The 7 Steps Behind One Company’s Steal-Worthy Onboarding Process

February 2, 2016

Hiring a lot of people is a good sign for a business – it generally means the company is growing and gaining market share. However, there’s a problem that can come from it: If you are rapidly increasing headcount, there’s a chance you can lose your culture, fast.

Or so that’s what Percolate Co-Founder Noah Brier discovered when his company went from 30 to 60 people during the first six months of 2013. During an all-hands call last June, Brier talked about a presentation he gave on the company’s core values in the beginning of that year. The problem was, only about half of his employees had heard it.

His solution to ensuring all his employees are indoctrinated in his company’s culture and core values? Focus on onboarding. He hypothesized that if he could consistently immerse new hires in the Percolate way early, he would maintain the culture he wanted for his company.

So, he took the time to produce an immersive, seven-step onboarding process that any company can – and frankly should – steal. At First Round’s CEO summit, Brier detailed those seven steps. They are:

(For a more detailed dive into Percolate's onboarding strategy, read the original story on First Round Review.)

Step 1: Once an offer letter is signed, it’s time for a survey, a point of contact and some goodies

Within 48 hours of someone signing an offer letter, they receive a welcome email that gives them a point of contact if anything goes awry and a “Welcome to Percolate” survey that helps the company prepare for their arrival. Additionally, the employee receives some Percolate swag, a handwritten letter and, coolest of all, a Kindle.

“That's linked to the core idea that we are a learning organization. It's our responsibility to help encourage people to continue to read and make themselves better,” Brier told First Review. “They can read whatever they want, but personally I find the Kindle to be a pretty amazing device for continuing to find new ideas in the world.”

Step 2: Fly in remote workers two weeks before so they can meet the workforce

If Percolate hires someone to work remotely, they’ll fly them to their New York City headquarters two weeks before they start to see how the office functions and meet the workforce. This is part of ingraining the Percolate way into people who aren’t going to be in headquarters everyday, and therefore are a bit removed from the company’s culture.

Step 3: The Friday before someone starts, give them access to their email and their schedule for the first two days

The Friday before someone starts, they are given access to their email and are given a schedule for their first two days of work. Brier believes in “over-scheduling” those two days instead of “under-scheduling,” because “it’s a weird feeling to show up on the first day and not have any work or idea of what to do.”

Additionally, the new hire will be introduced to their “Percolator,” an employee designated to welcome the new person and answer their questions as they begin.

Step 4: Wow employees on their first day with a fully setup desk, introductions, a professional headshot and a “Day One Document”

When an employee walks into their first day at Percolate, their desk is already stocked with a notebook, pens and – most importantly of all ­– a fully setup laptop. Additionally, the company has meetings every Monday that include introductions of all new hires, so people can start putting names to faces.

Each new hire also has a professional headshot taken for their LinkedIn profile and receives a comprehensive “Day One Document," which Brier wrote himself. That document includes:

  • The companies three rules: show up on time for meetings, no laptops or cellphones during meetings and don’t throw food away in your desk trashcan.
  • A whole section on meeting protocol based around making meetings as effective as possible. Perhaps the best suggestion in that section? “Meetings should be 15 minutes by default.”
  • Instructions for the new hire to write his or her “introduce yourself email.” By the end of the first day, the new hire should write an email introducing themselves to the team that includes some background trivia and some cool photos.

Step 5: By the end of the first week, give each new hire a “deep dive” into their department so they understand what everyone does

One of the goals of onboarding is for the new hires to have an understanding of all of the teams within their department, not just the specifics of their role, to increase the possibilities of collaboration.

To make this happen, new hires at Percolate will talk with members of all their department’s teams, so they have a grasp of what everyone does and how to get things done.

Step 6: Also, by the end of the first week, ensure new hires know the little things like good places to eat and how to use the coffee machine

Sometimes, it's the little things that make people feel the most uncomfortable. For example, Percolate has an espresso machine, and time is actually scheduled for new hires to be trained on how to use it.

Additionally, the new hire’s “Percolator” will take them to some of the office’s favorite restaurants for lunch during the first week, to both make the person more comfortable in New York and give them more insight into the Percolate culture.

Step 7: The CEO meets with all new hires to finalize onboarding

To really hammer home Percolate’s culture and values to new hires, Brier meets with all new hires in groups and walks them through the history, philosophy and core values. Brier said this meeting generally lasts around two hours, and encourages interaction as he “wants to spend time” with all his new employees.

Tying it all together

Clearly, Percolate puts an emphasis on onboarding, to the point it might even get repetitive. But, to Brier, that’s a good thing.

“When it comes to your message — and certainly mission, vision and values — repeat yourself until you think you sound like a broken record,” Brier told First Review. “Then start repeating yourself some more. That's a good way to think about what your job is in building a culture and running a company.”

There’s no denying that Percolate’s onboarding process is a big investment in time and energy. But think about the benefits of a great onboarding process: Not only will you have your new hires contributing more quickly, you’ll also ensure your culture will be well maintained, regardless of how many people you bring on.

Conversely, if you don’t have a structured onboarding process and leave it to the discretion of hiring managers, there’s a very real chance your company will begin to lose the values and focus that made it successful in the first place. So, yes, this onboarding process is certainly an investment; but it is among your most critical.

For a more detailed dive into Percolate's onboarding strategy, read the original story on First Round Review.

*Image from Percolate

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