Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Tale of Two First Days – Part 1

Sometimes the best way to illustrate an idea is to give an example or tell a story.  For onboarding, we wanted to illustrate two company’s approaches to orienting a new employee by describing their first day on the job.

In this post, we’re going to follow Gus Morrow on his first day on the job at Lee Enterprises.  We apologize for the length of this story, but as you’ll see, for Gus it was a very long day.

The next post will follow another employee on his first day at a new employer.

Gus Morrow drove up the driveway to Lee Enterprises’ head office at 8:25 am to ensure he’d be ready to start his new job at 8:30.

When he got to the security gate, the guard asked who he was and the purpose of his visit.

Gus explained he was a new employee and that this was his first day.

The guard checked his briefing notes and told Gus he wasn’t on the list of employees, nor was he on the list of visitors expected for the day. He made a call to the main office and then directed Gus to park in the parking lot and showed him where the main entrance was so he could check in with reception.

When Gus got to the reception desk, the receptionist asked him the purpose of his visit.

“I’m just starting today as Director of Marketing. My name is Gus Morrow.”

“Oh. In that case, I’ll have to call HR for you and get someone to look after you.”

After about 10 minutes, a woman came into the reception area and walked over to Gus.

“Hi. You must be Gus Morrow. I’m Sheila McKay. I’m the payroll administrator here. Let’s go back to my office, and we can start you on the paperwork to get you on payroll.”

While Gus was filling in his tax forms, Debra Harris, the Director of Human Resources popped in and re-introduced herself.

“Hi, Gus. Welcome to Lee Enterprises. It’s good to have you here. Wish I could spend more time with you, but I’ve got an important meeting to attend. Sheila’s going to show you around and introduce you to people here.”

first day on the jobSheila started out by taking Gus over to his office. Judging by the disarray, his predecessor must have left on short notice.

Sheila said, “You remember meeting John Holmes, our VP Marketing? Well, he got called to New York for a meeting this morning and won’t be back until Wednesday. I guess you can make yourself at home here and go through some files, read some magazines and maybe re-organize your office until he gets back. Here’s a copy of the employee manual. You can read it over as well”

“Is there a computer here I can use so I can start doing some competitive analysis?”

“Oh. We’ll have to put in a requisition to IT to get one for you. It shouldn’t take too long to get one for you. Maybe a day or two.”

Around noon, Gus was starting to feel hungry and poked his head out his office door. Everyone around was gone – presumably for lunch.

Resignedly, Gus grabbed his jacket, headed out the office and got in his car. He’d seen a Burger King on the highway into town and headed there.

When he drove back to Lee Industries, he went through the same routine as before with security.

“You’re supposed to scan your passcard here whenever you leave and re-enter the grounds. Don’t forget it next time! And where’s your parking permit. You need that, too.”

Gus has to be buzzed into the office area by the receptionist because he didn’t have a passcard, and headed for Sheila McKay’s office. She wasn’t there, so he found a pad of foolscap and wrote a quick note for her indicating he needed a passcard.

About 2:30, Sheila came round to Gus’ office and said, “We need to get you set up with a keycard. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll do that.”

In a small room off the HR department, Sheila took a photo of Gus and laminated a passcard for him. He reminded her he also needed a parking permit, so she dug one up for him.

On his way back to his office, Gus stopped to introduce himself to some of the other employees.

“We heard there was a new guy coming on board, but we didn’t know they’d hired someone”

“Nice to meet you! I hope they treat you better than Joe, your predecessor. They had security hustle him out of the office one Friday afternoon and he was screaming for them to take their hands off him.”

Just after 3:30 the phone rang. After racing back to his office, Gus just missed the call. He picked up the handset to access his voicemail, but the new design of the phone was hard to figure out, and there was no internal phone directory to figure out how to contact anyone.

A few minutes later, Sheila came to his office and said John Holmes was on the line for him. What was Gus’ extension so she could transfer the call? Gus went back to the phone to check, told Sheila the number and shortly thereafter, the phone rang once again.

“Hi, Gus.” Holmes said. ”Sorry I wasn’t able to be there on your first day to show you around, but something just came up with General Thermo, our biggest customer, and I got called to their New York office just last night. How’s it going?”

“Great”, said Gus. “I’m settling into my new office and getting things organized.”

“Which office did they put you in?” asked Holmes.

“308. Just down the hall from you” replied Gus.

“Dammit. They were supposed to put you in 302 – right next to my office. I’ll talk to Sheila and have her help you move down the hall. I don’t know why they put you in 308.”

By the way, I’d like you to spend tomorrow with Damien Cox, our VP Sales. I think you met him when you were interviewing. I’d like him to take you to visit a couple of customers tomorrow. Sales is going to need some marketing help on product design for these customers and it’d be a great way for you to see what some of the issues are in the field.”

“That’d be great”, said Gus. “Do you have any business cards for me to help introduce myself?”

“Oh, great! Another thing we forgot about! Ask Sheila to help you order some from the printer. Good luck tomorrow!”

“When do you get back to the office?”

“Probably Thursday.  General Thermo’s got a new product they’ve developed and I’m bringing in a team to look after them. It’s good news, but it’s thrown a monkey wrench into getting your oriented. I’ll call you Wednesday morning to see how things went with Damien.”

Sheila and Gus got together to work on Gus’ business cards.

“OK. So my office is going to be 302, according to John Holmes. What’ll my extension be? And do I have a direct dial number?”

You extension will be 302, same as your office, but I’ll have to get someone in IT to tell me what the direct dial number will be.”

“What about my email address? What’s that going to be?”

“That’s another thing we need from IT. I can have someone come see you tomorrow to set those up.”

“I’m going to be out of the office with Damien Cox all day tomorrow. Can we make it Wednesday?”

By 4:30, Sheila and Gus had managed to move all the files down from 308 to 302.  Gus spent the next half hour trying to work out how best to organize things.

It was just after 5 and, when Gus emerged from his office and looked around, all the other offices were empty. He turned out the lights on his way out of the office area, rode the elevator to the ground floor and started out for home.

When Gus got back to the parking lot he couldn’t find his car.  He headed for the front gate, described the vehicle and asked the security guard if he’d seen it.  The guard checked his notes and told him a car of that description had been towed away early in the afternoon.  Apparently, it had been parked in the VP HR’s spot.

Gus sighed, got out his cellphone and called for a taxi.



Here are some things to consider when commenting:

  • What was Lee Enterprises doing wrong in bringing Gus Morrow on board?
  • What did they do right?


Our next post will describe Chad Spencer’s first day at Amalgamated Industries.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Onboarding

In the United States, a typical job tenure is two to four years. Each year, about 25% of the workforce experiences career transition whether it be through layoff, termination or just a desire to progress one’s career.

The unfortunate truth is that nearly half of all executives who move into new jobs leave them within 18 months of being hired. This has been verified by several sources. The Corporate Leadership Council reported that nearly half of new executive hires quit or are fired within the first 18 months at a new employer.  Harvard Business School reported a 40% to 60% failure rate of US executives in 2003.  Right Management consultants indicated that about 30% of new managers and executives fail at their new jobs and leave within 18 months.

We estimate the cost of turnover is about 35% of an incumbent’s total compensation (which considers recruiting fees and lost productivity among other things). With that in mind, for every $100,000 in executive compensation, this kind of turnover is costing $35,000 per year.

Some of these failures could be attributed to a lack of fit with the organization that wasn’t apparent during the recruiting process.  Perhaps skills fell short of expectations and were not up to the task.  You may want to believe all your employees are happy about the new guy, but what about those who feel they were passed over in favour of an outsider? But a large part is a function of the employers not doing enough to help ensure these new employees get off to a good start with their organization.

Onboarding a new employeeA recent study of onboarding practices by the Olinger Group of Chicago, sponsored by benefits consultancy ALEX reveals some startling data on how effective – or not- employers’ onboarding practices are.  The survey collected inputs from 400 employees, representing a cross-section of age and seniority.

Only slightly more than half of the employees surveyed (52.3%) indicated their employer had a formal onboarding process. Another 37.5% indicated there was NO formal onboarding program in place at their companies. That still leaves about 10% who did not know if there was an onboarding program, which probably means there was none.

Note the emphasis on “formal”.  All companies have some form of onboarding process.  Usually, it’s ad hoc or just informally structured.  Companies that have the lowest turnover rates have clearly defined processes for onboarding new hires.

The first day on a new job is a defining moment in an employee’s experience.

In the ALEX/Olinger study, 72.3% of respondents indicated they received no welcome message from their new supervisor. One in five did not have a desk on their first day, another quarter had no computer and over a third had no phone or voice mail on their first day.  Does this sound like their employers planned for their arrival?

Just under a third (27%) of new employees say they arrived to their first day of work without having received a first day agenda.

Feedback is lacking.  Nearly 44% of respondents indicated they received no formal written review of their progress from their manager within their first 90 days on the job.

There’s clearly a difference in the effect of onboarding on employee satisfaction. For those companies with formal onboarding processes, 71% of new hires rated their job satisfactions as “Very satisfied” or “Somewhat satisfied”. Without formal onboarding, employee satisfaction dropped to 25%. “New hires are nearly three times more likely to be “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the new job experience when their employers have an onboarding program in place.”

Aberdeen Group’s 2012 report, “Onboarding 2012: Accelerating Time to Performance” noted a couple of key items.  First, among companies with best-in-class onboarding, 71% of new hires were rated as “Exceeds Expectations” vs. only 13% at companies with poor onboarding processes.  Second, those companies with best-in-class onboarding observed an 11% improvement in employee retention while those companies with poor onboarding saw a 13% decrease in employee retention.

