As I mentioned last week, consistency is extremely important in talent management. Once you’ve built a relationship and impressed top talent enough at the interview phase to make a hire, you need to continue that good experience when they start their role. A signed offer letter isn’t the end of a process, but the start of a new one.
There are two big mistakes I see at this point: one, going silent — you’ve built a strong relationship with the candidate, and a lack of communication can make them feel less motivated to get started with you (or worse, they'll continue looking for work prior to their start date). And two, that top talent you hired CAN’T perform their best if they aren’t given what they need to do their job from the start, which can mean a waste of time and money you spent on the process to woo them.
So how do you continue that strong relationship with your new employee while empowering them to perform their best?
With a good onboarding experience. We can talk about candidate communications (including post-offer communications) another time. Today, we are focusing on getting your new hire ready to make an impact.
Onboarding is the process through which you give your new employee the tools, information, knowledge, and skills they need to do their job effectively. First impressions are important, and onboarding is also the first real impression your new team member is getting of working for you. So it’s also the time to make them feel like they made a good choice when they chose your company.
An onboarding process is going to look slightly different for every company and every role, but there is a simple formula I like to refer to (and follow) when thinking about how to onboard someone. It’s a combination of people, processes, and platforms:
Who are the humans your new team member needs to know in order to get their job done?
These can be internal or external to your organization — sometimes getting to know a vendor or customer can be a pivotal moment in a successful onboarding.
Don’t limit your new team member by only making obvious introductions — onboarding is not just the time to introduce them to the colleagues they’ll interact with everyday, but also the ones who they may not overlap with often. In some ways, those introductions are even more important at the earliest stages of employment since, if you don’t make the intro, they may not get to know necessary team members for months.
For example, one of my favorite onboarding pairs to match up is a new account executive on the sales team with a product manager. Enabling the relationship between these two, while their day-to-days don’t always overlap, will help get customer feedback to your product team quicker. Not making that intro won’t obviously hinder your new account executive for a while, but their work won’t be as strong as it will be when that relationship finally gets established.
What are the processes your new team member needs to learn to get their jobs done?
Every role has standardized processes — and if they don’t, it’s probably time to start building some. It’s important to remember that every business is different, and while you might have hired an experienced engineer, you need to indoctrinate them into how YOU build your product.
If you don’t have processes documented, preparing for a new hire is a great chance to do so. Spending time now writing down how something works (and adding that documentation to an internal wiki, how-to guide, handbook, or similar ephemeral document) will pay rewards in the future. Documenting your processes is also an inclusive act — forcing new hires to hunt this information down can overly rely on someone’s comfort to reach out and ask for help. As the employer, it’s your job to ensure all team members have the support and access they need to be successful.
Finally, think expansively and holistically here. Teaching a new hire how you use Slack or Google Calendar is as important as ensuring they know how to request PTO or use your ancillary benefits.
What are the tools (usually software tools) your new team member needs to understand in order to get their job done?
This is a great in-your-down-time bucket. During onboarding, there will be periods of time when a new hire doesn’t have much to do. I’ve seen success in creating a list of tools your company uses and linking out to recorded product walkthroughs or help docs to share with a team member. Once they have the basics of the system, you can dive deep into how you specifically use that tool at your organization. That process both gives your new candidate something to do and will also make those tool deep dive meetings much more efficient.
While these three buckets are incredibly helpful to ensure you are onboarding effectively, feel free to get two birds with one stone. There is likely a team member a new hire needs to meet who is also the architect of an important process. Get both of those introductions done in the same meeting — just be sure to be clear that the intention of that time is for both personal introductions AND learning a process (not just one or the other).