The Evolution of Onboarding

Onboarding has come a long way since back when I started.  At the official two year mark of my career with Call-Em-All, it’s exciting to see how far this project has come and to think about what it can eventually become.

My onboarding experiences with previous jobs have often been that I get handed a book of definitions in order to learn how the company functions. This would then normally be followed by some guidance from an appointed person who followed their own agenda on what they found to be most important, in no particular order I might add. I must admit, I have been involved in similar processes in the past as both a trainer and trainee.

When I came to work for Call-Em-All, many things made me realize this was a special place. Some details were clear as day but some aspects I found along the way. As I periodically discovered special company traditions, I wish I would have known about them from the start. I would also feel left out when I didn’t know the background to the stories of important Call-Em-All historic references.

At Call-Em-All we all agree that if something is not working, expressing feedback and taking action is more than welcomed. We use our formula, our internal equation for success, in many projects to hold ourselves accountable and to focus on our tasks. Onboarding was no different. I took on a project and applied one of our formulas point and embraced some healthy conflict. I did not hold back when it came to my passion about creating a better onboarding experience. It was nothing personal with what we had now, but I felt that the process was outdated and cluttered. Feedback from other new employees supported these thoughts.

With our company quickly growing in numbers, it would be an injustice to continue the same practice. I didn’t want any more people to miss out on the details that make us a distinct place to work. To guide my train of thought, I had to ask myself the following questions and think of honest answers:

Does the new employee walk away from day one with a clear understanding of our culture?

At our company, culture is the product of our greatest resource: the people. We, the people, have come together several times to draft defining statements including our manifesto, values, and formula. More than just words on a wall, there were specific people, methods, resources, and reading materials that led to all of us stacking hands on these statements that outline the way we approach business and our customers. If the core factor of a company is culture, like ours is, onboarding needs to have a dedicated review and history of the defining moments.  There should be a true comprehension of knowing where the company came from, not just knowing the name of the founders and their credentials.

Does the new member know the product or service?

This might seem like an obvious question, but think back to a time when someone was hired for a position that may have not been customer-facing. Their projects might take them in a direction that would never require dealing with the actual product itself. In our first week of onboarding, we wanted to make sure that everyone from our interns to office administrators to our newest engineers had gone through a sample use of the basics of our service. As a result, our hope is that they will always keep the customer’s point of view in mind.

Is the current training material a checklist for myself or something a new hire needs to accomplish?

With onboarding being fairly infrequent, our training materials tended to include things that only needed to be done once and never seen again (creating an email address, setting up the office phone, preparing a computer, etc.). All these things need to be accomplished when someone is hired, but they can be assigned to a different team member prior to the start date. Here at Call-Em-All we designed a Pre-Onboarding Checklist. The team member who is assigned this task should already be familiar with what needs to be done. The most important thing is that there is a hard deadline. Redistributing tasks like these helps make day one seamless for the new hire.

Does the training material provide some structure?

Depending on the appointed trainer, you can quickly gauge their good or bad habits and the tools that they are most familiar with. To assure all important details are highlighted, it’s helpful to note the goals of each training day. During our new onboarding at Call-Em-All, we have an agenda that is a basic outline of a new hire’s training days. Any person assigned to help with training on a given day will know the goals that need to be accomplished so there’s not much room for unfocused topics.

Feedback - Does it work? What has to be changed?

As any company continues to grow, it is only natural to expect changes in your onboarding process. Consider onboarding a prime opportunity to evolve your processes. Assigned goals or training examples are perfect opportunities to experience, what we at Call-Em-All, call a win-win opportunity. This means that the training is communicated to the new hire and in return they provide feedback for a better understanding or explanation of the training materials. While this practice is encouraged along the way, we made it a point to have a quick mini-meeting after a month for a full rundown to help continue the evolution of our onboarding process.

By no means do we declare that we’ve discovered the best training plan ever. But it has covered a lot of areas we were lacking. I can almost guarantee that this is not the end of our onboarding approach. We can all relate to inefficiencies in old training methods. I hope that the questions above spark a self-evaluation of the last onboarding experience you may have been a part of or witnessed.

More importantly, if we have only a limited amount of time with an intern or an employee, at the end of the day, we hope they can walk away with learning about the key factors that make our company unique. We hope our silly traditions and strategies when approaching business can influence future decisions or trigger intelligent conversations.