If you still think onboarding isn’t important, consider this. There’s significant payback in terms of customer satisfaction and customer retention that impact your bottom line. Companies with great onboarding processes realized 6 times the customer satisfaction and 5 times the customer retention rate compared with companies with poor onboarding practices,


Next week, we’ll walk you through what a good first day on the job should be.

Welcoming your new employees

This is our first guest-post on our blog, and we are honoured to have Leona Wilson of Armillary Business Group contribute this article on welcoming new employees.


Have you ever gone to a social event, walked in and then realized you didn’t know anyone? Are you at the right place? Will anyone speak to you? Will you be left alone with a drink in your hand looking for someone….anyone to connect with? You start to second guess yourself. Why am I here?

That is the welcoming experience many people receive when they start their new job. All the time you spent finding this person to help you build your business just went poof!

So why does orientation matter? It helps  your team member validate the decision they made to come and join you. Starting a new position is a risk for both of you but more so for them. They left another position or they are just happy to have this opportunity to work with you. Keep in mind they have been out looking for a great opportunity. Flight risk if a better…friendlier offer comes along is really, really high at this time.

Welcoming handshakeAn effective orientation is a welcome they will not forget. It will help keep the anticipation and excitement high. Have you heard the quote: “Begin as you mean to go on?”

If the person reports to you then you be there on the first day to show them around and help them get to work. Show them how organized and well run your operations are by being fully prepared for them.

Set up a list of all the things they need to know, people they need to meet and tools they need to get busy. Talk to them about how long it will take to get fully up and running. They know what they are doing but they don’t know your way of doing things. This is what orientation is all about.

Generally the process will take at least a week if not longer. It really depends on how complex the position is.

How to make a bad impression:

  • Not being there when person arrives
  • Desk, phone, and laptop not ready.
  • Forgetting to tell staff ahead of time.
  • Not showing the person around the office. The coffee is here and the bathroom is there.
  • Not introducing them to the team.
  • Leaving the person alone on their first day for lunch.
  • Not explaining when pay day is.
  • Not showing where the Health & Safety bulletin board is or the First Aid kit.

We haven’t even touched on your legal obligations to provide training. There are a minimum of three!

Planning for a warm and effective start to the working relationship is easier than you think. Plan to protect your investment in staff. Give them a welcome they will never forget.


Leona Wilson, CHRP, CEBS, CMS is President of Armillary Business Group Corp., an HR consultancy that focuses on helping entrepreneurs build their business with effective human resources practices. She can be reached at 905.609.5273 or


This is the first in a series of posts on an often-overlooked business process: onboarding new employees.  If you think taking a new employee around the office introducing them to other employees is onboarding, you’re missing out on an opportunity to get rapid payback on your investment in your new employee.  Stay tuned and we’ll show you how.


You’ve just terminated one of your employees. Now what?

In some respects, the termination meeting is the quickest part of the process: there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be done.

As you disengage from the dismissed employee, there still are plenty of items to take care of – not only for the dismissed employee, but for other remaining employees and people outside your organization.

ABusinessman after TerminationDMINISTRATIVE ACTIVITIES

Your HR department will need to complete a Record of Employment (ROE), which the employee will need to qualify for unemployment benefits.  This states when the employee started and when they were terminated as well as the reason for termination.  By law, this must be provided to the employee no later than 5 days after the termination and there are strict penalties for employers who fail to file an ROE – $2,000 fine or up to 6 months imprisonment – so don’t skip this step!

Payroll will need to do a final reconciliation on wages, commissions (if applicable), vacation allowance, benefits and withholding taxes. Also, you should prepare a T4 for the employee and provide that to the him/her, while also filing with CRA.  Should you have to pay out a settlement to the employee as a result of a negotiated claim, you also need to ensure this is properly recorded on the T4 and declared to CRA.

If the company has a pension plan, the pension administrator will need to provide a T2033 E form so the employee can either take the pension entitlement as a lump sum in cash or transfer it to a Locked-in RRSP.  If the employee has sufficient service to be fully vested in the pension plan, the employee may opt to receive a company pension.  This makes sense when the termination is due to a layoff.

Most insurance carriers allow employees to continue to participate in a health, dental and/or life insurance plan (though at a higher premium than they might have been paying as an employee). so you should have something from your carrier that outlines what options the employee has.  COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act ) exists in the US to enable employees to maintain health coverage while they are in transition.

Some employees may have been entitled to company equipment, such as a company car, phone, laptop/computer etc.  Usually, the smaller items can be recovered while the employee collects his/her personal effects. 

