EP 02

Onboarding in a Modern Workplace

In today’s episode we’re going to be talking with Matt Dressel and Mike Bodell about all things onboarding, and give you some recommendations about how you can use technology to help your process and make it a great experience.

Episode Links
Hosted By
Matt Dressel
Mike Bodell
Produced By
Mitch Herrema
Edited By
Mitch Herrema
Music By
Eric Veeneman


Matt - “We only have so many hours a day, right? If we spend those hours on figuring out those administrative tasks. I can't learn about you right? Like if, if I'm having a conversation and you're asking me about, about how to do vacation. I'm not talking to you about your dog, or your family, or you know what you like about the job.”

*intro music*

Mitch – “Welcome back to Make OtherSuccessful, a podcast about modernizing your workplace and breaking down technology barriers to improve communication, collaboration and automate business process. We do all of this so you can get back to what your job really is and move your mission forward. Today, we're going to be chatting with Matt Dressel and Mike Bodell about all things onboarding and give you some recommendations about how you can use technology to help your process and make it a great experience.”

Matt – “Hey Mike, today we're going to do something a little bit different. We got a topic, a topic that's not super technical, that I really am interested in talking about, and that's onboarding, so employee onboarding. What happens when a new employee comes to your organization and how do you get them involved in your culture? How to get them set up and ready to go? Which I know is something we've struggled with in this time that we've been doing things right when it was just you and me, it was super easy. I told you, you deal with your computer, your stuff, I deal with my stuff. It's all good, right? And then we added, Mitch. And things changed a little bit, right? So, I guess I'll ask you like how did that, how was that for you? Like how did that transition for you?”

Mike – “So, for me this is an interesting topic because, I you know, haven't put a lot of emphasis on onboarding as a critical thing. It's not something that I've given much thought to a lot of the people that we deal with are high functioning and there's an expectation there that they can just pick things up.”

Matt – “Your expectation.”

Mike – “My expectation, right.Yeah, so one of the things that I think we've learned in the last few years is, that there is, there are a couple things to onboarding when we think about onboarding is, and one of those obviously is bringing somebody on to the team.Getting them to know your processes and the things that you do and how things work in your organization. But then there's the overall user experience aspect of it too, and just that experience of being a new employee and getting to know people and building relationships and things like that. That I think we've learned, is important, is important to our team, and it's become important for us, I think. It's given us an opportunity whenever we bring somebody new on to get to know them better, and things like that.”

Matt – “Yeah, it was like I remember at one point in time in this process, we were very much like, hey, you come to work, you bring your computer, it's already set up. We're going to give you some tasks and like get right to work and the administrative things you largely handled yourself and it was very individual thing where you work with them to get through that and then we transition to you know, I went down a path that was like, hey we need to get all this stuff set up for them ahead of time. We were buying computers, or we're going to get the computer setup and make sure it's all ready to go for them on their first day. But then it was kind of like maybe that's a little bit too, like set up and mechanical if you will. So, we changed that to be a little bit more different and to let them do a little bit more of those things. And we've gotten, to gone back and forth on a lot of different things, especially like even like the non-administrative tasks. So, we are thinking about, like we've just been talking about computer setup and how do you get into payroll and which are all part of onboarding. But then, you also want them to be able to know your culture and understand how everything works, right? Which is a whole other level of this process. I want to take a moment and talk about what, when we talk about onboarding, what it means. So, onboarding, when we talk about it, starts from when the employee is, accepts an offer letter, so they are gonna start, you know, when they're going to start and all the way up to when they're actually a fully functioning member of your team, right? So not just they can get their paycheck, they have their 401K filled out and the rest of it. But all the way to the point where they're kind of operating as a, as a piece of your business, a piece of the organization.They still may not know everything that they need to know. But they are you know, fully onboarded is what we liked, what I would like to call it so that's, that's what we're talking about. And I know for us, one of the things that changed in that regard is talking about our values, right? Like we went through a process of coming up with values that were, were that are important to us, in our business. And then we realized that, hey, when we get a new employee, we need to make sure that they at least know what the values are. And so, like for our, for our process, they meet with us, right? Like you and I sit down with them and talk to them about why those values are important to us, and what they mean. Because that's, that’s the way we wanted to approach that, we wanted to give it a very personal touch. But that's the type of thing that it goes beyond just the mechanics of getting them in the accounting system.”

Mike – “So, so one of those values being make other successful, right?”
Matt – “Yeah!”

Mike – “Like think about the onboarding process in terms of that, right. You’re bring somebody on board, you want them to be successful, because ultimately it makes us all successful hereat the organization.”

Matt – “Yeah, so let's talk about that. Why is it important, right? So why is onboarding a new employee, and doing it well, valuable across the board? And I would say that there's two main reasons, one being that, trying to attract people to your business and retain them is really important. And if someone comes in and starts their first day and they don't feel like they're part of your culture. They're going to try to find another job because they don't feel like either A.) They're being valued as a person as an important part of your business, but then also if it takes some six months to start producing something in your organization, and they don't have anything else tying them there. Like a lot of people will not find value in that, that won't be fulfilling to them, as they're as part of being apart of your business. So that's one piece. And then the other is, you know, the quicker you can get someone to be effective in your business, the better your business can grow and take advantage of the skills and personality of that person and that person in that individual. So, I would say those are like that's what you were just mentioning. That's why it's important, right? That's why that's something that we should focus on and try to do better. I would also say, like some people might say well, should we spend a lot of money and time on that. It really is, it depends on your industry, depends on, what you're doing, what size you are? How many people are going to be joining right? Like if you hire one person a year? You know, you should definitely have somethings, but is it worth it to automate that to the to the NTH degree? Probably not right, it just doesn't make a lot of sense. And again, the focus should be on the experience of the individual who's joining and the effectiveness in your organization.”

Mike – “That makes sense, and for us I want one of the things you mentioned in that first point about just having somebody feel like they're connected to your team and building that relationship. The reality is in our industry there are 1,000,000 problems to solve out there, and there's money to be paid to solve those problems, and so people can go anywhere, and for us, it's really about connecting with our people. And making it feel like a family, right? Like, like I can't leave if I wanted to, right? So, when we find these great people that we have on our team like we want to be a family with them and just help make everyone successful in that way. So, let's talk a little bit about some of the problems that we see out there with onboarding and we can talk a little bit about some of the challenges that we've had or some of the problems that we've seen in other organizations that we work with.”

Matt – “Yeah, so one of the big things that a lot of like, so a lot of people will say, you know, I have a good effective on boarding process. Chances are, what they really have figured out is the intake and the administrative tasks, right? So, they would probably have a really good process for I have a new person, they go to this site or this, fill out this form that get them signed up for payroll and for, you know, their401K and all these things and that gets them going right. And it's largely anHR responsibility, but the truth of the matter is that's pretty much all that50% of the organizations do. That's only the only piece of it, and what they're really missing out on is that next piece, which is the culture the involvement that's largely left up to you know, a manager, and for what they think is important to make that happen.”

Mike – “And more often than not, we see that that initial process is usually a paper process, right? Yeah, sit down with a manilla folder or a clipboard full of forms that you have to fill out as an employee, and then somebody processes that, gets it into the payroll system or wherever it needs to go.”

Matt – “Yeah, that's definitely what you were doing, when we started right up.”

Mike – “That's, that's definitely how we started and now you know we don't manage that paper at all, which is less of a security risk, like there's all kinds of benefits to that.”

Matt – “For sure. So, another thing that I would say that is challenging that a lot of organizations really have a challenge with is that, it's truly that, beyond that first week or that first couple days when their filling out those forms, the other side of it, that side that goes beyond that, is really about the engagement of the employee with the organization right? And finding the ways to get them to be. It might be a bad way to say it, but indoctrinated in your culture, right? Both from a this is what the business does, but then this is who your team is, this is where your team fits, this is what you're going to be doing, this is how you are going to be interacting with other people within the organization.”

