3.5 | a message brought to you by the bored of directors
I finally ask myself the hard question about onboarding programs
Hello! First off - thank you for reading this live lab notebook. I appreciate those who have texted me with thoughts/ideas/suggestions that have come up for you.
When I wrote post #3 last month, three themes came up for me:
Responsibility | Organizations need to decide and communicate who is responsible for successful onboarding of new hires.
Political Philosophy and recent disability research validate this tension and give us some language to discuss it.
Maslow’s Needs | Not all needs of new employees are equally urgent to address. Safety needs are probably most important, and then growth needs, and so on.
Imposter and Twitter Syndromes | A new employee could have a better-than-average grasp on the job, but think they’re inadequate due to past experiences, social anxiety, or trauma, limiting their potential to thrive. On the other hand, a new employee can be performing inadequately yet falsely believe that they’re performing on-or-above par. This employee may spend time in their ‘sails’ (seeking purpose, love, exploration) while simultaneously performing very poorly.
In the context of employee onboarding, we might call the former phenomenon ‘imposter syndrome’ and the latter ‘Twitter Syndrome’ (when you underestimate others’ knowledge and/or underestimate your own ignorance on a certain topic).
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Which brought me to these questions:
How do we calibrate our own understanding to that of those around us? (i.e. how do we find out the extent to which the yellow circle and blue circle overlap in a certain work situation?)
If I have time, I’d like to get thoughts from people who have designed corporate onboarding programs. How do they know their onboarding program is working? Or maybe a better question… how do they know it’s not not-working? or how do they know what ‘working’ even looks like?
But since December, I’ve had - what’s probably close to fifty - conversations that have challenged my thinking around onboarding. The most fun/challenging ones were with:
New hires at my company who have bravely asked me their “stupid” questions
Recruits at my company who, arguably even more bravely, asked me their “stupid” questions
Six dear friends of mine. Today, they’re at Bain, Uber, a think tank in D.C., beauty startup (this friend just raised a $10M series A woot woot), Premier Martial Arts, and in enterprise analytics - but our conversations drew upon work experiences since as far back as high school
Advisors/collaborators at Mentor Spaces, a startup ahead of its time
Those conversations forced me to ask myself why I’m writing
weekly monthly (weekly was ambitious) about onboarding.
Kayla, why are you writing this?
I want to understand what people need when they enter a new environment….
…and eventually help build an elegant SFAH-esque framework for OnBoarding Design (just came up with that term; can I trademark it? lol).
Cool, so say its 2024. We’ve built this elegant framework. HBR has picked it up, MIT wants to write a book with us, Naval Ravikant has asked for coffee with us on Thursday but we have to reschedule because Joe Rogan needs us on his podcast for a joint episode with Meghan Markle on royal onboarding. What happens next?
Leaders need to adopt it.
Why will a leader adopt it?
Because it grows profits. Pardon the cyncism here, but it’s increasingly clear that an institution can claim to care about a complex problem, but flake on their financial commitment to solving that problem.
How do we know that investments into onboarding design are profitable? How do we know that it saves costs? Or that it grows revenue?
I’ll be spending the next post or two exploring how the financial value of onboarding might be estimated using quantitative and qualitative methods. While I would have gone this direction eventually (a parting question in my last post was ‘how is success of an onboarding program measured’?), honest and exploratory conversations with y’all over the holidays led me this direction a bit sooner. Thank you friends!
See you next month!
on behalf of the bored of directors