I’ve been working in IT for over ten years and during this time I’ve seen hundreds of onboarding processes. It’s interesting how few organizations truly pay close attention to this element within the big picture of hiring a new employee. And, sure, I was a part of some of these organizations, too. I decided to take a closer look at this process because it seems like a little too much money keeps going down the drain in companies as a result. To make things even more complicated, the monetary effect of a failed onboarding is very difficult to calculate. But let’s take it all from the beginning.
In your professional life, how many times have you experienced or witnessed one of the following situations:
- A new employee joins the company, but on the first day, their equipment is not ready. IT tries to save the situation by handing over some oldie-but-goodie laptop, and saying that they’ll get a new device in a month.
- On the first day of work, the manager of a new employee is not around due to important meetings and a fully booked calendar. The onboarding is therefore delegated to some random person in a team who should “take care” of the new employee.
- It takes 1-2 weeks for the company to communicate to the new joiner what their tasks are
- After three weeks all the accesses and systems needed for performing tasks are finally in place
- When starting a new project, a new joiner has to somehow find all the necessary information or learn what the background is – it turns out that it’s their initiative to obtain all the details and get in touch with the right people.
- On their first day, the candidate comes to the office, having high levels of adrenaline as well as excitement – and nervousness – due to the new job and first meeting with the managers and the coworkers, first tasks, first project, and first opportunities to share their talents with the organization. But no one really introduces them to the team, no one shares any broader context to the company’s operations. And so this very first day and this incredible energy and excitement are wasted and spent on paperwork.
Stop losing money
It might be a good moment to ask ourselves a few questions, like: is my organization doing what they can to ensure that the new joiners feel connected to the company’s culture, mission, and purpose from the first moment they step into the office? Are we aware of their unique, emotional needs of the new employees? (Yes, you’ve heard me right.) And as a manager, do I provide a glimpse of how working for me will help a new team member achieve both personal and professional goals and fulfill their aspirations? It gets even heavier when we think about all that in the context of remote onboarding.
Then also, there are all those promises we made to the candidates during the recruiting process. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to deliver on them, resulting in a poor onboarding experience and a setback to the connection they initially established with the selected candidate.
We have to remember our promises. As a company, as a brand, we made a PROMISE to the new employee that it’s going to be so much better here than in their previous workplace. We gained their TRUST that we’ll help them achieve the next milestone in their career path.
Keep your promises
Onboarding truly is the best time to deliver on the EVP (Employee Value Proposition) and other promises made to the new hire during the job-seeking and candidacy stages. Don’t waste the momentum gained during the recruitment process. Welcome new hires like they are the rock stars you carefully hand-picked. It’s not about spoiling them the very first day – it’s about showing that you do care and that you are as excited about their joining as they are.
Having said it all, it’s only natural that our company pays a lot of attention to the onboarding process. In fact, we decided it’s crucial for us to try and develop the best new hire experience possible because we believe that it shapes the new person’s attitude towards the tasks, the goals, the manager, and as a result – the whole organization. True engagement of employees comes from something more than a monthly paycheck. If a new employee feels abandoned on the first day, week, or month of work, why would they think it’s going to be any different in some future circumstances? Are they going to be always on their own, facing sudden challenges alone and feeling detached from the organization? And if so, why should they care about the company too much?
The transition from being a candidate to becoming an employee should be smooth, and it should serve as a springboard. It should fuel the candidate’s excitement for the new job. Every new employee is a star, and they all have a tremendous motivation to get work done, in the best possible way. Wouldn’t it be great to create an environment where they can actually do that? And wouldn’t it be just the perfect way for creating and maintaining employee engagement the company not only needs, but expects? But in order to do that, you have to create an emotional connection with your employees during the hiring process AND the onboarding. This is the key.
Remote onboarding is our new normal
It’s no news for anyone that nowadays in most tech businesses onboarding has to be done remotely. The year 2020 has turned our world upside down and it seems that there’s no going back to how we all operated in the past. Many managers are pretty sure that to some extent, the new ways of doing business and working are probably going to stick, some of them for good. Truth be told, our company had embraced remote onboarding as an option for our employees quite some time ago, even before this mode became a new normal for everybody. We simply wanted to give our employees flexibility in working from office vs. working from home. We knew from the beginning that ensuring the best new hire experience during onboarding is a tough challenge, but we couldn’t accept the idea of lowering our standards and as a result letting that incredible new joiner’s energy go.
Obviously, currently the remote mode is our default when we first talk with the candidates about their potential work in the company, and this is the default starting point when a new hire actually joins the organization. We also explain how we stay connected and close as a team, how we interact on a daily basis, and what kind of tools we are using, and our ways of communicating. We tell the candidates what it all looks like in practice, so that they know exactly to expect. They are not rules – rather our company culture. The way we are.
So how do we do it?
A carefully designed onboarding process has been one of the most important aspects of our company culture and our way of doing business. Let me share a few key points.
- We decided we want to use our cameras every time when we talk. Really, every time. And we introduce this communication culture from the employee’s first day of work, and then we all stick to it. Why? A couple of reasons. We wanted to create an “office experience” for everybody, but especially for the new joiners. We want the new employee to feel included and we want them to know their manager’s and colleagues’ faces as if they were working together in one office. But also in general, using the camera adds an important extra point to the remote human-to-human interaction, so we decided that as a company we really shouldn’t drop that feature. Extraverts or introverts, all humans need social interactions – they elevate our mood, help us stay healthy, give us all comfort and reassurance. Sure, working from home can be chaotic sometimes (or most of the time), so if anyone feels like blurring their background – no problem!