Of these, company-owned vehicles are probably the most difficult to recover – especially if the employee works outside the office.  Since employees will use such vehicles as their primary mode of transport to and from work, if the employee works out of your main office, we suggest you have someone drive them home or arrange for (and pay for) a taxi to take them home.  If the employee vehicle is away from your main office, contact your leasing company to determine how they wish to handle the return of the vehicle.


If you are using an outplacement counsellor, that person should be provided complete details on the employee’s exit package so the counsellor can go through it with the employee.  You can also have someone from Human Resources sit in to help ensure all the employee’s questions can be answered.

This will allow the counsellor to explain the things that are probably topmost in the employee’s mind at this point: will I be paid? How much will I receive?, What happens to my benefits? How do I qualify for unemployment?

The counsellor is specially trained to assist the employee in handling the emotional impact of dismissal – whether it be grief or anger.  Very few executives have such training or experience.

If you have agree to offer the employee an outplacement program as part of their severance package, the outplacement counsellor can explain to the employee what their options are and how to participate in the program.  Most outplacement programs are modular and include such things as assessments, resume writing, networking and other job search skills. Often the program has some flexibility, so the counsellor can outline the options the employee can take – perhaps more resume support or interview coaching than the standard program – so the employee gets a program that matches his/her needs while also coming within the budget the employer has allowed for. 

The outplacement counsellor will most likely suggest the employee take some time to review the company’s settlement proposal and suggest he/she have it reviewed by a lawyer to ensure it the employee’s rights have been addressed and to assess the fairness of the offer.  Having a lawyer review the agreement is one of the employee’s fundamental rights: they do not have to immediately sign back on the company’s offer.


When one person is terminated, the office rumour mill will churn.

“Is this the first of many?”   “Will I be next?”  “What did Joe do?”

As soon as possible after the termination meeting, you should immediately have a staff meeting with those who need to know. Tell the staff briefly what happened and why so you can clear the air.

It’s important, once you have concluded the termination meeting, that you post an announcement so the entire office staff are informed of the employee’s departure and so that normal business routine is maintained. This actually is something you should have prepared in advance so you don’t lose time while trying to compose something.  We recommend you do so using neutral language, otherwise the employee could have grounds to sue for defamation.  Common phrases used are “… has left the company to pursue other interests” or “… has resigned from his/her position”.  This allows the departing employee to save face with his/her peers while informing office staff the employee will no longer be part of the team.

The announcement should also specify how the functions of the employee should be handled internally.  If the employee held a supervisory role, specify who the employee’s direct reports will report to.  If you have a replacement selected, you can announce that.

Remember to brief your receptionist on what to say to outside personnel who call in asking for the terminated employee. He or she is the first contact most people outside your organization will encounter when they call or visit your office.

If the employee liaised with a number of people in other companies, it may be worth making a personal visit – or at the very least, a phone call – to each client, customer or partner to ensure continuity and to explain whom they should communicate with inside your company. If you have appointed a replacement/successor, then it is even more important to accompany them to meet with external contacts to help introduce them and pass the relationship on to them.

Consider having an auto-response email set up to inform people outside the organization that the employee they’ve sent an email to is no longer with the company.  That’ll be much better than having incoming emails to that employee bounce and can be set up in advance so it can be activated during the termination meeting.


Usually, it’s best to have a staff member accompany the employee while he/she collects personal items from their office.  This is to safeguard against an employee removing company documents or damaging company property.  If the employee is especially trustworthy and professional, and the termination is more of a layoff than dismissal, you may want to consider allowing them to clean out their office without supervision.  This shows trust in the employee and it will be noticed by other employees.

If the employee is comfortable with it, clean-up can be done immediately after the termination meeting.  If the employee is concerned about image and/or privacy, make arrangements for the employee to come back in after hours, but ensure you have a staff member on hand to provide them access to the office and to supervise the collection and packing of personal items.


If you follow the guidelines we’ve presented here, you’ll be treating your employees fairly and significantly reducing your risk of being sued for wrongful dismissal.  You’ll be helping your former employees move on so they can concentrate on finding their next opportunity.  if the dismissed employee was a trouble-maker of under-performer, you might even see an improvement in morale among the remaining employees.


In this series, so far, we’ve discussed the process of terminating an employee in a professional manner.  What if you’re thinking of leaving your current employer on your own volition?

There also is a professional way to quit, and we discuss that in the December issue of our newsletter, GRAY MATTERS.  If you’d like to receive a copy, go to our CONTACT page and complete the form there.

The Termination Meeting


The first thing you must do is to get the employee to the room where you will deliver the news that the employee will be terminated.

This can be done, for example, by sending someone to the employee to ask you to come to an urgent meeting with you.  This is much better than personally confronting the employee in an angry tone and asking him or her to accompany you to an office (or worse – your office)

Let’s start by showing you how NOT  to conduct a termination meeting, using a clip from Up in the Air” , a 2011 movie starring George Clooney as an outplacement consultant who travels the globe, to illustrate. 

