It can be easy to forget how daunting the first few weeks of a new job are. You’re scrambling to get up to speed with a new team, new culture, and learn everything you need to hit the ground running.
For me, as a new starter, I would want to feel like I belong. I want to know what’s expected of me and how I can start contributing. The best way to hit all these points is with a structured onboarding program.
As an employer, onboarding for me is intentionally setting a new starter up for success. I want to see them succeed and encourage them to stay on for years to come - doubly important given how competitive the current job climate is!
A structured onboarding program is vital to staff success and retention. After hiring the best, you want to make sure they want to stick around. However, Gallup reports that only 12% of employees strongly agree their organisation does a great job onboarding new employees. Given that it can cost six to nine months of an employee’s salary to hire and onboard a replacement, nailing the onboarding experience is the key to guiding your new starter through their first 30 days and beyond.
Bringing someone new into your organisation is a big step. It’s a learning curve - and it’s so easy to forget what it’s like being the newbie!
I like to follow a few key onboarding principles that can help:
1. Clearly define was success looks like in the role, and discuss expectations early
Where do you want this person to be in 1-3 months? What should they be able to do? Make sure you understand the role completely and communicate this to the new starter so they can benchmark themselves. Let them know it’s ok to ask questions and to not know how to do something. Giving clarity around expectations and responsibilities is so important to make the new starter feel part of the team, and get to know their new role.
2. Ask who is the onboarding for?
Common beliefs are that onboarding is for the company to maximise their ROI on hiring, or for the manager to impart knowledge as quickly as they can. Ultimately, though, onboarding is for the new starter. Designing a great experience for them is key.
3. Share a plan
Keeping a list of tasks you plan on taking the new starter through is helpful- and it’s also important you share it with them! That way, everyone gets a sense of how the new starter is progressing and can tick off tasks as they go.
4. Ask for feedback
No one’s going to know how effective an onboarding process is more than the person undergoing onboarding! Seeking feedback from them is going to give you a really good idea of how it’s going, and helps to improve the process for the next person you hire. Plus, it signals to the new starter that it’s okay to give feedback and introduces a culture of continuous improvement.
5. Refresh regularly
The key to all good learning is repetition and refreshing. Learning something once means you’ll probably forget it later down the track. Did you ever cram for a maths exam in uni? Do you remember anything at all from that topic? No!
New starters are taking in tonnes of new info that are likely to overwhelm their brains unless the knowledge is revisited later. Balancing the delivery of new information with repetition of previously learnt knowledge is key to locking it all away into the long-term memory bank.
Yarno’s onboarding approach
At Yarno, we invest a significant amount of time on the onboarding process. It’s a commitment we make when we start the hiring process - we will set up the new starter for success and retain them.
There’s no second chance at a first impression, so we want to make sure we put our best foot forward!
Onboarding at Yarno actually starts a week before the start date, when the new starter is invited to a Yarno pre-boarding campaign. The campaign is all about introducing the new starter to Yarno - who’s who, our values, and some of our key systems and processes. Basically, it’s designed to make day one a little easier. It also opens up conversations around Yarno - begging questions like ‘why do you do it this way’. Pre-boarding also gives them a sense of what it’s like to experience Yarno as a learner, and we welcome any feedback on their experience.
We ship out a welcome pack that includes a t-shirt, notebook, hoodie, and welcome card signed by the team with their character illustration. They are also sent all their new hardware - laptop, mouse, and keyboard. Plus, we offer a $500 budget towards setting up their home office.We create an Asana onboarding project that lists out onboarding tasks from start to finish, including need-to-know responsibilities and competencies, so the new starter can tick them off as they feel comfortable.
As a remote company, we do our best to welcome the new starter in person on day one. This is a great way to build new relationships and allow the new starter to feel comfortable with the people they’ll be working with. In fact, the vast majority of remote companies I know onboard in person. We get the team together for a lunch, so everyone has a chance to catch up and meet each other!
We introduce them to the wider team on Zoom at our weekly Team WIP, and over the first couple of weeks, each team will give them an orientation of what they do and how they’ll work together. We also pair new starters up with a buddy, who is a friendly face in the first few weeks - according to Harvard Business Review, having an onboarding buddy can increase a new staff member's productivity by up to 97%! Buddies are usually someone from a different team; someone they may not interact with on a daily basis otherwise.
First 30 days
In that first week, we talk about where the new starter would like to be in 30 days, and ask them to set a goal. Working through their Asana onboarding project allows them to take ownership of their tasks and goals.
We’re continually seeking to tweak our onboarding process, so we ask for feedback along the way. We all learn differently - it’s important that the starter is taking in information effectively, and they have opportunities to let us know if something’s not working.
At the end of 30 days, we check back in on their goal. Did they achieve it? Were there barriers? Then, we set a 60-day goal! Incremental goals help to show the learner what they've accomplished in a short amount of time, and give them some guidance while they're finding their feet.
I’ve learnt that starting with the finish in mind is a highly effective way to tackle the onboarding process. Hiring someone new usually means you have a gap in your organisation that you need filled - so figuring out what needs to be done to fill that gap will help guide the hiring and onboarding process. Onboarding should coach the new starter into filling that gap.
Downloading a ton of information onto your new starter and seeing if they’ll sink or swim only discourages the new starter, and will likely result in turnover. Instead, the new starter should feel welcomed, supported, and guided to succeed in your organisation. Otherwise, they might just leave!