Mike – “Well, I remember from you know some of the jobs that I've had where I landed there knew virtually nobody on the team except for the hiring manager, right? It can be very intimidating. You get thrown into something maybe you, you don't know if you can accomplish the task well you don't know anybody right so that type of thing that you're talking about helps to build relationships not only with the, the managers that you're dealing with and maybe with some of the team members as well. So, let's talk a little bit about like what are those things that we can do better, that we see, that can be done better to help with those things?”

Matt – “Yeah, sure. So, one of the things that you can do that, so there's a couple of things I will break it out in a couple different ways. So, probably a big area that is really challenging to solve, but if you can do it effectively can have a big impact. Especially for organizations that have employees that you know don't start for two days, two weeks, three weeks, maybe even a month out, right? So, in those types of scenarios, that's a lot of time from when they accept the offer to when they actually start and then get access to a lot of the other data and information that they might have. So, one way to solve that is to provide updates and information throughout that whole process about your culture, about where you're going, and obviously that can be a challenge. You know? How do you know, if they don't have an account? They don't know the computer, they don't have you know these other things that might require, that they might need to be able to get some of that information, but there are ways to get around that. So that's one thing, is like start before the first day like don't wait.”

Mike – “So, little cultural drips?”

Matt – “Yeah!”

Mike – “Right?”

Matt – “Right like, maybe, maybe pointing them to the, to your if you have your public website, maybe pointing to your public website with some information, maybe providing them with some of the, some documentation about, hey, this is how your first day is going to go, this is how the first week is going to go. So, that's part of it and that leads into the second thing which is, have a checklist, right. HR likely will have a checklist no matter what, but it's likely just limited to those HR functions, right? Have one that you could have all your hiring managers, have that say, this is what we do, right? You need to, you know, let's say take him out for lunch on the first day, right? You need to you know, meet with them one on one by, you know, maybe the fourth day that they’re with you, right. Like whatever, whatever those things are that you want to do as your organization, have a checklist. Make sure everybody knows about what that is. That that's the minimum, right? This is what we do as an organization. That's the minimum that we should be doing.”

Mike – “Sure, things like pair them with a buddy.”

Matt – “Yeah, for sure a mentor.Yeah for sure. So that's one. That's, that's another thing, another thing that is, you can do to kind of improve it is to really empower the employee, the new employee to learn and guide themselves. So, a lot of the time is part of the problem is I show up on the first day and it's like, who do I ask for help? Well then if I have to go ask Mike, let's say, for help all the time I'm going to feel not so great, as an employee. Like I have to go ask him for this thing, likeI'm interrupting his day. They're doing this thing which ties into the mentor thing you mentioned before the, or the guide conversation. So, number one, authorizing someone to actually go talk to you, somewhat interrupt their day, but then the second is provide resources that they can go figure stuff out themselves, right? Document things that are important to them, important to new employees so that they can go get those things from a resource perspective.”

Mike – “Things like where do I submit my timesheet or how do I check out a tool if I need it? Like let's sayI'm in the trades business somewhere, right? Those types of things giving somebody the ability to just look at what that process is and give them pointers on where to go to do that as opposed to feeling uncomfortable asking somebody the question right, you give them that power. I think in a lot of ways doing that and giving them that knowledge will help them fit into the team more quickly, right? 'cause they'll just feel like they know it.”

Matt – “Yeah, and they can also talk with people. In a equal kind of manner. So, when they're asking about vacation or holiday or the new, you know quarterly meeting that you guys have right? They're going to talk and know something about it and not be like what's that meeting I didn't like, I just heard about that from here, but I don't know what that means, right? So, it really provides an equal footing so they can start talking about things as equals. Rather than, I'm just asking and here to just get information and I don't know anything.”

Mike – “So, after somebody starts when does onboarding stop?”