Note how the meeting is being conducted via videoconference, not in person. The employee being terminated is in a room by himself. What’s worse is the people leading the termination are actually in the next room.  This is an example of a very impersonal, callous way to terminate an employee.

Ms Keener doesn’t get to the point of the meeting(though we’re sure the employee knows) by leading off with saying we’re here to talk about your options. Her conversation doesn’t seem natural and the stilted delivery probably makes things even worse for the employee.


Last week (and as above), we suggested you do the termination in person.  However, that does not mean you should do it alone.

We strongly suggest you have a third party attend the meeting to serve as an Observer.

This could be another employee who is at least one of your peers or it could be someone from Human Resources.

The Observer’s primary role is to serve as a third party who can substantiate the flow of the termination meeting should the termination result in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. Underlying this, the Observer’s role is to verify the termination is done without prejudice or malice and that the employee’s rights and privacy were respected.


When you are ready to deliver the news, think about how you would want the news to be delivered if you were on the receiving end.  Empathy for the employee’s situation will significantly reduce the stress for the employee – and for you as well.

It’s best to get right to the point and tell the employee at the outset that they are being terminated.

Usually, employees anticipate when they are about to lose their jobs, so, when they meet with you, they are waiting for the news to be delivered, and the longer it takes to hear the news, the more stressful the meeting becomes for them.

The best approach is to start out with something like, “ Good Morning, John/Jane.  I’m afraid I have some band news to share with you.  We have to let you go effective today.”

You should then describe the reasons for the dismissal.  If it’s an economic decision, explain how the company has been faring.  If it’s dismissal for cause, you must re-iterate the steps the company has taken with the employee to improve his/her behaviour and that this is the final alternative.

At this point, it’s important to convey that the decision has been made and is non-negotiable.


The whole meeting should last only 5 – 10 minutes and, once you’ve asserted the company’s decision is final, you should prepare to leave the room.

Before doing so, you should stand up, shake the employee’s hand, look them in the eye and thank them for their service/contribution to the company and wish them well in their new endeavours.

DO NOT say things like “You should have no trouble finding another job”.  Not only can this backfire in a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit, it can sound dismissive of the employee and the emotional impact of the termination.

The best – and easiest – way to disengage is to have an outplacement consultant on hand who can either be brought into the meeting room or who could be waiting in an adjacent private office.

“I know this is a lot to absorb, so we’ve brought in John Smith from Outplacement Experts to help take you through the rest of the process.”

Here’s another clip from “Up in the Air”.  Watch how diplomatically Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, handles a hostile employee.

Note how calm Bingham remains throughout the meeting. We think this helps him maintain control over the flow of the meeting and turn a negative situation into something constructive.

He makes a significant step in turning the meeting to a more positive tone by demonstrating that, although he is not an employee of the company terminating the employee, he has researched the background of the individual and identifies something the employee is passionate about.  The meeting takes a more positive tone as Clooney’s character suggests the termination represents an opportunity for the employee to pursue something he IS passionate about.

You also see in this clip, how Clooney’s associate fails to engage the employee because her language is stilted and formal and comes across as academic instead of empathetic.

Because the Clooney character is a consultant brought in to do the firing, he also is prepared for the follow-up (you see this in other clips) and has a package prepared for the employee to review.  


Normally, a termination is done one-on-one.  A possible exception is when you are laying off large numbers of people, in which case you can bring an entire group (e.g., a shift crew) together to present the news.  You’ll have to be prepared for an emotional backlash driven by group dynamics, in which case it’s important to remain calm to maintain control over the meeting.  It’s probably a good idea to have breakout sessions immediately afterward – ideally one-on-one or at least small groups – so the employees can meet with someone from Human Resources who can answer their questions, guide them through their packages and provide some emotional support.  In a layoff situation, it’s less about employee performance and more about company performance that has resulted in the layoffs.  Be honest about prospects for a recall or how long the layoff might last.  If the outlook is bleak, say so, and advise the employees to actively seek alternative employment so they don’t waste time by hoping for a recall and foregoing a job search while they exhaust their unemployment benefits.

The preparation remains the same; the execution is modified for the numbers involved and the situation. 

So far, we’ve shown you how to prepare for a termination and how to present this to an employee.

Next week, we’ll take you through the aftermath, to show you some of the things that must be done under regulation as well as some things that go beyond what is required under law.

A Professional Approach to Termination

Terminating an employee is one of, if not the most stressful task for a manager

Businessman after TerminationWe all have to face the fact that some day we are likely to be terminated – whether it’s for performance, company financial distress or relocation – so, when we must terminate an employee, it helps to think how we would like to be treated when it comes out turn.

Most employees have some sense their job is in jeopardy before they are fired.  Despite this, the act of being terminated often leaves them feeling humiliated, anxiety-ridden and immediately powerless.

