When I joined Surevine my onboarding experience was fantastic, but I wanted to see if there was anything more we could do to make it even better, so back in June I asked twitter what would a great onboarding experience look like?
As always the responses were great. This post summarises what I learned:
Onboarding starts way before a person joins a company
If someone wants to work with you, they will be thinking about it way before onboarding starts. When people are looking for a new job, they want to know what a company is like to work for, almost as much as the salary and perks. No one wants to work somewhere that’s not going to motivate them or make them miserable. Sharing how you work as a company gives candidates an insight into the sort of organisation you are, and whether they might want to work there. Blogs and videos about how you work and publishing your company handbook on the web are great ways to provide that.
Interviews are an important part of building a great experience. All too often it’s forgotten that interviews are a two-way process. The candidate is assessing your company too. If they don’t like what they see, they won’t accept, and worse still they’ll pass on their experience to their peers. At Surevine we try to make interviews as realistic as possible, but fun too. We run “Day in the life” interviews, a chance for a candidate to show how they would work with the team on a real-world scenario. The whole team then gets to know the candidate and see what they can bring to the team in a real practical sense. Most importantly, it gives the candidate a real insight into how we work that traditional interviews do not.
Finally, as Josh Abbot points out, all too often someone is successful and offered a job, and then they hear nothing but silence whilst they work off their notice, sometimes for months. This can be really disconcerting, so make sure to keep in regular contact. Use the time to introduce other people in the company to the new person in a way that’s pressure-free and without expectation, they don’t work for you yet!
It’s a great point Ian and something thats often overlooked. Personally I think “onboarding” should start before your first day. All too many people now have 3 month notice periods and that time gap can cause all sorts of issues....— Josh Abbott (@JoshDigitalTech) June 15, 2019
Make sure you use the time to get the new person setup on all the systems they will use, there is nothing more disheartening than starting a new role and not be able to access anything.
Get them set up on all the company systems before they get there. Makes such a difference to being able to get settled in the first few days.— Roger Swannell (@rogerswannell) June 14, 2019
The first day
There was so much good advice given on making the first day a success. Luke R suggested making the first day a Wednesday to reduce the cognitive load of the first week, and to ensure they you aren’t distracted by the inevitable Monday interruptions:
Have found starting people on a Wednesday not a Monday helps. Day 1 meet and greet, Day 2 this is your role etc, Day 3 work at home and do mandatory training. Weekend to recover. 5 days in a new role is overload before starting— Luke Radford (@radfordln) June 14, 2019
A strong trend was people wanted to know what the companies history, mission and strategy was and how they contributed to it, this was the most overriding theme in the feedback:
“What are your/the high-level goals?” I want to know how you see the big picture, and also that there’s high-level buy-in to solve it. Without that, it’s often hard to do anything meaningful.— Simon Worthington (@51M0NW) June 14, 2019
- corporate strategy and other guidances, ''purpose''— Akiko Kato (@somewellplus) June 14, 2019
- what they want me to do / expect from me (results, communication, way of working, tools to use etc), ''needs''
- org structure, who's who, team(s) to work with, anything that I should be aware, ''who''
I like at lot of what others are saying. Culture, history, values.— harry bailey (@HarryBailey) June 14, 2019
Communication channels and expectations.
Security details like users / email etc and access to them.
What you can say no to.
Any regular meetings.
Any team members with specific needs or preferences.
1. Company history, values, culture & vision— Trainual (@trainual) June 14, 2019
2. Office tour - where everything is and how to use things like the fancy coffee maker!
3. Meet the team
This was closely followed by more pragmatic advice such as, where can I get good coffee, how do I communicate with my team, what are the unwritten rules of the company, and where are the toilets!
1. Where’s good coffee— Deadliftbear (@deadliftbear) June 14, 2019
2. The important stakeholders (and politics/management lines)
3. Institutional blockers
- The expectations of your output over the first couple of weeks.— harry bailey (@HarryBailey) June 14, 2019
- Who you ask when you have a question.
- office access and layout. Toilets, kitchen, meeting etc.
All essentially hygiene items, but then 3 is nowhere near enough.
What’s the dress code?— nicola_tallett (@nicola_tallett) June 14, 2019
Do I bring my own coffee mug?
What do people do for lunch?
You’ll tell me what to do, I want to know how to do it and what’s the culture.
Great question. 1. Time with each team member. 2. Systems & processes that will help me work. 3. Loos, coffee point/cafes, meeting spaces.— Ed Griffin (@EdjGriffin) June 15, 2019
A great template for sharing the important day to day stuff with new starters is Sarah Carter’s induction trello board. I’ve borrowed this board a number of times, including at Surevine, and it saves me so much time remembering to collate the useful but small information that gets forgotten about once you have been somewhere more than a couple of weeks.
Each new person can make their own copy and refer back to it over time, and it can get constantly refined and improved based on feedback. I couldn’t recommend it enough. In fact, if you want good advice on anything recruitment or people based follow Sarah!
There were a lot of suggestions to give people a buddy. Sometimes it can be intimidating asking questions of your direct report, even if you try to make it not the case. Having a buddy gives the new person someone they can ask the ‘stupid questions’ without fear of looking or feeling stupid. It helps them to get to know another face in the company too and to get a perspective that they may not get from you. It’s a great way to develop existing peoples leadership skills too.
Spending time with the team was high on the list, giving the team and the new candidate the chance to bond and get to know each other is really important. Going out for lunch together on the first day or week is a great way to form relationships without the distractions of the office.
Hey Ian nice to meet you. 👋 Coming from a big consulting firm, first the Timesheet, knowing your Gallup strengths and everyone gets a brother or sister to help you. 😊— leeeshaari (@leeesdesign) June 15, 2019
Have some set tasks and training goals prepared, and a first day team lunch is always a good idea— Sophie Ashcroft (@ms_s_ashcroft) June 15, 2019
I hope this post is useful if you are looking to improve your hiring processes, happily most of the suggestions were already implemented at Surevine, but we have made some changes based on the feedback to help improve our onboarding experience.