5 Ways to Strengthen Onboarding at Your Startup

When it comes to onboarding for new team members, startups face a particular set of challenges:

  • There are typically a select one or two individuals who house all company knowledge inside their heads (these individuals are not always founders).
  • Standard operating procedures are still in the process of being determined, so they are not readily available.
  • Everyone is wearing many hats, and hierarchies are not always clear—so even though help is needed, expectations for new employees can be overwhelming.

Since you clicked to read this blog, chances are you’re acutely familiar with these challenges.

Here’s why we believe onboarding matters so much: As a startup, you likely don’t have the resources to manage high turnover, and reducing turnover starts with onboarding.

Below are five ways to optimize your onboarding process so that you can improve employee retention and position your team for growth.

1 – Complete logistics in between the accepted offer and their first day

Although it’s nearly impossible to avoid, starting a new job with a flood of paperwork and getting set up on new systems can quickly deplete your new team member’s energy levels as soon as they arrive.

One way to avoid this drain on time and energy is to use the interim time between the day the job offer is accepted and the start date to eliminate as many logistical tasks as possible.

This includes any paperwork on the employee’s end that they can complete virtually, but it also includes logistical preparation on your end. Get their desk and hardware set up. Recruit IT to set up any logins or intranet connections. Add them as users to your tech stack.

The idea is to make their first day as seamless as possible so that their main focus that day is assimilating. 

2 – Arrange first-week meet and greets with everyone on the team

It seems like no matter how old we get, we’ll always have those first-day jitters. This can be especially true in a startup environment, where teams are typically close-knit and rapport can be tricky to keep up with if you are not already familiar with it.

Coordinated meet and greets can make relationship building a little less intimidating for your newest team member.

For in-person environments, a first-week team lunch or happy hour is a great way to engage with your newest team member. In addition, giving them an office tour on their first day can produce quick and organic introductions to break the ice.

If your team is remote, there are still ways to get your newest team member comfortable with the rest of the company. One way is to arrange 10-minute meetings with each team and prepare some fun icebreaker questions to get them talking. With the individual’s immediate team, consider a longer lunch to establish a better sense of familiarity.

It can be arranged by team, or even as one-on-ones, but making it a top-down initiative is a great way to take the pressure off your new team member to make his or her own introductions.

3 – Prepare a 90-day plan

When your startup team is already spread thin, it can be tempting to ask your newest team member to dive right in and begin to offload some of the tasks from the endless pile of work to keep things moving.

Instead of introducing the entire scope of the role all at once, allocate portions of the role into the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job. This can also be set up as a checklist to make the expectation even more clear.

As a new employee, it can be confusing or upsetting to find yourself with “nothing to do” while everyone around you is buried with work, but it’s hard to jump on a merry-go-round that is already spinning very quickly.

By providing a three-month runway for your new employees, you can establish a clear outline for what they can be working on if and when they have downtime.

4 – Assign a task or two to begin to establish expectations

Startup employees are typically go-getters who like to feel useful and genuinely want to hit the ground running. One way to give them a huge confidence boost is to assign them a project within the scope of their role that can get them comfortable with the pace and process of your company.

Even if it’s small, it’s an opportunity to mutually observe working styles.

5 – Establish a cadence to provide and collect feedback

Finally, make sure you are meeting with your new team member on a predetermined, regular schedule. This is an opportunity to touch base about questions they might have, address any confusion, and help ensure they don’t feel lost in the fold.

As your onboarding practices are tried and tested, be sure to document as much as possible. Collect feedback regularly on what makes your new hires the most confident and comfortable as a member of your team.

These practices will be the foundation of your team as you grow. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by investing in intentional onboarding.

This blog with written by Viaduct Recruitment Manager Chad Witherell.

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