The Philosophy Of A Great Onboarding Process

Cloud Enablement Accelerator, David Kheyman, explores the ‘New Hire Problem’ and outlines the ways in which a company can create an inclusive, and mutually beneficial onboarding process.

What do all employees in a company of any size have in common? The answer is simple: “company onboarding”. Onboarding experiences vary from role to role, company to company, industry to industry. But the problems with understanding the difficulties of proper onboarding transcend all of them.

The New Hire Problem

“A newly hired person actually destroys value…[They] also consume training resources, and the time of people around [them] whom [they are] pestering for advice…managers were already busy…with no consensus about [how to acclimate people] best”.

– Laszlo Bock, SVP of Human Resources, Google

This statement holds true for organizations of all shapes and sizes, including Cloudreach. We’ve grown over 300% in headcount since I joined the company approximately two years ago. Our North American business has gone from around 30 to over 300 people large, more than half of those being engineers and architects.

In consulting, and at Cloudreach especially, the people are the largest and most valuable asset. For a consulting business to make money, it needs to place new hires on billable engagements so that they can be resources that drive the company forward. But for every new person you hire, you invest weeks, or months on onboarding! 

So how can a business speed up this process, while not compromising neither delivery quality, nor the culture and inclusivity that is so important to any organization today?

Element 1: Sense of Community

What makes any company great is its people, and the culture and bonds formed between them. At Cloudreach, we explore numerous avenues in fostering an inclusive community among our new hires. Our onboarding process for all roles consists of something we call ‘Cloudy Roots’. Every month, all employees who joined our US team that month gather for three days at our Atlanta office, and learn first-hand about the Cloudreach business. Since introducing Roots, our internal studies have shown that people who have completed it have stayed with us for a longer period of time. Developing commonalities between people regardless of background or role is crucial in really letting new hires feel welcome and “among their own”.

Element 2: A Dedicated Support Team

Among new starters in technical roles, we rely heavily on introducing hires to individuals that they can rely on for support throughout the whole process. These are people outside their management chain that we internally call the “Accelerator Team”.

The Accelerator Team is one or a few individuals whose role description is to make sure new technical starters have someone who can answer all their questions about the onboarding process, the company, and its people. Accelerators are former technical delivery engineers who can help with not just administrative tasks, but also with technologies and services that new hires may not be familiar with. Every company has its own unique way of working with clients, and Cloudreach is no different. The Accelerators help educate new starters on the roles they were hired to fill and introduce them to the tools they need to do it.

Most importantly, the Accelerators help new hires adjust to a new culture. They live and breathe the Core Values that make Cloudreach what it is. From the feedback that we have received since introducing this role in North America, it has helped numerous technical starters jumpstart their careers here.

Element 3: Purposeful Training That Makes a Difference

Our business revolves around the expectation that not only are we the cloud subject matter experts, but also we are constantly learning about the best and most modern technology from the best sources. Training and upskilling is paramount to keeping us one step ahead.

For technical and non-technical new starters, we immediately provide them with internal and third-party learning portals. We don’t enforce learning targets for our technical new starters, regardless of their level and role, because we want the new starters to feel comfortable being in control of their own learning process.

The training we make available to our new starters covers all the styles in how people learn: visual (instructor videos), auditory (webinars and podcasts), reading/writing (articles and best-practice lists), and kinesthetic (labs and how-to workshops); people can choose what works best for them. For technical starters, the Accelerator Team created highly-targeted hands-on guides covering technologies and frameworks that they encounter on client engagements. 

By providing options, and developing highly-personalized learning and development plans, Cloudreach strives to let the new starters dictate what and how they wish to learn, leading them to remain highly engaged throughout their onboarding.

Element 4: Sense of Purpose

Every company tries to bring value into everyone’s work, and what better way to do that then to have them buy into the purpose, the “higher calling”of the work they do.

At Cloudreach, our vision is to “enable innovation”, and so if you ask almost anyone why they want to work here, a common response would be, “We empower other companies to innovate in what makes them who they are.” 

How a company maintains such an uplifting status among its employees varies, of course, but I think being open and transparent about the long-term vision helps greatly. This is part of the value of Cloudy Roots training, so that new hires can feel like a small part of a transformative movement. Publishing the company ethos on widely-publicized internal pages, having an open, honest, and frequent dialogue about it, and letting employees ask questions directed at leadership, all help foster the feeling that working here is a part of something bigger, is part of a “calling”.

To sum it up…

All of these elements cover a large portion of why the onboarding process, particular that of newly hired engineers, is so critical to determining the long-term success of workers at a people-driven firm like Cloudreach.