“I come to work, they give me a laptop, show me the workplace, give me the task, and then sit and do it yourself. After a couple of months, I should know everything about the company, but, in fact, I only remember the tasks done. Who to ask questions? Can I go to the director? Where is the toilet?". This is what the world of newcomers to companies without onboarding looks like. Once we were like that. In the article, we’ll talk about how we created a tool for onboarding newcomers from scratch and built processes for the year.

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Article author: Yana Khodartsevich - Scrum master and onboarding lead in Dodo Pizza.



Several stages of the formation of requirements, hours of interviews and communication with candidates were aimed at finding a specific person, with certain qualities and professional skills. At the moment when the company finds a person for an open position, she opens champagne wants to keep him in this place for as long as possible. After all, money has been invested in the search and hiring, and the company has finally found “the same one”.

Now you need to immerse the beginner in the workflows. To do this, you can use one of the three chairs:

  • Do nothing, let him swim up. In this situation, a new employee is given a laptop/comp on the first day, they are shown where the cooler is and escorted to the desktop. And after three months they ask the question: “Well, are all the tasks ready?”. Hardcore, but effective, as in Sparta. The most powerful survives.
  • Do everything for the newbie. In this situation, the mentor or mentor everywhere rushes with the newcomer, prompts everything, does a lot for him to prevent the newcomer from making a mistake (read “do it yourself”). This approach increases the number of employees, but not independence in them. And it also takes the maximum time for a mentor, which leads to its complete disconnection from current projects.
  • Give all the necessary tools, show how to use them and let them go swimming. This option of onboarding seems to be the golden mean among the rest. It allows the company to take care of new people, painlessly immerse them in processes, and beginners themselves to take the initiative and learn independence.

Prerequisites for creating a process


How we lived without onboarding


Until 2017, our company was still located in the office of Syktyvkar. Then we were one big team consisting of developers, technical support, designers, a training center and many others. A new person could quickly get to know his team, sitting side by side with them, instantly immerse himself in the project and subject area.

Bold reason to create a process


In 2018-2019, the team experienced explosive growth - in two years we have doubled. Have you heard about the goal of 250 developers ? Then we stubbornly took up its implementation, but did not yet know that we were not ready for such rapid growth. Our approaches and resources to expand teams quickly exhausted themselves. In the end, even seating for beginners was difficult. But we did not understand this right away.

People came to the company and somehow settled in teams, nobody especially looked after them. In fact, all onboarding consisted of a welcom package, a friendly greeting, an excursion around the office and, perhaps, everything.

We tried to pull the old processes onto a new reality and cracked like a glass glass into which boiling water was poured sharply. Without a single onboarding system, a newbie’s immersion in a team was more like the story of the protagonist in the movie “Survivor”. When we turned back, we realized that we had lost a lot (more than 40) of new employees.

Welcome aboard


Formally, we divide onboarding into 2 streams: for the IT team and for the business unit. They are very similar to each other, and the difference is only in the number of stages and Intro-meetings. In this article I will talk about onboarding in an IT team.A short video on why it is needed at all and what is the use of it, can be seen here . Further I share the details.

Actors


Three actors take part in the beginner’s onboarding process: mentor, onboarding lead and HR curator.

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ITKarma pictureMentor.
Goal : Immerse a newbie on the team.
Who is he and what is he doing : the mentor plays a major role in the onboarding of the beginner (even if he does not know about it). This is a person who helps a beginner in everything. He meets him on the first day and completely releases only at the end of onboarding. Introduces the team, supports, answers all pochmuchnyh and why questions.

A person from the rookie team can become a mentor. It can be either a person with the same stack, or, for example, an Android developer for a mapi newbie. If the mentor and the novice have one stack, then they have no choice - they will work together for a very long time. If a mentor and a newbie from different stacks, there are 2 options:

  • Mentor at maximum speed. The mentor and the novice are ready to work in pairs, the mentor helps with solving problems from different stacks.
  • Mentor at the minimum. There is no close collaboration in development issues; there is synchronization across processes. This option may also be suitable if a super-active senior developer has come to your company, and he lacks only knowledge of the domain and principles of the company.



ITKarma pictureOnboarding lead.
Purpose : to control the onboarding process, to make sure that everything is moving in the right direction.
Who is he and what is he doing : onboarding lead is the organizer of onboarding in IT. In order for them to become necessary, skills in materiel. It is important that the onboarding leader knows and understands the value of each of the tools in IT, "cooked in this culture." The main task of lead onboarding is to make sure that the mentor with the newcomer succeeds, and highlight the moments that fail. This role is very similar to a policeman. An onboarding leader walks somewhere nearby, glances at the newcomer, asks how are you, what is already being done. Tips the mentor in any matters, provides support. In general, he keeps order so that everything is as it should be (and how it should not be - it was not).



ITKarma pictureHR curator.
Purpose : to ensure a newcomer a pleasant entry into the company from the moment of placing the offer. Provide all the necessary information on the part of HR, which will help orient a new employee in the company.

Who is he and what is he doing : the hr-curator is the one who meets the newcomer on the first day in the office, helps to draw up documents. Then he talks at an informal dinner in the middle of the probationary period. This is necessary so that a beginner can abstract from onboarding, tools, tasks and communicate on any topics, get support.



