A Tale of Three Onboardings
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
As someone who spent less time reading than I would have liked, I impressed myself with the above saying as I sat down to write this article. It encapsulates the exact sentiments I feel each time I have started a new job. The fear, the hope, the confidence and the doubt all put together by a master of the English language. Whilst I might not have had as many jobs as others, I have been lucky enough to work in companies of varying size, diversity, complexity and cultures. Today, in this article I will be comparing the onboarding process of my 3 employers. I choose not to name them and will instead refer to them as, Groot, Xandar and Yondu. I will discuss the onboarding process of each company, how the processes set me up to achieve success at my job and, I will offer researched backed recommendations on how your company could improve its employee onboarding processes.
While it might not occur to everyone, the timeframe between an employee signing the offer letter and physically entering the company premises forms part of the onboarding process. In this regard, Xandar was exceptional. I had constant communication with the HR team. They informed me of what I need to do to physically get to the office, enter the premises (as I did not have my security card) and gave me the details of who will be the person I liaise with on my first day. The HR team also got me to fill in a form with some fun information about myself so they could use that to draw up a company-wide introduction email.
Yondu had no such process or even an inclination of a process. I was informed of my start date and was expected to be on time. Funny story, I was 5 minutes late on my first day as the elevators in this building are segmented into top floors and lower floors and I got into the wrong one! I got a few chuckles from HR when I explained the predicament.
Groot on the other hand was a sort of hybrid between the two. There was some communication between myself and the HR team. However, there was nothing of any significance or importance.
The effort put in by Xandar before I even walked in the door made me feel a lot less nervous and much more comfortable with my surroundings. This overcomes the natural trepidation that new employees feel, thus creating an environment where they feel confident enough to contribute immediately.
2. First Day
Here is where normal onboarding begins. In this regard, Yondu fell way short of the processes put in place by their counterparts. I entered late, was laughed at and immediately taken to meet my manager. He asked me a few questions to gauge my experience level and proceeded to give me printed material to read. He asked me to report back to him at the end of the day. I was shown to my desk and left there, alone, terrified, irritated and frustrated. I legitimately left work that day contemplating handing in my letter of resignation the next day. I felt unwanted, unwelcomed and unequipped to complete my job.
Both companies Groot and Xandar stood up, miles ahead of Yondu. Groot had a structured start to my day. I was introduced to the trainer, manager and ‘big boss’ within the first 2 hours of my day. We also spent the first half of the day understanding the company’s history and structure before covering what to expect during the training process. They provided lunch and the remainder of the day was spent with the people I would work with, shadowing them to understand the work even more.
Xandar on the other hand had 1 person who served as a welcoming committee. He showed me around the office, introduced me to my new teammates and even shared insight about how to navigate common issues such as times to go for lunch to avoid crowds etc. As my day progressed, I was given a brief company orientation. I spent some time with my manager who laid out the broad strokes of my job and I was introduced to a teammate who was responsible for getting me up to pace. I found myself switching between ‘I got this’ and ‘I don’t belong here’ multiple times throughout the day.
Groot’s onboarding process had structure and was laid out well enough for me to know what to expect and at the end of the day, I was excited to come back in to learn more and to get involved. The structure helped me by removing doubt and giving me an element of certainty meaning I had more confidence, thus making it easier for me to absorb what I was being taught.
3. Orientation Week
All 3 companies varied vastly in how they approach a new employee’s first week. For example, Groot had a few ‘fun’ activities intermixed in the training modules. They arranged for me to shadow my teammates, organized knowledge checks and had even created simulations for me to work on to ensure that I understood all of the training provided. Throughout the week I was also introduced to my key stakeholders with the emphasis of building a personal relationship with them so we could work better together. The overall thought process here was to prioritize my comfort levels at the expense of productivity.
Xandar had a mix between getting me productive as fast as possible and getting me comfortable within the organization. They had heads of department speak to me about what each team did, how it operated and gave me contact information for my counterparts in each department should I need it. There was also an ice-breaking session where whoever was interested in getting away from their desks for a while were able to come together for a quick game of 2 truths and a lie.
Yondu again was the outlier. After my first day, I spent the rest of the week shadowing a teammate who tried to set my expectations and to provide me with insight as to how certain things worked around the office. Yondu prioritized productivity above all else and I learnt that lesson very quickly.
I would say that whilst Groot’s method is a bit more costly, it allowed me to ease into the thick of things rather than jumping right in and making mistakes which is exactly what happened at Yondu. The way my onboarding was treated by Groot meant that I was more engaged, excited and was overall happier after my first week of work than I was at either Yondu or Xandar. Groot’s actions were not benevolent though.
In creating such a warm and welcoming environment, Groot was able to ensure that once my training was done and I was supposed to be productive, I WAS productive. Once the training wheels came off, I was expected to perform at the highest level with little to no allowance being given for “inexperience” or “unpreparedness”. Groot gave me time and space at the start and in return, they demanded a high performing member of the team once I was unleashed.
At Yondu, I often found myself repeating the phrase “oh is it?” or “I am sorry, but I don’t know” or “no one told me that I had to do it this way”. I made mistakes early and often and whilst I was blamed for my mistakes, I do have to ask you, dear reader, was I really at fault? Or was it a system that was so eager to something out of me that it did not matter if what I produced was subpar?
If you are in the position to impact a new employee’s onboarding experience, or if you want to have a chat about this, feel free to contact us and I would be happy to share more. In the meantime, I leave you with the words of someone who is almost the polar opposite of Mr Dickens.
“You get what you put in, and people get what they deserve”
- Kid Rock, Only God Knows Why”