Four years ago, I walked into the one-bedroom loft that doubled as Entelo’s office. I didn’t have a desk, so my boss encouraged me to set up my laptop wherever I could find room. One employee walked over and shook my hand; the rest didn’t look up from their screens. I opened my laptop and tried to figure out how to setup my company email address. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. As a seven-person company, Entelo had a lot to learn about onboarding.
Thankfully, as we have grown our ranks, we have continuously reevaluated and improved our onboarding processes. While there is no one “right” way to onboard employees, the best onboarding programs make new hires feel welcome, included, and aligned with the company’s goals and mission.
Now that we’ve gone through several iterations of onboarding, I’m happy to share with you some of the lessons we’ve learned.
Before the first day: Get them excited and prepared.
So much of onboarding happens before an employee’s first day. Between the moment a new employee signs an offer letter and their first day in the office, organizations have an enormous opportunity to help new hires hit the ground running.
New hires are hungry for information and want to be as prepared as possible. On our end, we want to make sure employees have a seamless transition into this new chapter of their professional life. Entelo used to focus mostly on logistics, such as making sure employees know their way around the office, how to be prepared for their first day, and what time to come in. Now, we also emphasize making them feel like a part of the team from the get-go – even before their first day on the job. As soon as they sign their offer letter, we send them a care package that includes an Entelo t-shirt for each member of their family, a signed welcome note from their manager, and a few other Entelo tchotchkes. Employees who interviewed candidates are encouraged to email them congratulatory welcome notes.
Our talent team sends them a detailed email that includes links to relevant articles about our company, our industry, and anything that might find useful for their role. They’ll get a preview of new hire documents so that they don’t have to spend time on their first day reading through pages upon pages of human resources-speak. One way we’ve helped new hires meet their future coworkers outside of the work environment is to extend an invite to an upcoming company event like a happy hour or karaoke night, even if it’s prior to their official start date.
By their first day we hope our new hires show up already feeling like full members of our community.
The first week: Balance information and human connection.
The buddy program
The first week on the job can be confusing. To help navigate a new org, new hires benefit from having someone to turn to outside of their department. So we devised a buddy system, giving new hires an instant connection and a resource regarding life at Entelo. As soon as they accept their offer, new hires are assigned a buddy from outside their department, based on who we think will make a good connection. Before the employee even starts at Entelo, their “buddy” reaches out to welcome them. On their first day, buddies take new hires out for coffee, and check in throughout their first week. They do a follow-up coffee later, as well as continued check-ins during their first weeks and months. We’ve been pleased with the results so far. New hires report high levels of satisfaction with the buddy system, and some of the closest employee friendships at Entelo have stemmed from buddy pairings.
Taking care of the basics
When an employee is new, companies tend to overload them with information without even meaning to. We’ll admit Entelo was once guilty of this flub. We used to have new hires sit in on each department’s Monday staff meeting, thinking they would love the transparency and immersive experience of jumping right in, but employees’ feedback was that most of the content went over their heads.
As a result, we’ve made significant changes to how we approach a new hire’s first week. Our goal is to find the balance between helping them feel like part of the team while giving them just the right amount of information and project work. We developed a session called “Entelo 101” that we deliver on each new hire’s first day. Led by our most tenured employees, “Entelo 101” gives new hires a quick course on our company history, institutional industry knowledge (like our customer base and the competitive landscape), and an overview of Entelo’s mission and values.
Relationship-building in the first week is a top priority to help new hires get connected with their peers, and we offer multiple touch-points for the team to get acquainted. As each cohort starts their week, a company-wide email introduces new hires, sharing links to their Entelo profiles, and fun facts about themselves. The end of their first week closes off with a special desk delivery of their favorite snacks – anything from gummy worms and cookies, to kale chips and air popped popcorn. Throughout the day, teammates across every department are encouraged to nosh, meet and catch up with each new hire. It’s a fun, casual, and delicious way for new hires to get familiar with the rest of the team. (Synergize, if you will.) At our Friday all-hands meeting, new hires introduce themselves, sharing their quick story, and what they’re working on at Entelo.
The first month: Show them we care
At Entelo, we’re constantly trying to improve our candidates’ and employees’ experiences. We solicit employees’ feedback regularly through weekly employee-manager 1:1s, weekly Tinypulse questions, and Q&As at our monthly company all-hands meeting.
Every month our CEO Jon Bischke has lunch with that month’s new hires. He shares his stories about founding and growing Entelo, and he seeks to learn why they joined our company. He also opens the floor to the team’s questions and feedback on their experience so far.
One month in, our talent team checks in with each new hire. We survey new hires about their experiences interviewing, onboarding, and training. We receive qualitative and quantitative feedback, and we’ve made changes to onboarding as a result. It’s important that employees see that we’re listening to them, and these changes enhance onboarding for future cohorts.
While we’ve made improvements to our onboarding, we know that there is more progress we can make. For example, we’re currently developing an orientation program called “Belonging at Entelo,” in which we discuss how we Entelopes talk about, practice, and nurture a workplace that supports diversity and inclusion. We’ve come a long way and we’ve still got a ways to go, but our culture of hearing and responding to employees’ feedback helps keep our onboarding experience in line. Let us know – how are you welcoming your latest team members?