Impressions count. We all know about first impressions—easily formed, enduring and difficult to change.
They influence how we think about an organization and whether we want to continue to do business or be associated with it. Some suggest that if the initial experience is negative, it will take as many as 20 positive experiences to overcome that unfavourable first impression.
Unfortunately, the opposite is not true if the first contact creates a positive first impression, which is much more fragile. A single bad experience can undo the benefit of several positive experiences.
Jan Carlzon understood this. His 1987 book, Moments of Truth, introduced the phrase to the world of customer service. The then-president of Scandinavian Airlines provided this explanation of what a “moment of truth” is:
“Any time a customer comes into contact with a business, however remote, they have an opportunity to form an impression.”
Most of these encounters are brief, seldom lasting more than 15 seconds.
The impact of moments of truth isn’t limited to customer service. The concept is equally applicable to hiring and keeping staff. There are many times when potential and current employees will form impressions based on what they experience, which will have an impact on your ability to attract and retain the right people.
Just like the SAS employees described in Carlzon’s book, what you and your staff do will influence the impressions that will be formed, from the point of first contact to when the employee resigns or retires.
Let’s look at some of these moments of truth (I expect that you will identify others, which are specific to your organization):
- When a potential employee first encounters the organization as a consumer of its products or services – How were they treated? Did the employee who served them seem committed to the job and knowledgeable about the product? Was the service efficient? Did this feel like a place where they might like to work?
- When a potential employee sees recruitment advertising – What message does the advertising convey about your organization: exciting or boring? Does this seem like a place where they would like to work? Do the organization’s values seem to align with those of the potential employee?
- When the potential employee is contacted to schedule an interview – Is the applicant treated with respect? Does the call feel more like an invitation than a summons? Is information about the interview presented in an organized fashion?
- When the candidate is interviewed – Is the interview conducted in a professional way? Do the interviewers seem organized and knowledgeable about the position? Is the interview panel introduced and welcoming?
- When the candidate is offered a job – Is the offer made by the soon-to-be boss or some other significant player within the organization? Does the candidate feel that the employer is excited about her joining the organization?
- When the new employee arrives on Day One – Does the newcomer feel he was expected? Is the organization prepared for his arrival? Does he feel welcome? Is he introduced to other staff? Do they make the newcomer feel welcome? Is there an opportunity for the newcomer to contribute on Day One?
- When the new employee receives feedback for the first time, whether positive or negative – Does the employee receive feedback on or soon after Day One? They should, and it should be positive. Other feedback should reflect a commitment to the employee’s growth, not to find fault or attach blame.
- When the new employee meets customers for the first time – What is their attitude towards the organization (likely influenced by their past experience with the organization)?
- When change occurs – How are new initiatives introduced? Is staff consulted before change is implemented that will impact them? How is staff prepared for change?
- When the supervisor demonstrates the relationship (or lack thereof) between the organization’s mission statement and values, and what happens on a day-to-day basis – Are day-to-day actions consistent with the organization’s values? How well do these values align with those of the employee?
- When there is bad news – How is it reported? Is bad news suppressed?
- When the employee requires supplies or equipment to do the job – Are they available when required? How easy are they to obtain? Is staff expected to make do with what’s ready there?
- When the employee provides input or makes a suggestion – How is input requested? How is it received? Is input welcome?
- When the employee responds to an employee satisfaction survey – Is anyone really listening? What happens as a result of this input?
- When another staff member resigns or retires – How are they treated? What is said? Is their contribution celebrated or do these employees just slip away unnoticed?
- When the employee receives recognition – Does recognition include the five ingredients of GREAT staff recognition—Genuine, Relevant, Explicit, Appropriate and Timely? How frequently are staff members recognized?
- When the employee attends a staff meeting – What is its purpose? Are meetings about being told what do or opportunities for managers to listen to input? Are meetings productive or a waste of time?
- When training is offered – Is it job related? Is training directed by management or does staff have a chance to shape the training they will receive? Will what they learn help staff members’ reach their career goals?
- When the employee is ill or is facing a family emergency – Is the employee treated with courtesy or made to feel guilty for inconveniencing the organization?
- When the employee decides it’s time to leave – How is he treated? Remember, he will talk to others about his experience, including potential applicants.
What moments of truth influence the impression potential and current staff form about your organization? What can you do to ensure that all these incidents lead to positive impressions? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box.