Matt – “That's a great question, so I don't think there's a really a good answer for that. I think I would, I would tell people that they should try to be doing something for new employees for at least three months, Now, does that mean you're doing something every week? No, probably not, but does that mean that you should be scheduling time or sending targeted communication to those people for that time? Absolutely, so three months, gets them through a quarter, so maybe you are doing those quarterly meetings. Maybe a big event is going on, and maybe you're just it's a reminder to say hey before that happens I should meet and talk to the new employees and make sure they know what's going on. They understand what's about to happen, right? So maybe there's a performance review process that happens during that three-month period? Take a moment and help them understand it, maybe this is going to be the first time they're going through that process, right? Help them get that information that's maybe a little bit different than what you know. Maybe you're already providing some guidance about how things changed, but they don't know how it worked in the 1st place. As an example, right?”

Mike – “I feel like just thinking about that in my mind, one a good goal of that process, that early part of the process would be at the end of three months. Do we have a relationship with this new person?”

Matt – “Yeah.”

Mike – “That we feel comfortable having additional conversations weekly, monthly, whatever they are one on ones peer review process, whatever those things are, right? Have we built those relationships well enough so that they feel comfortable coming to us or we feel comfortable going to them with an issue, right?”

Matt – “Yeah. So, one thing we haven't talked about is how do you do all of that stuff like what do you do? And obviously we’re a tech company like we do Office 365 stuff and I think there is, there's a number of ways that technology can help. Probably the most obvious one is automating forms and filling out the forms, etc. We're not going to talk too much about that. There's a bunch of solutions out there that will allow you to do that, but that's not something that we necessarily have a good insight into, you know? the best tools for that 'cause honestly for us even internally we're still doing it, it is all paperless but it is fairly manual, right? We're sending out individual forms, but I will talk about a couple other things. One would be the preboarding concept that we talked about before, which is that from the time that they accept an offer to when they actually have their first day. And that is something that you can do some things with, right? Develop a portal, a dedicated portal. It could be, you know either a website that's secured with password. It could be a SharePoint site with external guest users.If you're using Office 365 like we’re most common commonly familiar with. But, basically you know they signed, they sign in and now they have an access to a portal that gives them, maybe you know, what's our core values? Who's the leadership team?What is your first day look like? What's the benefits look like? Maybe it has frequently asked questions, right? So, you're not giving him everything that the new employee would need, but at least something that they can go out to. And even if you don't, so another challenge is a lot of new employees may just want to deal with email, and that's OK, right? But then from an HR perspective, now when I send an email out responding to a question, I provide a link back to that portal, right? And now they go to the portal and say, oh, cool, I got the information I needed, but then I also have these other links to other resources that I can get access to. So, I think that's, that's one thing where technology can help. Another thing is like it's the same concept, but it's post first day, so an onboarding portal and so this is really that same concept, only a much broader amount of information, because now they are an employee. They have a computer, they have an account. They're working with people, and so maybe it includes the checklist that they can expect to be going through in the first week or the first month. Maybe it has some additional content about, you know some of the other process we talked about vacation and this type of thing, right?”

Mike – “So, help me understand this a little bit more. Are we saying that we could have a couple portals here? A preboarding portal would be a place where somebody could go? Learn about our culture, learn about some of our processes. Maybe it's a place they could actually fill out those forms that HR needs. Perhaps they could be submitted, and that process could get rolling in that two weeks prior to their joining, and the onboarding portal is something that helps them get to know the organization at an even deeper level. Maybe gives them training resources, like now that they're on the inside right, they have access to things we can give them more of that information. Is that kind of what we’re saying?

Matt – “Yeah, yeah, for sure. Like sort of checklist in that example. Maybe it has direct links to if you have a learning management system, maybe it has direct links into courses in the learning management system like we recommend going through these things, right?Like maybe there's a, there's a communications training that they really need to do, and maybe there's a, you know, a harassment training that's pretty common thing for, for HR Departments to want. So, maybe it has direct things right from there and they don't have to, on their first day, they don't have to wait for an email from their manager saying, hey, you should go do this. They say oh this, I'm going to do all this stuff. I'm going to get a start on that now, even though nobody's really necessarily asked me to do it yet.”

Mike – “OK, so what are some of the other things that you might add to those portals or to that process to help somebody from a technology standpoint?”

