Onboarding the 50th employee

Sara Petrinjak


Onboarding a new employee is both demanding and exciting, but our latest onboard had two new reasons for celebration, other than meeting new employees. We have welcomed the 50th employee as well as 6 other new co-workers, which presents our biggest onboarding at once!

Onboarding is a process through which new employees move from being organizational outsiders to becoming organizational insiders, as defined by T.N. Bauer and B. Erdogan. On the 1st of March, because of the number of new employees needing onboarding on the same day, the idea was to create an experience that will be both productive and positive. Usually, team leads have a crucial role in onboarding, but it can get overwhelming when taking into account that other than their workload, a team lead could get up to two new employees in a month in this fast-growing environment. We have had continuous growth lately, with around two new employees each month, so we managed to go from 40 employees in October to 56 at the beginning of March.

The four C’s

Onboarding seven new employees at once allowed us to work on this important process even more. While researching for the purpose of this onboarding process, I came across an interesting article written by T.N. Bauer in which she mentioned The four C’s of onboarding; Compliance, Clarification, Culture and Connection.

Compliance refers to employment paperwork, computer set-ups and rest that is needed for establishing a working relationship. These tasks are simplified by preparing it all in advance, thanks to our amazing Operations department. Clarification is about understanding job requirements, such as the nature of future tasks, technologies we use and products we are designing and developing. When new employees have daily one-on-ones with their mentors, they tend to start being productive in a month’s time. Next, C is Culture which we try to preserve like it’s an endangered species. It was quite easy to maintain „the way we do things around here“ when there were ten of us and everybody was equally involved in paving our path. Now with the growing number of individuals with different personalities, expectations and cultural backgrounds, it has become a challenge. Many companies mention their great culture, but I would like to go a step further and explain what we mean by it; zero tolerance to any type of violence (such as yelling, not listening or other disrespectful behavior), safety to express your ideas and opinions, encouraging equality (students and seniors working side by side) and supporting education and growth, regardless if it is improving your hard or soft skills. The main goal of People Operations department is to achieve employees to feel appreciated, engaged in work and overall satisfied with the workplace, environment and people they spend eight hours per day with. That brings us to the last C, and that is Connection. Good interpersonal relationships and a friendly atmosphere were set as an important part of Syntio quite early, in the very beginnings of the organizational development. Casual gatherings (over a few beers) after work became a part of the culture and continued to exist, as well as open-door policy and knowledge sharing via our Tech and Non-Tech meetups.

Onboarding 2.0

After reviewing the four C’s and having a brainstorming session with few team leads, consultants and our recent employees, we have created Onboarding 2.0! With this onboarding process, we will try to boost the productivity of new hires. They’ll get a set of information relevant to their future work on the first day and start attending team meetings until the end of the first week. To avoid feeling pressured, new employees are involved in all processes around the project, but without a need to contribute and produce something in the first week.

On their first day, seven of our new co-workers were welcomed by their Syntio buddies, the Head of Products, a team of mentors and myself. Syntio buddy was established as a program where a dedicated employee informally meets the new team member to explain the organizational culture, present useful tools and assist the new employee in any way possible during his/her first few weeks. In short, Syntio buddy can provide a context that couldn’t be found in handbooks. To simplify it, Buddy is a go-to person for the first-morning coffee or lunch, as well as explaining offered benefits one can use. We had no problem with finding Syntio buddies. From the first mention of a new program, we had around 10 volunteers and that number kept rising as our former new employees become buddies after only a few months and have recognized the value and need for this program after seeing how much buddy has had an impact on their job satisfaction for the first few months, proving that simple conversations go a long way.

After completing laptop setup, paperwork and the rest of the not-so-fun, but essential tasks, we had a presentation waiting for us. Presentation, which was held by our Head of Products, got quite some attention, including our CEO and a group of curious employees, most of them listening to it online. While trying to cover all relevant topics, such as the vision and idea of the company, our products, tools we often use and core values that make our culture, the presentation managed to start looking more like a knowledge-sharing workshop. Through this process, we achieved to encourage new hires to express their thoughts and ideas, which will help them with their professional growth and self-confidence. After the presentation, employees got to work on a specially designed project with their new mentors.

From our experience, new employees are more motivated to work if they get to see what would they be doing going forward and reading the theory gets quite boring and isolates them from other employees. Mixing technical and non-technical onboarding turned up to be a good experience for new hires, as well as the whole group of dedicated people trying to make them feel like a true Syntian. Both parts can’t go one without other in a company where all our work includes teamwork, knowledge exchange and open communication of ideas. Building relationships from the start is crucial, even more in these challenging times where more than half of employees work from home and it can lead to feeling even more isolated and not creating a sense of community.

When new hires feel accepted and welcomed, they are less likely to feel like the new kid in the school. After finishing the project, we had a talk with each one of them about their preferences regarding the tasks she or he worked on, what they liked or didn’t like that much, in order to better understand what team and which role would be most suitable for the individual. This way, we got to know the individual and gave them the treatment they deserve: not to feel like a one in many, but one of a kind.