Rethinking Onboarding to boost Motivation, Culture, and Networking.
The very first days in a new work environment are extremely important because dense with learnings, feelings, and emotions. As leaders, we should do our best to craft the best possible experience for those who are new to our teams.
The web is full of checklists detailing all the necessary steps for a successful onboarding process but I believe that this is not the ideal starting point. For me, the best approach is to begin with the end goal in mind and ask ourselves the following question first:
What is the ultimate outcome of the onboarding process? What do we want to achieve?
More than often, the unspoken objective is to help the new hire become productive and up-to-speed as swiftly as possible. While I deem it an essential aspect, I believe there's so much more.
Onboarding: A motivation and engagement booster.
In his book “Drive”, D. Pink explains how Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose set the foundations of Intrinsic Motivation. If we focus on purpose, it is a widely shared experience that contributing to something greater and more significant than ourselves is rewarding, motivating, and fosters a deep sense of engagement.
How much of the onboarding time is dedicated to communicating the company's purpose? If so, how is it communicated?
Yes, every company has a comprehensive deck (at least 50 slides) clearly explaining its purpose, vision, mission, etc. However how many people read it? And among those, how many remember it?
Imagine what boost of motivation and engagement would be triggered if the story was told directly by the founder (if possible) or a senior leader.
Consider how powerful and inspiring it would be to share how the company has positively impacted its customers or the wider community!
Onboarding: A deep dive into the company culture.
Defining a company's culture can be incredibly hard. The often-used list of vague and generic values doesn’t really help and, even worse, gives a misleading perception that culture is something static and immutable.
In my view, there’s no better way to really understand the company culture than observing how individuals and teams behave and listening to the story they tell about what happens in the workplace (better when managers are not around!).
When designing the onboarding process, our aim should be to provide newcomers with maximum exposure to the authentic company culture. For example, this can be achieved by giving them opportunities to:
Spend time with various teams to observe their behavior, communication, and decision-making processes.
Engage with individuals from different levels and departments.
Participate in company events.
Onboarding: A pathway to building an internal network.
Reflecting on my first two onboarding experiences, I clearly remember the strong bond I established with my fellow newbies. Whether intentional or not, it forged a connection that persisted over time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t connect at all with others I met during the onboarding process. Despite attending numerous meetings and presentations involving various teams and departments, I barely remembered their names, and I am quite certain they didn't remember mine!
The onboarding process is a golden opportunity for creating connections and building an internal network. However, traditional meetings and presentations might not always be the most effective way to achieve this.
One-to-one meetings, spread out over a more extended timeframe to accommodate people's needs and schedules, can definitely fit the purpose better.
Communication platforms like Slack can also effectively enable random connections among people, allowing them to share experiences, ask questions, or simply get to know each other.
The onboarding process is a critical stage that shapes the new hire's journey within an organization. If properly designed, it can drive not just productivity, but also motivation, engagement, cultural understanding, and internal networking.
However, the key point lies not in following a pre-determined set of activities, but in customizing the process based on our end goals - the outcomes we want to achieve. These outcomes, of course, can differ from one company to another, based on their unique needs, values, and culture.