Earlier this month, I ended up running a cart for the
two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day at one of the
local malls here in Minneapolis.
I had actually planned only on putting up the money.
One of my friends was going to run it.
But the day before we were scheduled to open, he
got a call about a relative that had taken sick, and had
to leave town for much of the two weeks.
That left me running the cart for most of the time
leading up to Valentine's Day.
It was a Thursday when we found out about the
relative. We opened on Friday morning.
After setting up late on Thursday, I was at the mall
'bright and early' at ten am to open up.
After the initial excitement of getting open was over,
and I'd made some sales... there was a point where I
really got tired.
And could tell I was 'done' for the day. My brain was
fried. And I was ready to go home.
I looked over at the clock behind the customer service
desk, which was next to our cart.
Exactly 1 o'clock in the afternoon.
Even though I was a little tired, this made me laugh.
See... I have a general rule to never, ever schedule a
staff member for more than three hours... on their first
It's my belief that we each have only a certain amount
of free attention units.
As long as we have attention units free, it's pretty easy
to learn new things. We have a place to put everything.
However, once our attention units fill up, it becomes
much more difficult to accept new information. Or to
learn. We've got no place to put the new information.
In general, that's when we start to feel exhausted, and
overwhelmed, and irritated.
I've found it's often about three hours into a first day
that a new hire starts to run out of free attention.
If we continue much beyond three hours with them, they
tend to get overwhelmed and exhausted pretty quickly.
They don't learn very well. And they don't like it. It
doesn't serve them well. Or you.
This particular Friday, I laughed when I noticed it was
exactly three hours into MY first day that it was ME that
started to run short of free attention.
That's when I began to feel a little overwhelmed, irritated
It was a great reminder, because the next day I had
to schedule four new staff members for THEIR first day.
How long did I schedule them to work on their first day?
Two hours each.
Just enough time for them to get in... to get acquainted with
the cart and their responsibilities.... to get a good feel for
the job... to go home.
And to be ready to come back again.
I've found a LOT of how well a staff member likes a job
is determined by their experience on the first day.
If they like working on the first day, they tend to like the
job... and they tend to do better... and sell more... for the
rest of the time they're working for you.
If they have a bad experience the first day, they tend not
to like the job... and either they don't show up again... or
they don't work as hard when they do show up.
You control a big part of how well a new hire likes the
job... by simply controlling how long that first day is.
I limited the first day of my Valentine's Day staff to
two hours. Two hours was easy. Fun. And left them
wanting to come back for more.
Every one of the four people that worked for me over
Valentine's told me how much they really enjoyed the
I think part of that is because I didn't push them too
much... too early.
Want to get the best performance from your staff?
Schedule shifts short at first. Three hours or less.
It leaves them fresh. And wanting to come back.
They'll like the job better. They'll do better for you.
P.S. I've got a good amount of notes from my two
weeks running my Valentine's Day cart.
Keep your eyes peeled for more tips coming up soon....