The Business of Architecture, Part Two

Evan Spurrell, a Designer at Forum Phi, is influenced by new experiences and continual learning. As such, she is continually making efforts to educate herself and stay up to date on where the architecture industry is heading. Check out her latest post below.

The Power of First Impressions

You don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression. This is a common piece of advice people get before important first encounters such as interviews and first dates. It is critically important to put your best foot forward when meeting someone for the first time because, right or wrong, first impressions tend to last. The enduring influence of first impressions can be explained by the human tendency to use confirmation bias and the halo effect. Confirmation bias is the inclination to reaffirm existing beliefs. The halo effect is the tendency to use an impression of a few traits of a person to evaluate their entire character. This inherent human tendency to reaffirm and magnify our beliefs is why first impressions can be so influential. The power of a good first impression also applies to new hires at company orientations.

The impression a firm makes during the onboarding process can be impactful and long-lasting. Thirty-three percent of employees decide to stay or leave a job within the first thirty days of employment. Retention rate and productivity can be drastically increased with a strong onboarding process. A positive first impression can help support the company’s brand. A good first impression has a further influential reach than just the employee themselves.  A new hire’s network will most likely ask about the company shortly after onboarding. As a brand leader, it is important to consider what you want them to say. A positive orientation experience instills a positive attitude about the organization, inspires better communication, saves time, promotes the firm brand, and improves turnover rates.

Onboarding Employees

Onboarding helps introduce new employees to the business, the job, and their coworkers. Effective onboarding is critical to engage new hires and to build trust in the company’s competency. The firm’s goal should be to help ease their new employee’s transition by making them feel welcome, establish expectations, and set up the new employee for success.

Best practices for onboarding new hires:

  • Initiate communication before the employees start date.
  • Give the new employee a welcome package. Have their equipment, tools, and workplace ready for them when they arrive.
  • Help the employee understand the job and organizational expectations.
  • Make the employee feel welcome by getting the whole company involved. Set up one on one time with the new hire and key employees. Feeling socially accepted is a huge factor in employee success and helps foster interdepartmental collaboration.
  • Communicate the culture
  • Make the first day memorable
  • Find out current level of knowledge
  • Provide learning opportunities such as a formal training program for work and cultural aspects of the firm
  • Keep a schedule
  • Help them understand the impact of their job
  • Set realistic expectations. Provide short term and long term goals, assessment criteria, and a career path.
  • Formally review performance after a couple months to give feedback
  • Allow new hires to give feedback about the company
  • Don’t expect too much too soon. It takes about 8 months for employees to hit their full potential


A First Glance at Forum Phi

On my first day at Forum Phi, I got into the office, got some coffee and office provided breakfast and sat down with one of the partners for an orientation meeting. I was given a tour of the office and introduced to all the team members. I was assigned a desk which came fully equipped with a set up computer station, office supplies, a personal file cabinet, a bell (to alert the office when I needed it to be quiet for a phone call), a duck (to squeak if I didn’t like a song), and an orange jumpsuit (to wear for marketing if I decided to take a powder morning). I knew from my orientation meeting that I would be training for three weeks and then assigned to a project manager. I was introduced to the person who would be training me over the next few weeks, Ryan Lee. He sat me down and exclaimed, “Listen, we are under water right now and really need you to skip training and get started.” As he said this he plopped a set of drawing on my desk and walked away. I sat there for the next ten minutes flipping through a set of documents that didn’t make a lick of sense wondering what to do next. I looked around but everyone had seemed to disappear. Just as I started to get nervous Ryan Lee came back to my desk cracking up. It had been a prank the whole time. He was laughing, I started laughing the tension was broken and we lightheartedly got started on training. After that, I went to a group lunch with the partners and project managers which was a nice way to get to know some of the other employees. Everyone came up to me later in the day to ask how the prank had gone. It was a fun way to get to know everyone and definitely helped bring me up to speed with the culture of the office. At the end of the day, I was invited to happy hour with a few people from work. I got home that night feeling like I had made an amazing decision to become part of the Forum Phi team.

Implementing a positive onboarding procedure helps instill a positive attitude about
the organization paves the way for better communication, increases productivity, reduces anxiety, improves employee turnover, and increases happiness at the workplace.