When our new sales rep sat for four days without a laptop -- anxious, alone, unsure of how to do his job or who to ask about it -- I knew something was broken. We had around 30 employees at the time, and up until then onboarding had mostly taken care of itself. We hired self-starters. Teammates chipped in with advice. Things got rolling. Then that changed.
The reality is that, as you grow, it gets harder for new employees to find their footing -- and it’s essential for the health of your company that you develop a process to help them along the way.
Almost a third of people who quit their jobs do so in the first six months of employment, and 22% of turnover happens in the first 45 days on the job. But a good onboarding experience can dramatically reduce that. Putting in some time to facilitate a well-structured entry to your business sends a signal to new hires that their experience matters and it substantially reduces the time it takes them to get up to speed. We found that the time needed to fully ramp up our new sales reps dropped from one year to six months after we put a system in place.
So, what does effective onboarding look like? Well, it doesn’t have to be a cookie-cutter approach -- and it’s so much more than just a company laptop and an info packet from HR. Here are some of the hacks that work for us:
Start on Friday, not Monday.
No matter how much you love your job, Mondays come with stress. There are meetings to prepare for, schedules to plan and a whole week of deadlines looming over you. Suffice to say this isn’t the optimal environment to help a new hire settle in. That’s why we have them start on Friday.
The end of the week comes with a sense of excitement and relief. Managers and co-workers have more time to chat with new employees and projects get wrapped up. All of this helps jumpstart relationships and ensures that new hires have a positive initial experience. Plus, next week they’ll already know a handful of people they can go to for guidance or just to say “hey.”
Share bennies with the bosses.
Even at more than 200 employees, I still interview every promising candidate myself -- even if it’s just a couple of questions over the phone. When they start, I also make sure we get a chance for an in-person meeting. But it’s important the connection to leadership doesn’t stop there.
Every month or two, our founding team piles into Darlise Café -- a local diner that’s the unofficial breakfast spot for Vidyardians -- to meet all our new hires and interns. Over potato pancakes, bennies and the best homemade jam ever, we find out where they’ve come from and what they’re looking forward to.
The benefits of this little breakfast flow both ways. For new hires, it’s an important demonstration that lines of communication are open across our organization. As leaders, we get to see our company through fresh eyes. Sometimes that leads to breakthrough insights, like the time a new sales rep floated an idea for a tool to connect with prospective clients via short, homemade video clips. Today, GoVideois one of our most popular offerings.
Smash silos from day one.
Have you ever worked 20 feet away from a person whose name you didn’t know? That kind of disconnect doesn’t just lead to awkward interaction -- it kills workplace morale. Studies show that knowing and liking your co-workers is the biggest predictor of workplace happiness. Not to mention, getting to know people from different departments paves the way for that all-important cross-functional collaboration and problem solving.
When we were small, this mingling happened naturally. Now, with hundreds of people spread over three floors, plus remote workers and satellite offices, it takes a conscious effort to promote cross-pollination. It starts on day one when we assign a V-buddy (inspired by our company name) to give new hires their first tour of the office. The trick is that they have to work in different departments. The idea is to build bridges between various teams from the start in order to combat that silo mentality.
Keep it online, on demand and preferably visual.
The majority of our employees have grown up in a world where they can learn anything on YouTube in minutes. Why should it be any different at work? New hires shouldn’t have to track down an HR rep or wade through a 40-page FAQ to find the info they need.
We “eat our own dogfood” by using our own video tools to make quick how-tos anyone can access at any time, whether you’re brand new or need a refresher after a few years on the job. Our platform houses the content and keeps track of who’s watching (and who isn’t). This approach has been particularly useful for our remote workers and people in satellite offices, who don’t always have the benefit of working beside more experienced teammates.
It goes without saying that demand today for skilled employees is at an all-time high. In this environment, recruiting and hiring can be a herculean task. But if you’re not helping these critical employees start on the right foot once you’ve landed them, then your work isn’t done. Investing in onboarding is far from a frill -- it’s the surest way to help your biggest assets fit in fast and stick around longer.