By Ryan Paugh, COO of The Community Company
Your company needs a thoughtful onboarding plan, otherwise your new hires won’t settle in properly and may wind up quitting after just a few months. That much you already know. But how should you structure their experience? Here’s how to schedule some of the most essential tasks and interactions before and during your new team members’ first few weeks on the job.
Before the First Day
Finalize the paperwork. Don’t mistake onboarding for orientation; done right, onboarding starts before a new employee’s first day and can last for several months. Since we want our new hires’ first day on the job to be as exciting as possible, we deliver all the standard HR paperwork before they even show up, and ask them to return it before their actual start date. You should also consider collecting more than just Social Security numbers; ask new hires to share some fun info that you can use to make them feel welcome and connected: Where did they grow up? What are their hobbies? What’s their favorite snack?
Share logins to tech tools. The same goes for onboarding to all of our systems and technology platforms. Our company use a complex web of powerful SaaS tools, layers of documentation stored in the cloud, as well as security protocols to keep our information as safe as possible. Before day one, we give our new colleagues limited access to many of these systems, so when they sit down at their desks on that first day they’re already set up and ready to work.
The First Day
Personalized introductions. On Day 1, we like to make a proper introduction on Slack to the rest of the team. But something like, “Team, this is Sally. Sally, this is the team,” is pretty lame. Our managers use the personal information we’ve collected to paint a more human portrait of our new teammate. As a result, new hires can expect their favorite snack to be waiting for them on their desk–or delivered to their homes if they’re working remotely–typically with a handwritten note from one of their new colleagues. It’s a surprise-and-delight moment that makes each new team member feel welcome.
The First Week
Schedule meetings with key colleagues. This gives new teammates a contact in all relevant departments. At my organization, new hires arrive to find their calendars preloaded with these meetings, along with notes on what they need to learn from the people they’re meeting with. Since department silos hurt work cultures and tamp down productivity, the goal here is to make sure new employees understand early on how other departments function and what they contribute to the larger mission. Problems tend to get solved a lot faster when that’s the case.
Discuss the big picture. In their first week, new employees also have a one-on-one meeting with a tenured member of our team, who shares a presentation explaining the big picture of what we do, and how every department plays a role.
The First Month
Set up a centralized knowledge repository. New hires have to take in a lot of information, so to help we archive organizational knowledge in a wiki-style platform for future referencing. It’s an important resource for all employees–both newbies and veterans. We use it to house all of our onboarding materials, HR policies, and even notes and presentations from important all-hands meetings. Give your new hires access to these resources the day they start (or earlier), but it’s in their first month or so that you’ll really want to encourage them to tap into them.
Check in after 30 days. At the end of their first month, new team members at my company chat with a senior leader to see how things are going. That includes soliciting their feedback on the onboarding process itself, so we can make it even better. We also ask them to come prepared with questions about specific systems and processes, weaknesses they’ve seen in certain procedures, and ways they think the organization can improve.
This is by no means an exhaustive calendar of all the activities, tasks, and conversations that should take place in a new hire’s first month on the job. But in my experience, it’s a good outline of how to space things out. If you can get new team members up to speed quickly without overwhelming then, there’s a higher chance they’ll stay put–and succeed–for months and years to come.
Ryan Paugh is the COO of The Community Company, an organization that builds community-driven programs for media companies and global brands. He is also the coauthor of Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter.