"The most memorable time of an employee’s career, and the time with the biggest impact, are his or her first few days and weeks on a new job."
—Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage
When I first joined the Regional Partnership, the learning curve for a new team member was about two years. It took that long to fully grasp the scope of the organization and learn the acronyms and jargon of economic development. We decided that was not acceptable. We knew there had to be a better way to get team members up-to-speed faster so they could make progress in their responsibilities faster and gain satisfaction in that accomplishment.
Through our work to create our orientation and onboarding process, we’ve now cut the learning curve down to about three months and have come to realize unforeseen benefits of purposeful onboarding.
3 Components of an Effective Onboarding Process
1. Orientation to Culture and Values
Horst Schulze, founding president of the Ritz-Carlton Group, is the first person new employees hear from when they start their first day of work. He has identified the importance of new team members understanding who he is and that he values them. He tells them, “I am a very important person. And so are you.” This first interaction gives Schulze the opportunity to set an example for standards and culture from the very start.
We have adopted this model at the Regional Partnership, placing our president and CEO John Sampson, as close to the beginning of the orientation process as possible. It is John’s responsibility to discuss the Partnership’s values and set an example for what those values look like in real life. According to The Advantage, “More than anything else, values are critical because they define a company’s personality. They provide employees with clarity about how to behave.” This orientation sets team members up for success from the beginning to make efficient and effective decisions on behalf of the organization. And to understand that they were specifically selected to join our team and are valued for who they are.
2. Orientation to the Organization
Sometimes the best way to understand the present is to understand the past circumstances that helped shape the current reality. The Regional Partnership is a fairly complex organization. Having a long-standing team member do an orientation on the founding and development of the organization provides the context for understanding who we are today and our future direction and purpose. This orientation includes the mission and vision, the organizational structure, stakeholder and governing groups, our Code of Ethics, acronyms, financials, balanced scorecard, etc. It is a broad overview to provide the framework for following orientations.
This transfer of institutional knowledge helps new team members come into their work on a level playing field with other team members.
3. Orientation to Team Members
Orientation is an important opportunity to understand each other as team members. Each of our new team members has a one hour orientation meeting with every department. Every single team member is involved in some meeting. The basic structure for these meetings is as follows:
Who you are as a person
People work best when they know and care about the people they work with. Getting to know each other personally creates trust-based relationships that make our work more effective, engaging and rewarding. Discussions incorporate Gallup Strengths Finder strengths, Myers-Briggs profiles, home life, growing up, hobbies, etc.
Why you do this work
Understanding why your team members care about the work they do and what motivates them to do it is inspiring. Ultimately, you learn that you are part of something that matters to others, and that you are working with people who care as much as you do. At the end of the day, this is what brings us together and motivates us to keep going when the going is tough.
What you do
Learning who is responsible for what provides clarity to the full scope of strategy and activity for the organization. This helps new team members know who to call on for particular assistance or expertise, and who to collaborate with around certain projects. Synergy is best found when people know who to bring to the table. This is critical for new team members to quickly adopt our model of collaboration and use it to their advantage, ultimately advancing the work of the organization more quickly.
How your work relates to our mission to build, market and sell Northeast Indiana to increase business investment
Articulating the connection between specific strategies and activities according to the broad mission of the organization puts an overall structure in place to make sense of it all. At the end of the process, new team members know specifically how others contribute to the mission, which provides additional clarity to how they themselves contribute to the mission.
This process usually takes place over the first two weeks on the job. By the end of the process, new team members have a broad knowledge of the organization, how to behave, what our standards are, who they will work with every day, and ultimately how everything and everyone works together to achieve the results we have been tasked to accomplish for the region. Although the learning process is really never complete, we have found this process to give a significant leg-up on a new team member’s long-term experience with the organization.
Vanessa Hurtig is director of administration for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.