Whether they saw it coming or not, the three main concerns in the mind of someone you are firing often tend to be related to the following areas:

  • How do I leave the job site with some semblance of self-respect, and with the information and materials I may need to help me in my job search?
  • What will I tell my significant other/family/friends etc.?
  • How will I afford to stay afloat now that I’m unemployed?

Here are some guidelines to help you conduct terminations in a thoroughly professional manner.

Prepare your case

If the reason for termination is performance-related, please ensure you have done written performance appraisals on at least an annual basis so areas of deficiency are properly documented.  Also have some documentation on the steps you and the employee have agreed to to address these areas of deficiency and the progress achieved.

Choose a good time

A good rule of thumb to follow is to not dismiss an employee on a Friday or immediately before a holiday.

Once the employee has shared the news of their termination with their loved ones, they’ll need access to a support network: a lawyer to review the company’s proposed settlement, friends to talk to about job prospects, the unemployment office to apply for benefits.

Termination immediately before a period when business is not conducted (as in just before a weekend) deprives the employee access to the supports and increases their stress level while they await an opportunity to move on.

There are many schools of thought on the best times to conduct a termination. We believe early in the week is much better than later in the week; morning is preferable to afternoon.

Do it in person

At the senior level, terminating an executive is not something to be delegated to HR or someone else.  Have the courage to face the employee and tell them their services are no longer required, and provide a reasonable explanation why.

Do NOT terminate an employee by e-mail or phone call.  It may be convenient for you as a manager, but it comes across to employees as distant and impersonal

Don’t do it alone

Have a colleague with you for the termination meeting.  This could be someone from Human Resources or someone who is at least a peer of the person you are terminating.

This can help ensure you are properly following company policy, and provides an additional set of ears to hear what is being said and by whom.  If the person is from HR, they can assist the employee at the conclusion of the termination meeting to clarify the next steps, how company benefits will be handled, how to apply for unemployment benefits etc.

Concluding the meeting

At the conclusion, shake hands with the employee and wish them the best in their job search.  Again, it signals respect for the employee because you demonstrated the courage to face them with the bad news.

After the Meeting

After the termination meeting, leave the room immediately.

However, this is also the time when the employee feels most vulnerable and without support.

Having an outplacement consultant on hand to come in at this point can have a powerful positive effect on the whole scenario.

You’re indicating you’ve anticipated the employee’s concerns about job search and that the company is doing something to support the employee in this regard.

The consultant, who usually is trained in crisis management, also can serve as a sounding board for the employee, so they can express their emotions as well as assisting them in collecting their personal effects and making a graceful departure from the company premises.  Keeping the atmosphere calm is also important because it reduces the stress on remaining employees, many of whom could be wondering if their turn is coming next.

The outplacement consultant is not someone who will defend the employee.

Having company security escort a dismissed employee off the premises should be a last resort.  It comes across as heavy-handed, which will have a negative impact on morale and most employees, when terminated, are too devastated to destroy company property.  Security DOES make sense if the employee is being terminated for cause or has a history of destructive behaviour.


Our next post will take you through the termination meeting.


Other resources

We found a good article about terminations in the Braun Consulting’s blog.  Check it out here.


Business Card Design Ideas

Being More Creative

We’re going to show you some examples of good business card designs to help you visualize how they could be done.  We’ll discuss each card to make it clearer to understand what we like and what makes it effective.

Business Card DesignOur first example is a card for Gordon Drake, a fictitious international business development executive.

Gordon’s card has lots of white space, which makes it inviting to read.  The bar on the left side serves as a visual anchor to draw the reader’s eyes back to the beginning of each line.

On his card, Gordon’s name is bold, clear and at the top.  He’s added that he holds an MBA, which should elevate him in the eyes of potential employers.

Just below his name, he states his professional role – International Business Development Executive.

He’s used a simple graphic device (the arrow) that suggests growth, which is how he contributes to his employers.

Below the graphic device are a series of attributes.  “Building Teams” shows leadership.  “Inspiring Excellence” suggests engagement. “Generating Results” show bottom line orientation as well as success.

At the bottom, Gordon has his contact information – physical location as well as his email address.

About the only thing we see missing is his LinkedIn profile.

Now, let’s take a look at my own card.

Personal Business Card Design ConceptI designed my card around a theme or positioning statement, “I Open Doors to Transform Businesses”

I took three different stock photos and combined and manipulated them to have the image of an open door.  The image fades to the left so the text doesn’t have to fight with the graphic elements so much.

Apart from that, you’ll see similar treatment to Gordon Drake’s card: the name is dominant, I added my professional designation and MBA, contact information is complete.

You’ll see I added my LinkedIn profile, which I personalized, so people can easily find my profile on LinkedIn.

