The Critical Role that Onboarding Plays in your Employee’s First Month

I see the first few days of employment at a new company as being similar to the experience of learning how to swim from a lifeguard, with your supervisor serving as one of two types of lifeguards. The first is the type that tells you their name, briefly tells you that your job is to swim to the opposite end of the pool, explains that swimming is just flapping your hands and feet in the water, tells you to jump in, then sits on their phone as you flail your way down the lane and try not to drown.

The second type of lifeguard gives you a more thorough introduction. They may ask, “What brought you to our swim classes? Is there anything you’re particularly afraid of?” Once you converse for a while, the lifeguard tells you that “By the end of the week, you’ll be swimming to the end of the pool and back with no problem. It may seem scary at first, but I’ll be here to demonstrate techniques, give you feedback, and supervise the process so you know you’ll be safe.” Before getting in the water, the lifeguard explains proper form, what to expect while you’re swimming, and exudes a progress-over-perfection attitude

Do you have similar new hire orientation experiences with leaders like the ones above? Before I began working as Teresa’s Marketing Assistant, my experiences with onboarding were more like the first scenario- I was given the standard paperwork, a handbook, a list of things to do, and an email login. Even after reading descriptions on websites and LinkedIn, it embarrassingly took me a while to clearly articulate to myself and others what it was that the business actually did.

Sometimes, I’d spend weeks on an assignment that was handed off to another person but it never really went on to become something, and I’d be frustrated that something I worked so hard on wasn’t really contributing to the business. I’d ease these frustrations with the reminder that at least I was getting paid per hour, and that was all that mattered. I couldn’t wait until 5PM arrived.

Here's one of many problems with this scenario- I didn’t understand how my work contributed to their overall business goals. Reflecting back on it, I’m not even sure if I truly understood the business’ goals beyond simply making a profit.

I've learned since that it's incredibly important for a business leader to articulate to new employees what the business is trying to do, how they plan to accomplish this (both in terms of the values they approach this with as well as the methods), and how the employee assists in accomplishing this. If you can do these things, you’ll set your employees up for success in a way that results in increased motivation, less anxiety and internal conflict, consistent expression of company values, and clarity regarding your goals and direction.

If you’re thinking, “Wow, this sounds like a ton of work”, you’d be correct. If you’re also thinking, “I don’t think I can afford to spend time doing this”, I’d counter with asking how you can afford to not spend time implementing these best practices. Sure, this may require you to spend 14+ hours onboarding your new employee. However, this prevents you from wasting weeks, maybe months of time down the road in fixing mistakes.

I’ll briefly outline how my onboarding experience at Daringly Great Consulting went as this blog post's focus is on my thoughts and results- if you’d like a more thorough description, check out our other blog post on onboarding or this Facebook Live Teresa had where she explains her process, thoughts, and shows you the visuals used!

On my first day at work, I showed up to a wall of giant sticky notes covered with company outlines, funnels, frameworks, timelines, and more sticky notes. Teresa explained the company’s vision, mission, values, and objectives using a variety of visuals and interactive questions. She would ask me questions about my thoughts, and relevant past experiences. She explained the marketing funnel, her ascension model and assets, and introduced me to agile methodology. She recognized that I’m the kind of person that loves learning, and recommended a variety of resources like podcasts, books, and leading industry figures.

The next day she gave me a few light tasks (such as research for content creation that simultaneously helped me to understand the company and industry), but continued the teaching and coaching activities. Over the course of two weeks (in which I had worked a little over 20 hours), she would review previous material while building on it and introducing new material. I steadily gained a greater understanding and appreciation of what the company does, and my role in the company became clearer. I grew more excited about the ways I could contribute to the company, and was able to visualize the growth I’d be able to achieve in line with the projected future plans.

In a little less than a week, I will have worked as a Marketing Assistant Intern for a month! In this short period of time, I’ve been able to: complete 2 opt-in funnels, adapt to a variety of digital marketing and process software platforms, become accustomed to agile methodology, and pack more marketing and business strategy lessons than I thought possible into some work days. Being able to put these into practice cemented what I had learned and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment.

This experience has taught me a lot about digital marketing, but I unexpectedly learned a lot about myself as well. As Teresa taught me about the content of her program, I’ve changed the way I view leadership. I’ve always struggled with the difficulties of being a perfectionist, the biggest of which is hesitation to just get stuff done- I often ended up dragging things out far longer than I wanted to. After adapting to the agile methodology that we use daily at work, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with time blocking and pushing aside my hesitation.  I feel more confident in my ability to communicate in a team effectively, voice my honest thoughts, and receive feedback without taking it personally.

I love that I can approach my work with a fresh sense of energy and excitement- I’m no longer filled with a sense of anxiety the night before and the morning of work. I’m not afraid to contribute ideas because I feel like I have a good understanding of what we’re aiming for. I feel focused and motivated, and don’t need to worry about approaching work with discipline as it just comes naturally now. I truly value the time that Teresa invested in me so that I was able to learn more about our purpose and my individual contributions. My onboarding experience has transformed my view and attitude towards work completely- for the better.



We’d love to hear about your own onboarding experience- have you conducted the process, or been on the receiving end? Were the experiences positive or negative, and why do you classify them as such?

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