I grew up a couple of hours north of where I currently live. While my family doesn’t live in that city anymore, I follow the local newspaper online to stay in the loop about current events in my old stomping grounds.
Recently, I was talking with a friend about various teachers we remembered from our childhoods. I mentioned that since my kindergarten teacher was close to retirement age when I was in her class, it wasn’t likely that she was still with us.
So, imagine my surprise when less than a week later, I came across this article posted on that newspaper’s Facebook page, with a photo of a face I hadn’t seen in decades, but immediately recognized:
The woman on the right in the plaid shirt is Mrs. Berniece Getz, my kindergarten teacher from nearly 40 years ago. What a treat to see that she is not only still living, but apparently active and thriving!
But what struck me most wasn’t the sweet photo of the two friends, coincidentally named Berniece and Berneice, but the story written about them. If you’d like a warm-fuzzy moment, check out this brief article:
Friendship passes the test of time | Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
Such a neat story…in case you didn’t click to read it, I’d like to call out the first few sentences, because there’s a lesson here:
During the middle of her seventh grade year in 1930, Berneice Witmer was forced to transfer when her school in Grabill closed. She felt a little trepidation when she walked into her new classroom at Leo.
“I figured I’d just sit in the back row,” she said. “But when I sat down, a girl comes up and says, ‘That’s my seat. Get out!’”
Forced to move, she was anxiously looking around for a new seat when another girl said, “’Come and sit by me and I’ll take care of you.’ She stepped up when I was desperate.”
And Berniece Conrad did take care of Witmer in the start of a friendship that has lasted 88 years. Now, the two mark another memory as the friends celebrate their 100th birthdays this month.
“Come and sit by me and I’ll take care of you.”
That kind gesture was clearly a turning point for a new student, who didn’t know anyone and was unsure of her new surroundings. She was put at ease and immediately struck a friendship that has lasted for a (long) lifetime.
These days, we probably aren’t expecting most new employees to stick around for a decade, let alone nearly a century. But the lesson here, friends, is simple:
Kindness matters in onboarding.
When new employees report to work on their first day, they bring with them a complex variety of emotions, including excitement, curiosity, and hopefulness…but also anxiety, insecurity and maybe even some doubt. Remember, new employees have chosen YOU just as much as you’ve chosen THEM. How will their experience stack up against the expectations you laid out during the interview process?
As you craft your onboarding strategy, remember that the training, building tours, meet-and-greets, policies and procedures are certainly important factors…but please don’t overlook the importance of the little gestures, and their impact on your business. Those seemingly-insignificant opportunities to get new employees connected to the team and to your organization’s culture really do matter. Studies have shown that the quicker a new employee can become “attached,” the more likely they are to perform at higher levels and remain with an organization longer.
Employee performance and retention = two BIG components of a strategic onboarding strategy.
Regardless of a new employee’s journey with your organization, ensure that their first steps include a warm, authentic welcome….because there really is something magical about it.
Happy 100th birthday, Mrs. Getz!
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