Culture Killer: ONBOARDING

#131 of the 17,000 Ways We Can Wreck Our Culture

This is part of an ongoing series at Happy Spectacular where we discuss the things that are killing your company culture. Who knows? You might read something all too familiar and realize it’s time to make a change.

If you’re a leader and you’re hell-bent on wrecking your company culture, you’re probably doing the following things when a new employee starts.

  • You’re running a few minutes late in the morning, and because you didn’t tell Joan at the front desk that the New Guy was starting today, said New Guy feels like an ass because he came in all ready to hit the ground running and now Joan’s looking at him like he’s trying to sell her something.
  • You didn’t do whatever kinds of acrobatics you need to do at your company to get the New Guy set up in “The System,” so New Guy has to call the helpdesk to see about his user ID, and all he has is a badge ID which apparently isn’t the same thing, and it’s a problem.
  • You didn’t ask for Rick to have New Guy’s elevator pass ready, so Rick has to ask Joan to get up from behind her desk and let him into the elevator on six different occasions, which isn’t strengthening their relationship. New Guy wonders why he has a badge ID but not an elevator pass, but doesn’t wonder this out loud because he doesn’t have to – Rick rolls his eyes and says, “This happens all the time with the new guys.”
  • You booked yourself all day – back to back – so New Guy doesn’t get to spend time with you other than at the urinal, which gets understandably weird when you feel the need to make small talk about “how things are going so far.”
  • You didn’t arrange to have lunch with New Guy, because you’re so busy, and you didn’t think to arrange for him to have lunch with anyone else either, because you’re so busy. New Guy eats a pack of peanuts and a bag of Sun Chips from the vending machine for lunch, because no one invited him out when they all left for Chipotle, and he doesn’t want to ask Joan to let him into the elevator again to go to the cafeteria that he thinks might be in the basement of the building.
  • You had an idea of what you wanted New Guy to do on the first day, but you didn’t write it down and you’re all booked up – back to back and all – so you’ll have to go through it with him tomorrow. In the meantime, you ask New Guy to sit and read the Employee Handbook, and casually look around to make sure there isn’t anything he could stab himself with as he reads 74 pages of oft-outdated and contradictory information, like how the company values on page six are different from the ones on the wall in the lobby because that consultant came in an updated them in 2015.
  • You suggest, upon leaving the restroom, that he spends some time with Shania, who will be a great resource for him in light of her 18 years of experience – which makes a lot of sense – except that Shania has a bit of an ax to grind because the New Guy is in the cube with a few extra square feet of space than hers. “It’s not your fault,” she reassures him, after lambasting you and Amanda from HR for several minutes.
  • You interrupt your executive team meeting to ask the group to send a welcome email to New Guy because you are thoughtful like that. Those that follow through on your request receive a bounce back because New Guy’s email isn’t set up yet.
  • You take the advice of Raj in your team meeting that New Guy should shadow Mason in marketing for a few hours, so you have Raj text Mason in to tell New Guy to shadow him for a few hours. Mason shows up at New Guy’s cubicle, says he’s supposed to be shadowed for a few hours, says he’s not really sure what they’re supposed to do, and they both shrug. Mason takes New Guy back to his cube and shows him a few marketing things and then says he has to go get his daughter because it’s already 5 pm.
  • You don’t want to hear anything other than good news, so near the end of the day you “check in” with a nice close-ended question that’s really a statement with a question mark at the end: “Everything okay today?” New Guy, semi-conscious from the Employee Handbook marathon, nods.
  • At home, you realize you might have missed the boat on New Guy’s first day, so after dinner, you send an overcompensating-ly long email with eight attachments and numerous requests that you know will keep him busy through the next day. You feel relieved that you no longer need to figure out what to do with New Guy tomorrow, proud that you’ve righted the ship, and then cheers yourself. Onboarding is easy! (But then you get a bounce back because New Guy’s email still isn’t set up.)

Even if you’re not hell-bent on destroying your company’s culture, and even if you’re one of the good eggs trying really hard to get this leadership thing right, chances are you’ve done at least a couple of the things in the list above when starting a new employee. But worry not! Now’s your chance to fix some of the areas where you’ve gone off track.

Do the opposite of everything in the list above and your New Guys won’t be like the one-third of new employees who quit by the six-month mark. Even if you make one change a month to improve how you onboard people, you’ll make a big difference to the way people feel about working on your team, at your company, and in your culture. Don’t underestimate the power of a welcome card signed by everyone on the team, let alone a key card that actually works.

 

Jodi Wellman

Jodi is a co-founder of Happy Work Spectacular Life, loves red Skittles (maybe too much) and finally got a Happy Spectacular logo tattoo.

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