- Of course, we also stay in touch on messenger, and we decided to go with Slack. Why am I even bringing it up? Well, here’s the thing: when it comes to onboarding, we make sure it’s properly installed and working before the new joiner’s first day. It might seem hardly significant, but it actually is one of the most important things. Too many times I’ve heard a story when the lack of such a small thing as an installed messenger (or e-mail, or some other obvious tool) created unnecessary stress for the new person. Say, they missed a meeting on their first day due to failed communication. You can imagine how a new hire feels when they learn they had a message waiting for them, but they simply weren’t able to read it. On one hand – they do know it is not their fault. On the other, believe me, they freak out about it. This is why I think that if we can eliminate such potential situations, we definitely should, and focus on getting to know each other and also introducing the new joiner to everybody in our group chat.
- We are truly proud of every single person that joins the organization and so we’re introducing everybody on our social media, too. Therefore, on their first day, they get an email with a questionnaire asking them what they like to do in their free time, what their traveling dreams are, and so on. After they send it back, we prepare a post and brag about all the cool people that decided to join our company!
- We also want all new employees to visit our office after they join the company. Even if they work remotely on a daily basis, coming to the office allows them to actually see how the company operates, feel the atmosphere, and meet in person as many people as possible. Of course, we adjusted this step to the pandemic situation, but we are still sticking to the idea. It’s only a few hours, but they allow us to show the company’s working culture to the new person.
- During the onboarding, we of course introduce new employees to all the details on how we operate and give them necessary practical information (work hours, remuneration details, vacation days, benefits, etc.). But also, we dive deeply into other, more abstract areas, which are actually the foundation of our organization. These are for example our feedback culture, transparency, or our ethical values.
- Then also, already during the onboarding, we explain that our way of working is based on trust. I believe that giving the benefit of the doubt encourages a positive attitude and behavior. Our leaders are there for their people at all times, but they don’t interfere or micromanage. The employees can always reach them and discuss whatever’s needed at a moment, and also there are also scheduled weekly one-on-one meetings that are a great opportunity to catch up.
- Now, who doesn’t like gifts? We know everybody does, and so we want to create even more good energy on that first day and prepare a welcome pack for our new joiners. They are little things, like a mug and a lanyard with our logo, plus delicious cake if we have the opportunity to welcome a new joiner in the office. A small thing can bring a lot of joy.
- One of the most important things for the new joiners, especially when they’re developers, is their equipment. Programmers love their gadgets, let’s face it. Brand new solid laptop with 4k 27-inch monitor is mandatory for every joining person.
- When our new joiners open their mailbox, they find a couple of welcoming emails with important links and information. We also give them access to our Know-How, which is our ever-developing manual. Neat and simple, and it makes everybody’s life so much easier! And in the calendar, they find the invitation for our weekly coffee break chat called “Kawówka.” Since there’s no way to meet in person in the kitchen during the pandemic, we invented a recurring Zoom meeting during which all topics are allowed, as long as they are not about work. After all, it’s a talk around a virtual coffee machine, right?
- And last but not least, we not only introduce – we also listen. Although we’re welcoming the new employee in the best way we can, we also know that the new person comes with their own valuable experiences. This is why we encourage them to share their ideas from day one.
Empowered Outsourcing Team
After onboarding at Rite NRG, it’s time for on-site onboarding, being an actual introduction to the client. This is even more stressful for the candidate than onboarding at Rite NRG and that’s why we wanted to make this step smooth and comfortable for the new employee. Most of the time, stress is a result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lack of information. This is why we equip our people with knowledge so that they feel confident. Therefore, we provide the following information upfront:
- What the client’s organizational structure is, who is who, what the team they’re about to join looks like, what the names of the team members are.
- What exactly the client’s company does, what are the strengths of the organization, where they see their advantage on the market, what their values and mission are.
- We know that all the information about the client’s culture is not much worth if we don’t link it to the culture of the country which the client’s from. Therefore, an introduction to the local culture and style of communication is crucial for the employee’s (and project’s!) success. We make sure that we give an overview of all these aspects and nuances.
- And also one of the most important things is to thoroughly introduce the new team member to the project itself. What the project is all about, what its goal is, short- and long term, and what its required environment is.
It’s a lot, right? Especially if one would like to make it in a proper, mindful way. But this is why Rite NRG was born in the first place. This is our mission – we love to do it, and we just LOVE to see a very surprised and very happy client, who truly didn’t expect this smooth and this fast project deliverables from us. One of our favorite client feedbacks goes: “Full team efficiency from month one? Who does that?! We don’t know how you did it, but thank you!”
And do you know what’s the best about it all? When we don’t need these people ASAP, it makes no sense to carry out a long onboarding that lasts for weeks. When you are not forced to involve an engineer in a project straight away, you can review the options and wait until the people who are your best fit arrive. The actual onboarding can be planned in the meantime, and you can therefore make sure the new team member gets up to speed immediately. As a result, the client gets to save time and money usually lost during the early onboarding phase when the new joiners are still not fully effective. Also, if you outsource your project, including onboarding, the risk of choosing the wrong employee is way lower and our project is not in danger. Isn’t that wow?
Let’s sum things up. How do we define whether onboarding was successful? We indicate the short- and long-term goals. If the process was spot-on, the new member of the team is highly motivated and started delivering high-quality work in the first week after joining. The customer notices that and is truly impressed. And long-term success? It’s when our programming rockstar is willing to stay with us for years since they feel they are an important element of the organization. Is onboarding the only key to that? Surely not, but let’s discuss it further in the next article.