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The importance of onboarding in high growth companies

16/11/2021 2021/11

Wow, what a gold-rush atmosphere! Your company's order numbers are going through the roof, and even though new people have only recently been hired, you already need reinforcements. But what is the best way to onboard the new hires?

Especially in phases of high company growth, everything suddenly seems to happen very quickly and as if by itself. More and more and larger orders come in, the workload of the employees increases and can only be absorbed by a rapid increase in staff. Under this pressure, the impression can arise that there is no time for trivialities. The new colleagues receive a quick introduction to the company and then have to jump in at the deep end and, after a short onboarding process, be able to act autonomously as quickly as possible in order to cope with the workload. This often leads to a situation where the "less new" explain the job to the "completely new".

Onboarding process by inexperienced employees poses challenges

If a person who has not been in his or her position or in the company for long is supposed to explain the content and processes to other newcomers, there is a high risk of mistakes. Those who have just mastered the standard process themselves usually do not have a good answer to questions about details or exceptions. The knowledge of theoretical procedures - be it processes or the operation of programmes - may not yet have been sufficiently consolidated through practical application to be able to make it comprehensible to others. Such a technical introduction also takes longer and is less convincing because it is not yet presented with the routine of an "old hand" or backed up with practical examples.

In the worst case, misunderstandings or supposed limitations are passed on. The hoped-for increase in productivity through more staff thus takes longer than average to materialise, as the uncertainties lead to a greater need for coordination and reworking. In addition, very few people feel comfortable explaining to another person something they themselves have only mastered or known for a short time. As a newcomer, on the other hand, one hopes to have arrived in a company where everyone knows what they are doing. Finding out during the induction that the mentor is uncertain, possibly because he or she has only been with the company for a short time, does not directly increase trust.

With the keyword trust, we come to the non-professional side of onboarding. We have already seen that onboarding by inexperienced colleagues can cause stress and uncertainty on both sides. Orientation and support in these uncertain situations should be provided by the manager, as the expectations of the new job in particular are linked to the hiring managers who have supported these ideas during the recruitment process.

The role of managers in employee onboarding

In situations of high company growth, it often happens that those who have been on board for a long time hold positions with greater responsibility. This is because they already know the company, the business and the industry well and are expected to be responsible for the area.

Experts in the field of leadership have been warning against precisely this principle for years: whoever does their job best professionally or has the longest experience in the position is not automatically qualified to be a manager. Especially with these almost spontaneous promotions in a boom phase, the probability is high that a person suddenly finds himself or herself as a boss who may never have seen himself or herself in this position and has not been prepared for it.

As a result, you have a leader who is technically skilled, but who first has to come to terms with the new role as leader, and thus there is a danger that this will ultimately not be the optimal filling of the leadership position. In this phase of finding a new leader, it unfortunately happens all too often that newly hired operational staff are too often left to their own devices and feel left alone with their challenges.

The lack of familiarity with the respective tasks - both for the newly promoted manager and for the newly hired employees - quickly results in a certain hecticness in onboarding or the feeling of reacting more than acting in a self-directed way. The general breathless impression of high growth is thus reinforced at all levels. This leaves little time for detailed communication and growing together, which would be particularly important in the familiarisation phase. The newly formed teams or departments feel more like a bunch of people thrown together than a productive unit. If conflicts or competitive thinking arise because everyone is possibly the next person in line, the first resignations are almost pre-programmed.

Onboarding: interpersonal skills count as well as professional skills

Admittedly, most companies have plans for the professional side of onboarding, usually called induction. But what is the best way to take care of the interpersonal side of the onboarding process?

Our recommendation is to specifically plan and set aside time for conversations and meetings, especially in the initial phase. For example, the direct supervisor should spend 30-60 minutes one-on-one with the new employee at least once a week. A person from the team, often called an onboarding buddy or mentor:in, should ideally check in briefly at least twice a week to see if everything is going well or if any questions or obstacles have arisen. In the first 60 days in the new job, sufficient time and opportunity should also be planned for getting to know the entire team and contacts from interface teams.

Use modern tools for successful onboarding

In order to exchange one's own needs and preferences with regard to the way of working, a get-to-know tool is useful for the onboarding of new employees, especially in the case of digital onboarding. For example, we can recommend the "Manual to Me". This is a kind of questionnaire that all team members can fill out and then discuss. In this way, misunderstandings in cooperation can at least be defused if, for example, it is clear who likes to approach a topic first in concentrated individual work and who prefers to go directly into exchange with colleagues in order to better grasp the new topic. The training of remote employees by remote onboarding can also be optimally supported in this way.

Especially in a situation where everything supposedly has to happen very quickly - we remember, people are thrown in at the deep end and have to learn to swim themselves - the first important step is to get rid of the feeling of time pressure in order to create real commitment and short-term productivity among the new team members. The shop is running, the orders or contracts are coming in large numbers: is it really not possible to divert a few hours per week for the onboarding of the newcomers? Often, these "unproductive" times can be combined with a joint lunch, which is also good for your health.

Conclusion & Onboarding Checklist

Generally speaking, onboarding requires a decision on the part of the management. If one (passively) decides against giving time and thus a corresponding priority to the onboarding of new employees, this sends a signal to the entire workforce: orders count more than the people who process them. Of course, "time is money", but have you ever calculated how much it costs when employees leave after a short time and the recruitment process has to be started all over again?

Here's a quick checklist of what you should consider in the onboarding process:

  • If possible, have experienced employees carry out the onboarding of new employees.
  • Managers should provide security and support during the induction period.
  • Do not make decisions about management positions dependent only on years of service.
  • Do not forget the interpersonal side of onboarding: Onboarding buddy or mentor:in
  • Allow time for discussions
  • Use modern tools

If the integration of new employees is also an issue for you, please contact us at ARTS and get to know our quickly applicable solutions in the area of onboarding.

We already looked at the topic of "recruiting in hypergrowth situations" here a few weeks ago - in case the gold-rush mood is just breaking out in your company.

About the Author
Valeska Szalla
HR Consultant & Service Owner Ideenwerkstatt
Since 2017 I have been writing my success story at ARTS, where I can always add a new chapter through the various projects I have been involved in.

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