee in just 4 weeks

A successful employment relationship is about so much more than the job that needs to be done. Winning people’s hearts as well as their minds is a proven way to build happy and productive teams.

Taking the time to invest in the small things that matter to new starts in this critical early period of the employment relationship will set both you and them up for a long and happy time together.

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Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner

Bernadette Eichner, Cofounder and CEO of Just Right People, is a recruitment industry entrepreneur and thought leader in Australia, totally committed to improving the recruiter experience for clients and candidates alike. Her secret to life is to “just do the next thing that needs to be done”.

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