On the reverse side, I incorporated two QR codes.  One is a link to my LinkedIn profile; the other is a link to my VideoBIO.

I added the QR codes for a couple of reasons.  First, QR codes signify a comfort level with new technologies.  In the case of the VideoBIO code, it enables a link to a video that someone can view on a smartphone or other device, so it dramatically expands the amount of information about me that can be carried on the card. The LinkedIn QR code allows someone to view my profile to learn more about my background – again more information than the card was originally intended to carry.  Lastly, not many cards have QR codes on them, so it helps my card stand out from all the others.

The last example is from another fictitious person, John Smith.

Business Card Design ConceptI chose this one because I found the design striking yet simple.

The red and black graphic device at the bottom of the card is visually stimulating.  John has cleverly tied his name to the visual theme by using the red for his first name and the black for his second name.

He’s positioned himself as a “marketing expert” just below his name.  In the sidebar to the right of his name, he’s even listed his specialties, where he also has phone and email addresses.  There’s also a link to his personal website.

You’ll note there’s no mailing address or LinkedIn profile shown.  He could do this on the back panel, if he wanted. However, I also chose this to illustrate how a female job seeker could have a striking business card without disclosing a home address.Personal Business Card Design Concept

Designing an Effective Business Card

Here are some tips to help you create better, more effective business cards.

Information to include

     Mandatory      Optional
  • Your name (include degrees and professional designations.
  • *Mailing Address, if female
  • Your Profession
  • A Logo or graphic device
  • Mailing Address*
  • Positioning phrase
  • Phone Number
  • Mobile No.
  • Email Address
  • Personal Website
  • LinkedIn Profile URL

Design Considerations


The fonts you use should project professionalism, so stick with standard fonts such as Times New Roman, which is very traditional, or Helvetica/Arial, which is clean and modern. There are lots of other similar fonts available as well. 

Avoid unusual or artsy fonts. They may make your card look funky to you, but potential employers might not find them appealing.

Some fonts tend to print smaller in the same point size than others. The font Copperplate for example will look like 6 point while set in 7 point. Keep this in mind while testing your card.

Use a single font family throughout your card. Mixing fonts makes you look disorganized and unprofessional.  Within a single font family, you are free to use different sizes, bold, underline and italic styles.

Your name should ideally be in 12 point type. We suggest using boldface for your name to help it stand out from everything else.  Normally, your business card would be set up so your title would be the same point size as your address details or even 1 point smaller. For job search, your title defines what type of position you are seeking, so it’s more important than ever. Make your title smaller than your name, but no less than 10 points.

Your address and phone/email information should be no smaller than 6 points. Anything below this will be hard to read. A good target for most body text is to use 7 to 8 point.


Unless you are going to have your cards professionally printed, avoid having borders close to the edges of the card or graphics that go up to the edges.

A clean simple background is probably the best.  Dark coloured text, printed on white or light coloured stock is more readable than white text printed on a dark background.

Avoid cluttering the face of the card with too much information. It will no longer be inviting to read and does not look professional.

Develop a one-line slogan

If what you do isn’t immediately apparent from your business name, create a one-line slogan that will help people remember what you sell. Include the slogan on your business card.

Make your card readable

Use (or insist your designer uses) font sizes that are big enough to be easily readable without using a magnifying glass. Be sure the type color stands out against the background of the card, too. Light gray type on a white card makes it hard to distinguish letters and numbers. Remember, your goal isn’t to produce a work of art. It’s to produce a business card that clearly communicates what you do and how to reach you. If recipients can’t read the contact information you’ll lose sales.

One Side or Two Sides?

In most cases, printing all your information on one side of a card will be sufficient. This leaves the back of the card clear so people can make notes as you speak with them.

If you have particular skills you want to highlight or promote, you can list these on the back side of the card. This helps you avoid having a front side that is cluttered with information, However, still try to leave room for note-taking.

Printing a second side can add a small premium to the cost of having your card printed, but usually not much. You also can purchase print-it-yourself card stock that can be printed both sides to experiment with layouts until you are satisfied enough to have them printed professionally.

Make your card stand out from the rest of the pack

Yes, your business card may wind up stuffed in a desk drawer with a stack of other business cards. Make it stand out from the rest by using bright colors, including your photo on the card, or using high gloss card stock.

Have your business cards printed on good card-stock

If the card feels flimsy or looks like you printed it yourself on a cheap printer, it will leave people with impression that they are dealing with a small company that will disappear as soon as the owner finds a real job. Have your business card professionally printed on good heavyweight business card stock.

Although some of the preprinted paper that you can buy to create your own business cards is heavy enough to pass for a “real” business card, most people will get better results by having their business cards professionally typeset and printed. Professionally printed cards may cost less than the print-it-yourself variety, too. If you order business cards online from a site like Vista Print, you’ll pay about $20 (or sometimes less) for 500 full-color professionally printed business cards. (Shipping is extra.) By comparison, good, heavy-weight preprinted business card stock that you use to print your own business cards is likely to cost you $30 to $40 or more — and that doesn’t include the cost of the ink or toner to print them.

