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November 3, 2020

How we onboard employees

Week one sets the tone of employee experience

We’ve all been there. You’re starting a new job and you are nervous, concerned that you are the right fit, that this job will be the best one yet, not sure how much you’ll like your boss… And if you’re the employer, you often have the same concerns. Perhaps you’ve had someone in the role who left abruptly, or you’ve had to work several times to fill the role with the right person. Regardless of what side of the hiring equation you sit on, you want to make sure that the first week goes well because it sets the tone for the whole job.

The importance of onboarding

It’s audacious to suggest that a single week can set the tone for your entire experience as an employee, but it absolutely can.

I still remember my first week at one of my jobs… I sat for large swaths of time on Facebook, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested or didn’t have the gumption to ask what to do. It was because my time hadn’t been allocated toward meetings or introductions, I’d been given no tasks to accomplish or documents to review, and my manager was nowhere to be found. I went out of my way to find work to do, and still, there was nowhere near enough work that I’d made up to fill my time. Over the next few weeks, my responsibilities rapidly ramped up, but I didn’t have the background that I needed in many cases to be successful.

Mine was an incredibly frustrating experience, which Wagepoint calls “informal onboarding,” but it’s an increasingly common experience. Traditionally, managers may have sat with employees and mentored them through the position, but most managers are busier than ever. In fact, 88% of organizations don’t onboard well, even though it can mean up to an 82% increase in employee retention.

Fast forward to onboarding at Journeyage. I joined the team in June 2020, so all of my onboarding had to be done totally remotely. And yet, this was the best onboarding experience I’ve ever had.

You see, most companies do a pretty good job of covering 2 of SHRM’s 4C’s of onboarding: compliance and clarification. They ensure that you’re compliant with particular rules like filling out your I9 or parking in the right spot, and they clarify what your role may entail. But they leave out 50% of the equation: culture and connection.

And that’s exactly what Journeyage got right.

The Journeyage onboarding process

At Journeyage, onboarding starts at the offer. We make a personal phone call to the applicant to make an offer and then follow up with a custom offer letter. The letter includes specific reasons that/moments when we knew the candidate was the right choice.

Our “thing” is personalization, so we take that seriously from the first moment. We also assign the new hire a Tribe Guide. Think of them as the kid who shows the new kid around school. They connect with the new hire through email to set up a meeting in advance of the first day just to get to know the new hire. Topics covered will include favorite food, favorite color, the emoji you’d be if you could be anything (I’m a stegosaurus), your greatest adventure, and more. Absolutely nothing work-related unless the new hire has questions.

At the Tribe Guide’s meeting with the new hire, they will share the new hire’s Week 1 onboarding plan. This plan will cover all of the 4 C’s, mixed throughout the week because NO ONE enjoys the first-day onboarding that is all compliance! You don’t need an extra nap day. 😉 So, the first day starts with connection: a virtual (and hopefully eventually in-person again) breakfast with your manager. The purpose of that breakfast is, again, just to get to know the new hire.

In week 1, our first goal is that new hires feel like they belong, so the week then proceeds with a meeting with the team from each functional area. We’re small, so we’re able to maintain this, but even a large organization could accommodate some version of this.

In order to hit compliance and clarification, we have developed a Field Guide for our cojourners which basically makes all that boring legal and tactical mumbo jumbo personalized and interactive using our platform. It’s a great way to get your employees to work through the onboarding tasks that are necessary, but not always so fun.

During this week, we also add our new hires to ETW to help them clarify the overall team goals and how their individual work contributes to overall company success.

Finally, we focus a TON on culture, which should come as no surprise as a culture-first company. We start out with our Passport, which is an actual physical document, and we issue every new hire a custom stamp. As we see team members demonstrating our values, we stamp their passport. While COVID has made this challenging, we’ve worked with Disco to create a Slack integration that supports our stamping and is customized for Journeyage values. Since we are very culture-focused, there are usually new stamps within the first week for new hires to observe.

Our Field Guide also includes an in-depth guide to our values, and we ensure that each new hire has time with their manager and a senior leader to talk about how our values inform our overall strategy as well as our day-to-day work.

We’ve also used a number of checklists to help us be sure we’re hitting all the important measures during onboarding.

You can find them here:

What our employees think

Ailsa, Front-end product developer

“The onboarding process at Journeyage was easily the smoothest onboarding experience that I have ever had. Not only was every little detail of my onboarding both meticulously organized and well thought out, but it was also truly enjoyable. A great deal of care was clearly put into making things as effortless as possible for me, leaving more time for getting settled in and getting to know the rest of the tribe.”

Nikki, Marketing Wayfinder

“This is just so beautiful. I can’t even describe my feels right now. I have so many feels. Thank you! I have never felt more ‘in the right place’ professionally.”

Overall, even in an all-remote moment, we have been able to create a seamless, positive, connected, and culture-focused onboarding experience that drives our tribe to greater productivity, mutual respect, and fun!

Are you excited to make your employee onboarding the best that it can be?

What would the ideal experience look like in your organization?

Want to learn more about creating amazing, retention-magnet experiences?

Sign up for our upcoming onboarding webinar, or skip ahead and request a demo now and we’ll give you a sneak peek at our Field Guide!

Keep exploring

Maksym Fedorenko

Front-end Developer


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