We shy away from the cliché of “Human Resources”, instead giving it the moniker “Culture and Abilities”.
Employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into a company and its culture. It is an opportunity to provide them with the tools and information needed to become productive members of the team. We introduce our employees to the expectations, skills, knowledge, and culture of our company.
Advertising Is the Beginning
Onboarding starts with the advertisement. The way you word your ad is the first impression that a prospective new hire will have of your company. It should be clear and to the point. The role you are advertising for should be concise and easy to understand. It should also match the job description.
What caught my eye when I originally applied to The Cecily Group was the language that was used in the ad. It was friendly and direct and told me what I should and should not expect. Like everything else with TCG, our ads are tailormade for the position we are advertising for. That is where trust begins: transparency, communication, and consistency. The goal is always to balance the expectations of the employer with the expectations of the employee.
You will also need to define what unique abilities are missing from or would round out your team. Your ad should be written with certain triggers in it to attract someone with those specific attributes. Your ad should be written in a way that is interesting to the right people and helps you to define who is a good fit, and who is not a good fit – who just wants to have a job, as opposed to who wants to join a vision and a mission. It is important to weed out those people who do not share your vision. Hiring and firing costs valuable resources. You must be sure when you are adding someone to the team that they will also add value in significant ways and commit to a long-term vision and role with your company.
Once the ad has been sent out and we have had the chance to review the applicants, Nick will send out a very personalized email to invite those who have the right qualifications to continue in the process. This comes as a shock to some people as they are used to getting some canned response from “Human Resources”. He likes to personally explain the views and mission of our company. We want to be sure that they are going to be happy in the long run. When we hire someone likable and capable with just the right set of unique abilities, it is about more than just a list of tasks that need to be managed. It is about the overall fit for the team and how they can significantly add value. That transcends any singular role we might create for them, allowing for flexibility and the long-term growth of our team and company. If they are not in it for the long haul, they are not for us.
In the email that Nick sends out, he thanks them for applying, explains what we do, and what the expectations are, and then gives the applicant a little homework assignment. They must read a short book about team success and write a little report on it. It’s about gaining insight into the person’s character – will they read the book?
Surprisingly, this narrows down the field of applicants immediately. Some people will read the book and happily do the assignment. Others will take a long time to reply or not do it at all. These are not just people who need a job but people who see value in being thorough and exploring different methods and avenues of self-discovery. Everyone who applies for a position with our company goes through this “book report” process. This not only gives Nick an insight into how the applicant thinks, but we all get to read their response as a team. The team can then give feedback which Nick takes into consideration when making a final decision on who to hire.
Giving the team a look into the person’s CV and response also fast-tracks how they will be received by the group. We are looking for self-managing people, people with an entrepreneurial attitude, and people who like to go the extra mile. We are interested in people who can commit not only to our team and vision but to our process as well. Commitment is key and is part of what TCG calls the 5 C’s: Curiosity, Commitment, Courage, Capability, and Confidence. See our blog about writing your company’s values for more information.
Internal Branding and Company Values
How you interact with applicants and new hires is a form of internal “customer service” or branding. Internal branding aids employees in forming a commitment to your vision and to the work they do for you. It also builds trust and helps your employees focus on what you hired them for because they see that you are serious about your commitment to them, and willing to invest in it.
Speaking of investing in employees, one tool we use during onboarding is our benefits page. The employee needs to understand that though we do offer tangible benefits that can be immediately felt, other things are important to us which will become more evident as the employee experiences working with our awesome team. We offer a competitive salary, however, our focus is on the long term. Our benefits page is also the first opportunity a new employee gets to read our values. Working for a company with a fully formulated and tested set of values is an asset and very rare these days.
You can read my blog on how to write your company values here. Having a well-established set of values is key when presenting your working philosophy to new employees. Our values help us learn to work together, solve problems, and make decisions about how to deal with failures and plan the future. If everyone is working with and making decisions from a key set of values the core of your work will be solid and well-established. That way, when you do encounter some hardship it is easier for the team to adapt and bounce back. Also, it brings the person you are onboarding up to speed in record time. Expectations and rules of conduct are transparent and fully founded. They won’t have to guess or get secondhand information from well-meaning colleagues. Expectations are well-advertised and regularly reviewed to make sure they still fit.
Using Kolbe Numbers
Another onboarding tool we use is the Kolbe A™ Index. Kolbe numbers identify the way we gather and share information, organize and design, deal with risk and uncertainty, and handle space and intangibles. There is no right or wrong Kolbe number. Kolbe numbers simply help us access who thinks and works alike – and how to deal with a team member that might have a different approach than you do. This can be immensely helpful from a strategic point of view when creating smaller teams to work on specific projects. By assessing the Kolbe Index result of each team member, we can see what drives them and how they work and communicate. You can find more information about the Kolbe here: Kolbe.com | Home of the Kolbe A™ Index “Scientists throughout history agree that there are three parts of your mind. Kolbe looks beyond intelligence and emotions to identify your innate approach to taking action. This is the conative mind, and it is Kolbe’s mission to show everyone what drives their success.”
It’s important to note that the decision to use Kolbe as a tool is also a financial investment in finding the right people for the team. It’s up to you to decide if this is a commitment you would like to make, as it’s an action you will have to take every time you have new applicants. These costs are part of a pre-calculation we do when deciding to add another headcount to our team.
As an employee, I would say that Kolbe has not only helped me understand how to better work with other team members, but it has also changed my view of my working style. This fast-tracks the “getting to know you or how to work with you” experience. For myself, it helped me to understand why certain tasks come easily to me and why I procrastinate on others. Some things that are second nature to me are a challenge for others. We regularly do something called an activity inventory. You write down and categorize things that you do regularly and give them a ranking depending on your level of competency. We are mostly interested in the tasks that you may not have such a talent for or desire to do. Sometimes with a little reorganization, we can delegate these tasks to other team members who can do the task with ease. This is a big plus for us in terms of job satisfaction and efficiency.
Nick has the final say on who is chosen for our awesome team. He is clear about why he would choose one person over the next. He writes personally to the applicants who are chosen for interviews. If an interview is not successful, he leaves the door open and lets the applicant know why they weren’t chosen.
The experience with our hiring process should be a positive one, should we need to hire one of these people at a later date. This aligns with our values of “keep it classy” and “being available for anyone”.
Once the contract has been signed, we send the new hire a welcome basket from Fortnam and Mason. This is also a question of taste. It is a tradition of ours, and something we do every time someone joins the team. It is a great thing to make someone feel welcomed and appreciated, and it leaves a good first impression. This welcome has become even more important considering the necessity of social distance and the fact that we are all working from home.
The Onboarding Process Continues Into the First Months of Work
Since we are working remotely, in our areas of expertise, we schedule regular call-ins to keep everyone on track. Because of the nature and frequency of meetings we are always kept up-to-date and accountable. Regular meetings ensure that new hires get to know their teammates and begin to feel “at home” in The Cecily Group.
Generally, the period of onboarding takes about three months. I would say that our onboarding lasts at least a year. This is for the sake of employee retention. Once a year we have a lunch with each employee just to reflect, get vital feedback for our performance and make plans for the coming year and beyond.
The amount of effort and investment you put into the employee onboarding process reflects in the final product or service that you sell. The better your employees understand your vision, the more honest feedback they will give you, and the more you can hone your skills as an awesome team.