Be careful about high gloss coatings.

High-gloss coatings can add brilliance to your card that helps it stand out from all the rest, but they can create problems as well.

The very high-gloss coatings used by printers are UV cured and usually contain waxes or silicones that can make it difficult for someone to write notes on your card.  The more common gloss coating that most printers use is water-based and can be written on.

Advice for high gloss coatings is to use them on the front side only and leave the back side uncoated or coated with the normal grade of coating so people can take notes.  Another alternative is to use a high gloss coating only on select areas of your card – e.g., a logo or your name.   The contrast between high gloss and little or no gloss helps make these elements stand out, though expect to pay a premium for this type of treatment.

Print your own cards if you don’t have time to order them elsewhere

If you need cards in a hurry because you’ve run out of them, the print-it-yourself variety is a viable option. Avery’s Linen Textured Stock has a good feel to it and prints beautifully on an inkjet printer. For best results, use the “Best” printing mode of your inkjet printer. If you follow Avery’s directions for separating the cards, there are no tell-tale rough edges or perforations.

The most important element on business cards are text sizes. If your text is too small, clients might struggle to read information on the cards. There should be a visual balance between the size and position of the address and the name and title.


Be sure to print your business card a couple of times while designing it. If printing on standard sized copy paper, take some effort to cut away the rest of the paper to see if the layout balances well.

An Example

Here is an example to illustrate some of the principles we’ve set forth:

Anatomy of a Business Card


Our next post will show you some examples of business card designs to give you a better idea of the creative scope you have.



The Importance of Business Cards

Why We Need Business Cards

One thing I find especially frustrating at networking meetings is when people have no business cards. 

For those of us who are older, not having a business card makes it harder for us to remember a person’s name or other details.

Business Cards NetworkingUnless you’ve run out because you’ve been deluged with contacts who want your card, not having a card at a networking meeting is a cardinal sin and a sign of not being very well-prepared.

Some people complain that it’s expensive to get them.  It’s not.  You can get business cards for under $30.  You can even design and print off your own cards at home for under $30.

Others complain they can’t afford a designer to do their cards.  Many printers have templates you can use that have 4-color professionally-created designs and offer these free in return for your business. Even Microsoft Office has free business card templates you can use.

Here’s why you should have business cards with you at any event you attend.

Clarity. Business cards carry your contact information in a small, easy-to carry format that anyone can use.

Relationship building. After shaking hands, the exchange of business cards is a signal of interest in continuing a relationship. In effect, you are sharing your personal contact information with someone else.  It also makes it easier for the other party to follow up with you at a later date because they have your contact information – and in an easy-to-read format.

Image. The design and materials used in making your business card convey messages about who you are and what you stand for. A cheap-looking business card on poor quality stock can make you or your company look untrustworthy. A heavier card stock feels more substantial, and can suggest you pay attention to the details.

Promotion. Business cards can tell someone what type of business you are or what kind of profession you belong to. One rule in networking is to let people know what you do and what you are looking for.  Without that information they will have a hard time helping you.

Memory Aid. When you hand someone your business card it can help them remember your name and/or business.  They can write notes on it for future follow up.  By giving them your card, you’ve made it easy for them to work with you.

TIP:  When you receive someone’s business card and you wish to make a note, write what you can do for that person.  It helps keep you in a “giving” frame of mind, always a factor for successful networking.

Business Cards for Job-Seekers

As soon as you find yourself in transition, no matter what your previous profession, you are in sales – selling yourself to prospective employers. A business card is one of the most important marketing tools you will ever create to support your job search.

The business card identifies who you are, what you do and how to contact you to help networking contacts understand how they can help you.

As a part of your personal brand image, your business card should make you memorable, distinctive and professional.


Our next post will describe the essential components of a good business card and provide some design suggestions.

Getting back online

On Sunday, November 30th our website was hacked by an unknown attacker and all our content was deleted.

We recognize that, as executive recruiters, we are in a role whereby we have access to personal details and data.  To respect  and protect the privacy of our candidates and associates, it has been our policy not to include personal details in our website, but rather post information under generic alphanumeric codes.  As a result, the hacking of our website did not allow any personal information to be released.

Fortunately, we have backups for all our web pages, so we are now in the process of restoring our site. As we do so, we’re also taking the opportunity to improve navigation across the site to make it easier for visitors to get to what they’re looking for faster than before.

Over the course of the next week, we’ll be re-posting our old blog posts as well as restoring the archive of newsletter articles.  Once we’ve done that, we’ll return to our editorial calendar and resume the series of posts on onboarding new employees.