Welcome aboard. We hope you enjoy your stay

Published 27 June 2013 00:46

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Getting a job candidate to sign an employment contract is more like an engagement than a marriage. Their experience of the first few weeks with a company will determine if they are a stayer, or a bolter.

If new employees don’t “feel the love” from their employer at an early stage, they might decide they have made a mistake. Around 50 per cent of people decide whether they will stay within the first month.

Some people make their mind up on the first day.

Sydney-based software company Atlassian has automated its systems so that from the moment a recruiter signs a new employee, a process is set in train. This makes sure people can step right into their new position from day one.

The company’s vice president of human resources and talent, Joris Luijke, says automated messages ensure that a new desk and systems are set up, a plan for the first week at work is sent to both the hiring manager and the recruit, the induction process is put into place, and reminders are sent.

The new hire decides what kind of computer operating system and mobile phone they prefer to work with.

“We want to get the people effective as soon as possible,” says Luijke. “It is very frustrating for any individual not to be able to access information on their first day.”

Rewards of popularity

Atlassian, which took second place on this year’s Best Places To Work List, is having to ramp up its onboarding, recruiting a further 100 mostly technical staff globally in the first quarter from July and 100 in Sydney during the next financial year. This will bring its local staff numbers up to around 400 people.

The company is also reaping the rewards of its popularity: 70 per cent of software graduates (at the many universities it targets) apply for a job at Atlassian.

“That is almost the entire class - that is a massive amount of applications,” Luijke says, adding that he had to sift through 560 of them to select 20.

“To be able to cherry pick from the absolute best is amazing”.

Once people start at the company, they have an induction which is a week-long “hack house” for graduates where they train, code and get to know each other. They also get 24 hours to build a feature for an Atlassian product.

“They should be shipping a feature to millions of users in their first week,” says Luijke.

Other hires (technical and non-technical staff) have a four-week “boot camp”, where they learn about the values of the company, where they will fit in the organisation and anything else they need to know about the work they will be doing.

Social connections are encouraged by getting people to blog about themselves when they start. A welcome pack will be waiting on their desks.

Flying to the ‘mother ship’

People who join the Sydney office of customer relationship management company, Salesforce, fly to San Francisco for a two-week orientation.

Salesforce Asia Pacific recruiting director, Mike Hulse, says around 200 people attend each event, which starts with an introduction to the company’s leaders and then a half-day doing volunteer work.

The rest of the time in the US is spent in “boot camp”.

Hulse says there is also an Australia-based induction for things that are related to the local office: “Everyone who starts together learns together”.

Before they even begin, they are issued with a laptop and iPhone and given some “pre-work” to complete, which includes viewing some of the extensive YouTube videos made by the company.

Hulse says the cost of replacing an employee (including lost opportunity for the time the job was not effectively being done) works out to about one-and-a-half times a person’s yearly salary.

Salesforce, with 267 employees, took fourth place on the Best Places to Work list.

Effective onboarding strategies range from simple gestures to extensive, sophisticated programs according to the companies that made the top 50.

  • 1. Beam them up: Computer virus protection company McAfee uses an online “portal” where new hires can learn about the company culture and procedures before they start.
  • 2. Buddy: A C3 Business Solutions “compadre” - an existing member of the team - supports a new hire through their first six months.
  • 3. Declare strengths: New team members at psychology consultancy Sentis are assessed for their personal strengths via the Strengths Finder book by Tom Rath. They creatively display those strengths, along with a photo, on an office wall, which helps employees develop a better understanding of each others’ learning and leadership styles.
  • 4. Book Club: All new hires at virtual data room provider Ansarada are given a Kindle and are reimbursed for the purchase of any books on self-development. As a team, the employees read a book each quarter.
  • 5. On the road: At hospitality equipment company Silver Chef, new employees are shown around the warehouse and then go out on sales calls with the sales team.
  • 6. Make it your own: New staff at software company Campaign Monitor are given $250 to decorate their own space. They choose whether they would like a standing desk, and pick their own computer hardware and any favourite apps they’d like pre-installed.
  • 7. Speedy start: Recruitment firm Pageup People has a month-long induction program.
  • 8. Managing well: Hiring managers at software company Adobe have an intranet site that describes what to do from two weeks before the start date, and up until the end of the first month.
  • 9. Set it out: New hires at media buyer MediaCom agree on a 100-day career plan which sets out mutual expectations for the recruit and their hiring manager, with supporting strategies.
  • 10. This is what we look like: At rewards provider Red Balloon, a recruit is sent a photo of their new team by SMS, while at Adconian Media Group, successful candidates send photos and some information about themselves so they can be introduced by email.

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