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Tips for Onboarding New Hires at a Startup

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When you are starting your own company, finding the right people to hire will be one of the biggest and most exciting challenges you will face. The second biggest challenge will be making sure they don’t have a disappointing experience as a new hire. Here are some ways to make your company stand out as an employer of choice—even when you’re busy and working with a tight budget.

Make Connecting Fun

At the Bonobos men’s clothing firm in New York, new employees are introduced to coworkers as a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Coworkers receive an email with a photo of the new hire and a bio that contains both true and false information. The first employee to figure out which ‘fact’ is actually a lie gets a prize. Obviously, the best way to find the answer is to talk to the new hire and get to know them.

Wheatsville, an organic food co-op in Austin, puts socializing in the hands of the new employee. Upon arriving for the first day of work, new hires are given two tasty items from the store’s inventory. Their task is to find a coworker to be the recipient of the second treat before the end of the day. This onboarding ritual is aligned with the value the company’s places on sharing.

Let New Hires be Originals

Too many corporations overemphasize fitting employees into the existing culture. That might seem like the smart thing to do if you are attempting to build a brand. However, it can go too far. Research suggests that helping new hires reinforce their own identity is the smarter choice, leading to long term retention and higher performance. Wipro (an Indian ITO firm) changed just one hour of their onboarding program to focus on uncovering the strengths and desires of new hires, and the results were astonishing. Turnover was 30% lower compared to a control group that went through the traditional onboarding process.

Create a Culture of Inevitable Success

At any startup, there’s a push to help new hires become productive as soon as possible. Don’t fight this urge. Instead, embrace it by setting achievable goals for the first days, weeks, and months of onboarding. Quora, an online knowledge sharing platform, expects everyone to work at a fast pace. To keep new employees from feeling intimidated, the team leader assigns a small project such as a bug fix or a minor feature that even an inexperienced software engineer can complete by the end of their first week.

As a startup, your company does need to have a formal onboarding process. Just as important, you must be willing to improve on it over time as you figure out what works best. To this end, be sure to schedule a “probation exit interview” with all new hires after their first couple of months on the job to find out what went well and what you can do differently in the future.

Bottom line – startups can be cool filled with excited and motivated employees. Regardless of the product or service you offer, a well oiled employee machine will always be the best way to sell your brand to the world.

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