Matt – “So, I think some, the two other things that I would mention are really surveys. So, in Microsoft World using Microsoft forms or something. To basically get feedback on a regular basis in a consistent format. Obviously, that doesn't replace a manager meeting with somebody and asking questions but asking us consistent set of questions if you’re onboarding a lot of people overtime it can help you make changes and get feedback to the process, both from an employee's perspective but also from a management perspective. It also could be used, so I think you think about it, surveys one way, but another thing way, it could be used would be I want to make, as anHR representative, I want to make an announcement for this new employee. You know what's their favorite food? You know what, what's their favorite movie, right?Do I want to send that email every time and manage that? And remember that I asked the same things to everybody. Why not just create a form and say hey, fill this out and when they fill it out it comes back to the HR representative and they can, you know, create a welcome email or you know something else.”

Mike – “Sure, help everybody get to know them.”

Matt – “So, survey is one thing. Another big thing, is creating a technique, using technology to create a repository for frequently asked questions or information that they can get access to. We mentioned a lot about self-help, like find your own, let them find their own stuff. So, it might be such a thing as creating a bot, a chatbot as an example.So, in teams you can create a chat bot that would be, you know frequently asked questions. You could use this for more than just the new employee could be for everyone or it could be targeted to new employees. But questions like you know, how do I get my personal phone connected to the Wi-Fi, right? And maybe there's an answer to that, right? How do I, you know who do I contact for change in benefits, right? Or you know my password, it's not working right? or my computer is not working? Or whatever that might be, providing some contextual information about what, how to get answers to those problems. That would be another area right, which I think there's specific to self-help. There's a lot of different things, it could be a chatbot like we talked about, but it could be at knowledge base. It could be just articles on a main portal that you have, or articles on the onboarding portal like we talked about. That would help people answer questions for themselves and not be so reliant on other people within the organization.”

Mike – “It sounds to me like there's a lot of opportunity for organizations to think about this and begin to document the processes that they have. Let's say they don't have that knowledge base, right? They're going to start documenting those things and then they're going to start thinking about like, what are the important things that we want people to be able to get through this tool? What are the things that we need to change? Now that we're looking at this, oh that, well that was a dumb idea.We've been doing that for 20 years. Let's fix that, right?”

Matt – “Yeah, for sure. And so, the other thing I was going to mention is, when we, when I look at the way, the reasoning behind all of this, the reason you want to get people to try to figure this out themselves. A lot of people might say, well, you're taking out the personal aspect of the onboarding process and how does this help you build culture. So, the point of that whole thing is we only have so many hours in the day, right? If we spend those hours on figuring out those administrative tasks.I can't learn about you, right? Like if, if I'm having a conversation and you're asking me about, about how to do vacation. I'm not talking to you about your dog, or your family, or you know what you like about the job, or like those are the, those are the things that we want to be talking about. Or maybe it's me explaining how what you just did relates to one of our core values, right? Those are the types of conversations you want more time to do, and they just get lost if you spend all your time doing all these other things.”

Mike – “And by the way, today's generation expects it all to be electronic.”

Matt – “Yeah, yeah.”

Mike – “Right, that’s how they like to access things.”

Matt – “Yeah.”

Mike – “And then for the last year, during this pandemic, right? We've all been forced virtual.”

Matt – “Yeah.”

Mike – “Most of the time, and so having those resources available online at your fingertips can be very valuable.”

Matt – “Yeah, for sure. So, I don't have anything else that was all the stuff I wanted to talk about.”

Mike – “ I think that was really an enlightening conversation, it was really good for me to get a peek into some of the research that you've been doing when it comes to onboarding, and I look forward to improving our process here at Bulb for sure.”

Matt – “For sure.”

Mike – “Thanks Matt,”

Matt – “Thanks Mike.”

*outro music*

Mitch – “Thanks for joining us today. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app, so you'll always be up to date on the most recent episodes.This podcast is hosted by the team members of Bulb Digital. Each episode is produced by me, Mitch Herrema. Special thanks to Eric Veeneman for our music tracks. If you have any questions for us, head to makeotherssuccessful.com and you can get in touch with us there, you'll also find a lot of insightful blogposts and videos to help you modernize your workplace. Thanks again for listening, we’ll see you next time.

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