What makes for a stand-out onboarding process? Ideal onboarding practices run like a well-choreographed performance, with a lot of work and preparation happening behind the scenes. And while it may seem like a small thing when you consider the longevity of an entire career, we all know that first impressions set the stage for what’s to come.
Ensuring that a new employee’s first experiences are positive — from job offer to day one with the team — takes planning, organization, and even a touch of flair. As Smartsheet’s HR and Recruitment Manager, I have made it my mission to refine our onboarding process down to an impactful set of communications and meetings.
Setting the stage
1. Use digitized signatures
Shortly after the new employee receives the job offer call from their recruiter or hiring manager, a Docusign packet arrives in their inbox. Docusign, one of Smartsheet’s extensive list of partner apps, allows users to sign papers electronically from anywhere without having to print or fax.
Identical copies of this same packet are sent to the HR recruiter and appropriate hiring manager, as well as the CEO. This way, all parties involved share one up-to-date point of reference at the outset of onboarding. Plus, the process is already rolling before day one.
2. Send a “box of happiness”
At this point, the new employee has lept over many hurdles — even though the job hasn’t officially begun. The challenge of finding work is nothing to scoff at when you take into account the resume preparation, networking, and intense interviewing needed to land a role in any prestigious organization. Between offer acceptance and their first day, and while they are likely finishing up their old job, we let our new employees know they haven’t been forgotten. That, in fact, we are preparing for their arrival with anticipation.
That’s why Smartsheet employees receive a personalized gift at their home address a week before their first day. It reminds them that we’re excited to have them aboard, and gives them a sneak peek into our culture. Our “box full of happiness” contains a personalized note from each of the new employee’s interviewers, chocolate, a mug, and a slew of Smartsheet swag. Many influential companies have unique onboarding rituals, and we like to use this simple, classic approach.
At the same time that this gift arrives, the new employee also gets an email describing everything needed for a successful first day: their agenda, where and when they need to arrive, and what to expect.
Behind the scenes
3. Provision early
HR works with the hiring manager to make sure each new hire is fully prepared on their first day. This makes for a much smoother transition than trying to train and provision someone simultaneously — once the employee sets foot in the building, they should be fully ready to go from a technology and office provisioning standpoint. We track this using our New Hire Provisioning Sheet, one of our many customizable templates for HR found in our Solutions Center.
In addition to having equipment and access ready to go, we make sure the employee’s workspace is clean and provide a welcome note and a starter pack of office supplies.
4. Get organized. Really organized.
If you’re already familiar with our product, you know that Smartsheet can be used to organize and coordinate all types of work. And, like all companies that believe in their product enough to put it to the test day-in and day-out, we use Smartsheet to keep track of each step of the onboarding process. Here are just a few templates that you can use to streamline your onboarding process just like we do here at Smartsheet:
- Job Candidate Tracker: Keeps all of your job candidate information in one easy-to-view space.
- New Hire Checklist: Consolidates all of the pertinent information used in onboarding. You can also create a customized Master Onboarding Checklist like the one below to achieve even greater detail.
- Employee Info Resource: Helps hiring managers store pertinent details on multiple employees in one centralized digital space.
- Monthly Personnel Activity Tracker: Manages headcount and turnover information to give HR leaders a better view of personnel movement in the organization on a monthly basis.
The opening act
5. Be consistent
New Smartsheet hires usually start on a Monday so they can dive into a regular working schedule from the outset. Since their first day mirrors the agenda emailed to them a week prior, they typically come prepared and excited to get started.
The initial HR onboarding process takes about two hours. It might sound like a long time, but it’s actually an efficient use of the employee’s first morning on the job. They receive all of their first-day paperwork in printed form. Some say this comes as a surprise from the likes of Smartsheet, in which the digital workspace affords maximum freedom and control over all sorts of tasks. But there’s a reason we use hard copies for the first day. Having a tactile experience boosts memory retention of key facts during a time in which the new hire has a lot of external stimuli, not to mention some first-day jitters.
New employee orientation involves eight sessions with leadership over their first month or so. This way, knowledge is distributed at a manageable pace, all while the employee is in the middle of executing projects with their teams. Each hire’s new employee orientation (or NEO) is made up of a cohort of other hires who began at the same time. This fosters lasting cross-functional bonds among the new hire group.
6. Set them up for success
We also provide what we call Smartsheet Boot Camp — a workspace provided right out of the gate. Boot Camp is a huge resource employees can utilize at their own pace. It sets them up to be dangerously knowledgeable about our product and ready to handle any challenges that come their way. Employees are introduced to Boot Camp on day one, which primes them to dive in as they acclimate to their new roles at Smartsheet.
Share your vision
In many ways, the onboarding experience at Smartsheet mirrors the product itself. We foster a sense of transparency and accountability. And most of all, we get out of the way and let people do great work in their own way.
Proper preparation shows. You want new hires to feel welcomed and valued, and it’s much easier to start off on the right foot than to have to backtrack and correct misconceptions later. Remember that as the onboarder, you probably arrive to orientation well-practiced, while your newest recruit has no clue what to expect. For this reason, the experience needs to feel fresh and full of enthusiasm even if it’s your hundredth run-through. Also make sure to be aware of your terminology — sometimes younger hires won’t be familiar with your regular business parlance.
Just remember to read the room and make yourself available for questions every step of the way. The onboarding process can be a series of disorganized, bureaucratic steps. Or it can be the launching point for those who will become some of the brightest thinkers and doers in your organization. Take a tour of Smartsheet to see how you can set yourself and your new hires up for an outstanding performance — this time and every time.