On-boarding — always learning from our new hires

On-boarding — always learning from our new hires

August 8th, 2019

When I first heard of Total Synergy, I was heading up the marketing department of a large, global software company in Sydney CBD. I had two, small children under four and the workload, hours and travel were relentless. I wanted to keep working, I just wanted to stop travelling, have greater work flexibility, and be judged on outcomes (not hours spent at desk).

Total Synergy CEO Scott Osborne and I discovered each other through LinkedIn — we had mutual colleagues and were both recruiting for marketing managers at the same time. He sent me a light-hearted quip about forwarding good candidates his way, which motivated me to reply: ‘How about me?’.

A coffee interview in the city quickly demonstrated Scott’s passion and clear vision for his business and his customers, and my marketing skills and experience. We had a strong values-fit. So, I became Total Synergy’s first marketing hire in February 2010. I was the marketing department, part-time, four days a week (work goals — tick). There were no formalities other than signing a contract and a brief mention that Scott was going to North America for a couple of weeks.

I couldn’t wait to hit the ground running at Total Synergy and was energised to make a significant contribution to the company. I was excited about working for a small business again, in a much faster-paced environment, where people work hard because they care and solve things themselves due to limited resources. The culture wasn’t CYA (cover your ass) it was work hard together to build great solutions for our customers and always ‘go the extra mile’.

My first day, I arrived early at the office dressed in my business best. The door was answered by a developer dressed in jeans and t-shirt, a quizzical eye-brow lift, and a ‘Can I help you?’. My enthusiastic ‘Yes! I’m the new marketing manager’ was met with a blank stare and a holler to the rest of the office ‘Does anyone know anything about a new person starting?’. Bueller? Anyone?

I was ushered to an empty desk. No idea what I was supposed to be doing. No computer. No marketing colleagues. A salesperson arrived and showed me where to get a coffee and gave me some company brochures and industry magazines to read. The difference between jobs and the disconnect between recruitment and on-boarding was enormous. I felt sick. What had I signed up for?

As my first day progressed, more of the team arrived and organised a computer for me and showed me some of the company systems (very little was cloud-based). It was a long and unproductive week, before Scott returned from overseas to give me some direction and take me through the two-week orientation plan he had organised and documented (which was impressive for a company with only ten staff). The plan included shadowing the sales team to software demonstrations, consultants to customer training and being walked-through the solid business plan that was developed with an external consultancy. My anxiety levels and culture shock subsided. But I never forgot the initial on-boarding experience. And I became an active advocate for making sure it wasn’t repeated with future hires.

Fast forward almost ten years and Team Total Synergy is now over 30 people from ten countries and growing fast. We’ve had eleven new team members start this year alone and I am quietly chuffed with our high on-boarding standards today (and the role I played in developing them) — even without dedicated HR staff or budgets.

These days new team members know exactly how we dress and what to expect before they start. We’ve created friendly communications that genuinely reflect our values and automated most on-boarding processes using systems like BambooHR and Trello. We ensure the first day is memorable (for the right reasons) and that every new starter has a wingman. We also create a strong sense of belonging with many personal touches like a welcome kit and individual welcome messages from the entire team. Their desk and preferred devices are always set-up in anticipation of their arrival. And Scott’s comprehensive and structured two-week orientation programme continues to make sure new staff meet everyone and understand their roles, fast.

Total Synergy continues to learn through the collective wisdom of new team members — what did we get right, what did we get wrong, and how can we make it better next time? Fortunately, Scott doesn’t wear as many hats as he did in 2010 and we have a great management team supporting and evolving our on-boarding efforts.

As Ferris Bueller said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This is certainly true at Total Synergy — ten years seems like two. And when I stop and look around, I’m delighted we’re still hiring smart people with a strong values-fit. Our work has clear purpose, and everyone contributes and supports each other (while having fun along the way). Ongoing work flexibility helps me keep up with the pace of both my professional and personal life. And my work always reaches its greatest contribution when things I help create – like on-boarding – stand the test of time and are consistently used by others many (*cough*) years later.

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