In recent blog posts we’ve discussed our efforts to streamline PRISMA’s people-oriented philosophy. This time we turn the spotlight on our onboarding process for new hires, and how it’s being fine-tuned to build on our reputation as a welcoming, engaging, and productive place to work.
Today’s professional generation are seeking more than just a good salary. As society has evolved, the best talent are often giving equal priority to finding purpose, vision, and connectedness in the workplace – and if your organisation can’t provide them, they have no qualms to look elsewhere.
Hiring the right talent is one of the most important things a company does; it is the thread from which all success is built. If you hire gifted and capable people, develop them in the right way, and then retain their services, they can help you accomplish your every goal, as well as creating mutual benefit by having a positive impact on their career satisfaction. But if you hire the wrong people, it can have a major impact on motivation, engagement, and success.
A key way in which a company can combat this challenge is to adopt a robust employee onboarding program. Onboarding helps new hires adjust to both the individual and team performance requirements, as well as the social aspects of their jobs, so they can swiftly become well integrated, contributing members of the organisation.
Research cited by the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation has shown that new team members get about three months to prove themselves in a new job, and for both employees and their employers to judge whether they’re a good fit for the company. Naturally, the faster new hires feel welcome and prepared, the faster they’ll be able to successfully contribute to your overarching mission.
It’s perhaps surprising, therefore, that the same research also suggests only a small number of companies have a dedicated onboarding system that trains new people on their specific job role and integrates them socially into their team and company culture.
At PRISMA, we see onboarding as critical to achieving both our strategic and cultural ambitions
Growth demands change
Our decision to modify PRISMA’S onboarding processes has been driven by our desire to keep pace with modern methods used by many leading companies, but also integral has been our hiring of a large number of new team members last year – a trend that’s set to continue in 2020. Adding to our sense of urgency has been the fact that many of the roles we’re filling are notably technical in nature. Attracting top, experienced talent in technical fields such as engineering is always a tough challenge – largely due to there being less supply than demand – making it all the more important to keep hold of the ones you acquire.
That’s why having an effective onboarding process is one of the best ways of retaining quality staff
At the start of the year, we built a small working group comprising a diverse mix of colleagues for the purpose of rethinking how we approach onboarding. Using employee feedback, we began piecing together ideas on how to improve our existing processes. We soon reached the view that since our people are everything, it was incumbent upon us to help get them on the path to success as quickly as possible.
We then set about developing fully integrated processes that would cover the period from a candidate’s first interview all the way though to an employee’s first few months in their role. Having begun implementing these principles and ideas several months ago, we’ve taken the opportunity to share some thoughts on what we’ve learnt along the way.
1. Seek feedback from the people who know best
There’s no substitute for listening to the experiences of those at the coalface of your organisation – and the fresher their memories, the better. At PRISMA, we’ve developed three separate surveys that we send out to job candidates and new recruits, starting with those who’ve made it to the onsite interview stage, then moving onto new starters after their second week in the role, and then after 10 weeks.
The breadth of responses we’ve received has been essential in helping us hone our onboarding processes. But surveys also have a more direct benefit: they create a positive first impression, demonstrating that our company culture is far removed from the traditional top-down approach typically used by companies to integrate new team members. Our surveys send a strong signal that we care, and we listen.
2. Help smoke out suitable candidates
We believe that all employees are ambassadors. The power and impact of word-of-mouth cannot be overstated, and being well established as a place where people enjoy working is critical to an organisation’s ability to continue to attract the best talent.
Operating in a sector such as energy that’s full of organisations with hundreds of employees, we’ve been keen to get the word out that PRISMA is a comparatively small, open and progressive company that puts people at the heart of everything it does. While many people may make that assumption from our profile as a relatively young technology platform, it’s always useful to have it reinforced by those already working here. Quite simply, one of the ways we can entice people who are well suited to working at PRISMA is by getting our onboarding right.
3. Use the time before a new recruit starts to build connections
One of the regular bits of feedback we’ve received has been from new recruits commending us on our approach to the period between signing a contract and their first day at work - which can often be up to three months. Many companies wait until new team members have formally started before attempting to build connections with them, but this can often result in them feeling ignored and lacking in guidance during those initial few days.
At PRISMA, instead of taking an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach, we ensure we’re in constant contact, sharing key company updates, inviting them to events (both professional and social) and treating them as if they’re already part of the team. A week before their start date, we also share a presentation with a basic introduction to the company and its structure, what they can expect on their first day, and details of their first project.
4. Take a holistic approach
Another focus has been refining our interview structure for prospective developers. In the past we relied on online tools to set coding tasks for candidates, but we realised this was sub-optimal as these tasks bore little resemblance to those, they’d be working on at PRISMA. So we got our existing developers to devise bespoke tasks that not only better reflect the challenges they’d face at PRISMA, but also create a more personalised experience for candidates.
This is an example of what we believe has been our holistic approach to onboarding. It may seem odd or counter-intuitive to treat the interview stage as part of this process, given that the majority of candidates won’t end up a part of your organisation, but we felt it was essential to consider every step of the journey that people take on route to becoming a PRISMA employee.
5. Be quick to integrate staff into the company culture
Getting new recruits involved on a social level is also hugely important to us. We want our staff to enjoy their time both inside and outside the office, and to feel comfortable talking to colleagues not just about work-related matters, but about their families and interests too.
We’ve developed a tradition whereby new employees are encouraged to spend at least 30 minutes talking one-to-one with a colleague from another team, building a relationship, finding out about each other’s interests, and becoming familiar with people’s roles within the company. Soon we plan to allocate all new team members moving to Germany from overseas a buddy to help them integrate into their new surroundings, as well as to support them with any practical issues such as getting a visa or finding a place to live. At PRISMA we believe we’ve built a unique and distinctive culture, and we want new team members to feel a part of it as soon as possible.
6. Avoid setting things in stone
Like so much else, onboarding requires constant re-evaluation. Feedback will often point towards ways in which your methods can be tweaked and revised, so it’s important to be open to the possibility that you may not have got everything 100% right – yet.
Rather than placing everything in the hands of our People & Culture team, we’ve encouraged everyone at PRISMA to share ideas and observations about onboarding. This allows us to stay agile and ready to adapt to new circumstances, such as a sudden hiring surge that shifts the dynamics of the company. But more than anything, making it a collaborative effort helps eliminate the empathy gap between the people developing our onboarding and those it’s directly designed to serve – because getting it right is to the benefit of us all.
We hope this has provided some insight into the thinking behind our new onboarding processes. Every organisation has its own way of ensuring new hires learn the attitudes, knowledge, skills and behaviours required to function effectively – and we believe the version we’re building will help us continue to attract and retain team members who are fully onboard with the PRISMA vision.