In the onboarding arena you can enhance your Growth Culture by introducing key practices: digging into the skills and activities of a role, starting people on their first Journey, using reflections and retrospectives, and clearly signalling a “level up”.
There are two dominant questions in the mind of a brand new team member: what's my job and what does good look like?
Hopefully the interview process brought that into focus. But now they're here, on the team. They're comparing their understanding of the role with the activities they see around them. This is where they start to get a feel for the job.
Give them a map. Use a role description to list the skills and activities of the role. (We described this in Defining & Designing Roles.) You want an artifact they can point to and ask questions. It's the centerpiece of conversations—a touchstone for both new and experienced team members.
Use it to help address common questions like:
You can also use this touchstone to help them gauge their level of mastery. Keep it informal. Use a simple competency scale. Ask them to rate how comfortable they are with each activity and skill.
Don't worry about accuracy right now. Accuracy isn’t the point. The point is to think more deeply about the role. Considering one's mastery is a good way to do this. They also get a feel for where they're confident, where they can add value quickly, and where they need support and training.
At CultivateMe, we use the concept of a Journey (capital “J”) to frame personal growth. The best Journeys last about 2-4 months. This time-boxing provides focus and inspiration. Onboarding is a great time to establish this concept and go on their first Journey!
When someone starts a Journey they answer two questions:
Focus on the specific activities of the role that will deliver value fastest. Let those be the Destination. For example, rather than learn the entire CRM, learn just enough to create new leads. The rest can be learned later. Adding value creates enthusiasm. And enthusiasm is critical.
During onboarding, every day is full of new information and experiences to process. Build in some time each day to do that. Have your new team member get in the habit of writing reflections. Here are some finely honed questions you might offer them:
You can email these questions every day and they can write a few sentences in response to each. This helps deepen their experience and squeeze extra learning out of every day.
But it also doubles as a research log for your onboarding program. Keep a record of these reflections and mine them later for improvements to the process.
Help your new hire connect with someone every day for some Q&A. Conversation is just reflection out loud. It's essential for sense-making. And the team benefits from seeing their work through the eyes of a beginner (or at least an outsider). Pull out that role description and use it as a centerpiece for conversation.
People want to make progress. They want to confirm they have "leveled up". This is fundamental to human motivation. Onboarding is a great opportunity to provide this. Don't waste it!
But what does it mean to be "onboarded"?
That's different for every agency, every team, every role. But the most useful rule is this: they are adding value.
What does it mean to add value?
They are adding value when they can perform some minimum set of activities, without support, which others find useful. Maybe scheduling appointments for the sales team. Maybe setting up new projects for the creative team. Maybe designing simple landing pages for a social media campaign. If there's no hand-holding required, and their efforts are making life easier for other team members, then they're "onboarded".
Once that's happening, hold a ritual that signals to the person and the rest of the team "You've been onboarded".
Teaching is the best way to learn something. So a ritual we love is to have them teach back to their team everything they learned during the onboarding process. It doesn't need to be long and it doesn't need to be formal. This will help them synthesize what they learned, and they can synchronize their knowledge with the whole team. They get to demonstrate their value, and their presentation becomes a useful artifact for onboarding future team members.