The Ultimate Guide to Onboarding Your New Employees

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Employees and the associated human resources support costs are one of the highest expenses for any business. The time, energy, and effort to source and manage your workforce is enormous.

Plus, most small businesses cite finding and retaining talent as one of their most consistent challenges.

That’s why we spend so much time recruiting and getting the very best people to join our organizations. I can’t tell you how many hours we spend searching for and attempting to get the best candidates into our recruiting pool.

The quest for the best people is endless.

How many companies do you think put comparable effort into ensuring that the talented people they hire are set up to succeed? How many companies focus on the new employee onboarding process as much as they do the recruiting process?

Our guess: not many!

That’s why The Ascent turned to The Motley Fool’s onboarding specialist team, Callie Farrar and Parker Boutwell. Join us below as Callie and Parker share their tips, tricks and best practices for onboarding new employees, from the employee’s first day to their first few months and beyond!

Getting started with new employee onboarding

At The Motley Fool, we’re fortunate to have very high average employee tenure, somewhere between eight and ten years. So as members of the People Team, and specifically as onboarding leads, we need to make sure we set up new employees well, not just for a few weeks, or a few months, but for a decade.

That kind of long-term view means we’re not just looking to get people in, situated, and off to the races. Instead, we take the long view and do what’s best for them over the course of their career.

When we’re methodical and intentional about everything we do, employees are happier, less rushed, and ultimately, add more value to their team.

The Motley Fool tends to have a unique and atypical culture -- so we want to make sure that new team members have ample time to digest and absorb what we’re all about.

The first day of onboarding

The majority of logistical onboarding happens in the first few weeks, and really, the first day. We try to ensure you have what you need before you even step foot in the door.

That means we send you as many forms and paperwork ahead of time, so you have time to read and reflect before you’re overwhelmed coming into the office. It also means you have time to think about any questions beforehand.

On day one, we like to get the must-haves out of the way so people feel comfortable that the necessities are taken care of. That means making sure they are going to get paid on time, getting them enrolled in benefits, and setting up their technology needs.

We also schedule any legal training they need.

On the very first day, we want people to understand our culture and know who to reach out to with inevitable questions. Their first day is intentionally short -- typically on a Friday, from 10a.m. to 2p.m. We do this because the first day at a new job is crazy overwhelming, and you have so much to adapt to already.

We like to give people the weekend to decompress and let everything sink in, and then come back on Monday ready to dive in.

What are a few unique things we do during onboarding?

We try our hardest to not only make new employees feel welcome, but to be creative, unique, and illustrate our culture in action. When a new employee begins, we decorate their desk and cover it in customized items that are unique to that person.

This has become a bit harder to scale as we’ve been hiring at such an exponential rate, but we find ways to achieve this even without customization.

For instance, we might cover the desk with balloons, confetti, different types of candy, streamers, and a branded shirt, hat, and mug. It’s the thought that counts and people are so surprised to see a party at their desk.

New employees are also given a “treat yourself” present, which is a $100 excuse for them to do whatever they want, as a congratulations for completing their first day.

It’s typically a surprise email they get at the end of the day, and we urge them to go to a fancy dinner or treat themselves to something that will make their job easier or more fun.

The best part is that this is also an excuse for them to learn how to use our reimbursement software, Expensify.

Finally, we team up every new employee with a “Fool buddy”. They connect with a longer-tenured co-worker who they can chat with and ask questions of.

New folks have so many questions, whether it’s about the best place to grab a taco nearby or how to invest in the company’s 401(k) plan, so it’s awesome to have someone to ask right away.

Make onboarding extend past the first day

The first few weeks and months, we want new employees to walk away knowing a few things about our company:

  1. We are all here to help you succeed
  2. This is a great place to work, and yes -- work and fun can co-exist
  3. We hope that this is your last job, ever

The first day and week contain a lot of paperwork, enrolling in benefits and required meetings. New Fools learn our code of conduct, our IT and security rules, legal and trading disclosures, and compliance, which is mostly handled by the People Team.

The direct manager is more responsible for the team overview and details related to the everyday job. The manager will slowly (or quickly) introduce the new employee to the team and make sure they’re set up to succeed, adding them to daily stand-ups or weekly meetings, and checking in with them frequently.

We conduct many new employee classes spread out over a six-month period, designed to introduce new people to our culture, our business, the different teams and what functions they play, and how to learn more about The Motley Fool. Classes vary from “Understanding Our Perks” to “Our Subscription Business”.

Here’s a snapshot of an onboarding calendar we used in the past.

Foolish Onboarding Schedule

Another thing we think is important during those first few months is for new employees to not only get to know the geographic area in which they’re working, but also get to know all their co-workers.

We have a THINGS TO DO BINGO game we’ve been using for quite some time -- it changes from year to year, but consistently provides new folks an incentive to explore the world around them. If they hit BINGO, we reward them in a variety of ways.

Foolish Onboarding - Things to Do Table

In addition to these more informal games, we have check-ins, the first of which is at 90 days and is with the People Team. During that meeting, the new employee gets to pick a “coach”, who is a long-tenured employee in a particular “coaching” program.

The coach will do at least two check-ins per year and is purposely someone outside of the employee’s current team, to provide unbiased advice or to just be a sounding board for the new Fool.

You can do other things, such as creating unique Slack channels based on when people joined the company. We call those “new cohort” Slack channels -- so if you joined in May 2019, you’d be in the May 2019 New Cohort Slack channel.

It’s a place for people to share ideas, brainstorm, ask questions, and make jokes. It’s also a good place for People Team employees to ask for feedback.

Onboarding feedback and final thoughts

We do many different things as a company to ensure people are set up for success and to make this the best job they’ve ever had. From year to year, some things go well and some don’t. That’s why we constantly self-assess and ask for feedback.

Our primary feedback comes from our survey tool called Culture Amp. This is a twice-per-year engagement survey that all employees must answer. We specifically ask new employees about their onboarding experience. The top three things we focus on with those questions is:

  1. Do they feel welcomed?
  2. Do their co-workers feel supportive?
  3. Do they feel like there is a sense of purpose in their work?

Lastly -- we make sure we ask direct managers how the process went for them as well. It’s important not just that new employees are excited and ready to go, but that managers feel like we’re adding value and making their lives easier, too.

Ultimately, having engaged and excited employees makes them so much more productive and valuable to whatever type of company you’re running, independent of size, function, or industry.

New hires will thank you for all the time and effort you put into their development and for the impact that you have had on kick-starting their career.

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