The first 90 days are critical for the success of any new employee, especially in the tech industry. As an employer over this period, you learn whether the candidate fits with your company’s culture, what technical skills they need to learn and develop, and it’s your time to shine as an employer and convince them you’re the company that you presented during the interview process.
If not done properly, on-boarding can be a painful process, and both you and your new starter can waste a lot of time in the first few weeks. In this article we look at what makes a great tech industry on-boarding program, and talk about which tech companies have excelled at it in the past, and specifically how they’ve done it.
Getting a Head Start
Don’t be fooled, the on-boarding process begins well before the new hire’s first day. It starts the very moment they accept the job offer. The difference between a first day they tell their friends about and a first day they would rather forget is how much preparation goes into it. That day is about feeling welcomed, included and appreciated; not bland paperwork, creating email signatures or boring office tours.
Use the information you would have gathered about your new hire during their interview process to tailor your orientation program to fit them. It might seem obvious, but make sure the hire is fully briefed on what their role will be, what your methodologies are and what they entail, and who they report to.
A great idea is to prepare a welcome package for your new hires that leaves a positive, lasting impression. To do this it needs to be much more than just the normal new hire paperwork and policies. Good ideas include things like company branded t-shirts or water bottles, a welcome card from the management or even a gift!
Naturally, new employees are going to have a lot of questions. The best way to handle this is to answer them before they even have a chance to ask. Tap into your current staff and ask them what they wished they had known before they started, use this to create an employee handbook or FAQ.
Valve found that their on-boarding program wasn’t robust enough and new employees were taking up to six months to adjust to working there. To solve this they created a 56-page employee handbook which includes the appropriate preface: “This handbook is about…how not to freak out now that you’re here.” The handbook covers everything from to what to expect on your first day, your first month, a brief history about the company and even a jokingly illustrated guide on how to talk with your co-workers. Having a formalised plan is key to ensuring the new starter learns about your company and those who work for you.
Technology companies have the extra difficulty of needing to get equipment and software ready for new hires. If this is not properly planned, your new employee can waste days waiting for their equipment to arrive, be configured, their software to be installed and their phone to be switched on.
To avoid this unnecessary stall, speak to them prior to their first day, and find out what equipment they will need. This way you can try to have it ready by the time they arrive. Anything else they may need but isn’t vital to their first day can be ordered once they’ve settled in.
The Golden First Week
Once you’ve planned for the new employees’ arrival, you will need to plan for their success, starting from day one. Your new hire will never experience the same kind of excitement and nerves again as they will on their first day. This is when first impressions matter the most. Office tours and initial ‘meet-the-team’ runs can often be boring and awkward, so get your team involved in this to make your new hire feel more welcome. If you have a large team, it might pay to not overwhelm the candidate by introducing them to everybody in the office. Rather, introduce them to the people they need to know so that the important people don’t get lost in the shuffle, and let them find the people they want to know organically.
The first week will be an overwhelming time for any new employee, with so much information to take in, new people to meet and new routines to get used to. Even little things, like introducing them to people around the office or inviting them to come for lunch, can be a huge help in getting someone settled in. One option to smooth out this process is to assign a mentor, or buddy, to the new hire. This person can coach them through the different aspects of the role that they might not immediately get to grips with, help integrate them in the company culture, and make them more comfortable with the team.
Company culture is something that will always be there, but it is important to not force it upon a new employee. Customer experience SaaS provider, Medallia, stated that their onboarding isn’t about indoctrinating their employees by saying ‘we don’t hire Medallians — we hire people who are smart and empathetic. They just happen to also be Medallians. It would seem to be a bit of a waste to hire people because they’re different, and then spend their first week trying to make them all the same.’
After the first few weeks, the new hire will be settled in to their new team environment, but keep in mind that they also need to be aware of where they fit into the bigger picture of the company. To this end, it’s a good idea to have all new employees meet the executive team for an informal lunch meeting, so they can get to know the people at the top. For some, interacting with decision makers in this way will be a morale boost, and it will also be helpful in helping the new hire gain a better understanding of their role.
Whilst your new starter is getting settled in, this is the ideal time to begin setting up your plan for the next few months. Talk to your new employee and lay out a 90-day plan with obtainable goals. This will give them something they can measure their progress against.
Crossing the Finish Line
Once that 90-day plan is in place, it’s time to start implementing the developmental, results focused parts of the on-boarding process. Setting pre-defined milestones, such as the end of week one, end of the first month and the end of the 90-days, can allow you to accurately measure the new employee’s development and identify any areas that may need further support. The key is to make your employee feel supported and comfortable so that they come to you when they need help, rather than waiting for their reviews.
One way of doing this is to make them feel like they are doing meaningful work. Facebook, for instance, provided their new Engineers, with an intensive onboarding bootcamp program designed to immerse new hires into the company’s base code and get a comprehensive overview of the business to ultimately help them find their place within it – irrespective of their experience level. This bootcamp program also allowed Facebook’s new Engineers to provide immediate value to the business, by giving them the chance to push out working code to over a billion users within their first week.
Poorna Udupi, an Engineer who worked at Netflix stated that new hires were given significant responsibility and had a solid impact from the get-go. Four months after he joined, he witnessed his work being used by Netflix customers. As an employer, succeeding in getting your new employees to understand the value of their work from the very beginning is key to making them feel empowered and appreciated.
Orientating your employees into your business is a process which will constantly change as time goes on. Remember that each employee is different, and will be joining different parts of your operations so ensure you have prepared a uniquely tailored on-boarding plan. If done right each new employee will feel welcomed on their first day, supported during their first week and begin developing after their first month. A good orientation program doesn’t stop there however. Ensuring that supportive feedback continues after the first month is paramount to their success, whilst making sure they’re tracking to their milestones and bedding into the company culture. The benefits of making your employee feel like their work is adding immediate value is vital for them to feel appreciated, and will set them up for a great future with your company.
If you need more advice on how to effectively on-board new hires, then feel free to get in touch with us.