Tools


In order to make the onboarding clear, we chose the following tools to help: Slack, Kaiten, Google Docs, Nuclino, Miro, Google Calendar.

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I’ll tell you more about how it all works.

  1. A few days before the release of a new employee, the HR curator writes a message to the onboarding chat in Slack. All communication on the adaptation and development of newcomers takes place in the same chat (for example, they held a meeting - they wrote a summary to the chat). This is how we support the transparency of the process for all participants.
  2. Immediately after this, the HR curator creates a newcomer card on the Kaiten onboarding board (a tool very similar to Trello). In this card, we mark the status of a newcomer, write at what stage it is now, fix some details and notes from onboarding leads.Such visualization helps synchronize the entire team, which he is onboard the beginner.
  3. In the first week, the mentor introduces the newcomer to Nuclino - a tool that is used in our company as a source of all technical documentation. Inside Nuclino also lies a description of the entire onboarding process, including a description of the roles, functions and tasks of the mentor.
  4. Board in Miro with the infographic of the onboarding process. On this board, a beginner can always see which onboarding blocks are still ahead, what remains to be seen. In addition, this tool helps the organizers and participants of the process to synchronize with each other, as well as to plan the workload.
  5. A newcomer slowly begins to get acquainted with the company and its orders. In order not to get confused and always know when and what awaits him, we use Google Calendar. It contains a calendar of team meetings, to which the mentor invites a beginner from the first day, as well as the Intro calendar.
  6. In addition to all of the above, the newcomer has a Dodo Bot assistant - this is our internal bot, which sends the newcomer useful information about the company, for example, how to arrange a vacation or how to order conference tickets and more.

Process: from preboarding to free swimming


Actors and tools are defined, so we are ready for three months of active acquaintance of the company and the newcomer. The process consists of 2 stages: preboarding (until you get to work) and onboarding.

Prebording


A newbie comes to work on his first day. He receives equipment, signs documents, gets acquainted with the mentor and team. While all the necessary programs are being installed, they go with the mentor to get acquainted with other teams and people with whom they will work together. Everything goes like clockwork, and there is a reason for that - pre-boarding.

Pre-boarding starts 3 days before the beginner's release. The main goal is to ensure that everyone (mentor, onboarding lead, HR curator) remembers the release of a new employee and is ready for this moment. Before we started pre-boarding, there were cases that on the first day a beginner was looking for a place to work in the office. Or even worse - on the first day the eager search for the team and mentor began. Do not repeat our mistakes.

What are we doing pre-boarding?

  • We dust the mentor, tell him what awaits him, show where all the necessary information lies.
  • Preparing a table (not the one you thought about).
  • Once again, we run through the list, is everything ready.
  • In general, active chores.

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Pre-boarding checklist

If something from the list is not yet ready, we have time to fix it.

Active onboarding phase


Then the active phase begins, in which the circuit helps not to get confused. I will dwell in more detail on its parts and components.

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Yellow rectangles are the focuses of onboarding. What the whole process and mentor is oriented to and sharpened in a given period of time.

The mentor’s focus is based on the theory of Situational Leadership . A mentor, tracking the progress of a beginner in various tasks, regulates his intervention in his life. If he sees that somewhere the novice is already doing pretty well on his own, he minimizes his participation. For the first 3-4 weeks, a mentor with a beginner practices pair work. In addition, the mentor invites the beginner to all team events and events. After the middle of onboarding, the mentor closes the beginner on himself less and transfers him to the team more.

Light Green Rectangles - Checkpoints. You can also call them reference points, cutoffs. On Checkpoints, the onboarding lead or HR curator is connected to the onboarding process. This takes place in the format of meetings at which we ask the beginner about working with a mentor, what happens, where difficulties arise, whether any help or support is needed.

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Checkpoint'a checklist

Answers to these questions help to understand whether the mentor is coping or if he needs help. It is important to understand that this is not an exam for either a mentor or a new employee. Rather, it is a source of information for onboarding leads: is everything going fine, are there any problems with interaction or feedback, is the novice getting in touch with the mentor and team. If at a meeting it turns out that there are any problems, onboarding lead helps to solve them.

Why are Checkpoints onboarding leads and HR curators rather than mentors?
Everything ingenious is simple. Since mentors work side-by-side with a newcomer, their eyes are blurred. Checkpoints are similar to code reviews in development. A look from the side helps you see your mistakes or understand how you can improve/simplify the code.

Final Checkpoint. I would also like to talk about the final Checkpoint. It is held at the end of the second month of work and includes all the key knowledge that the beginner managed to gain during this time. The following questions were included in the checklist of questions:

  • Technical skills: knowledge of system architecture.
  • Engineering practices: XP and everyone associated with them.
  • Culture: our business, values, their embodiment or violation by examples.
  • Processes: Scrum, LeSS, how the feature is formed.
  • Overall: onboarding feedback.

The final Checkpoint is held one month earlier than the trial period ends. We deliberately make sure that we have time to work on bugs if difficulties arise in adaptation.

White Stars - Intro. This is what we call expert meetings and workshops. This also includes all introductory meetings where they talk, show and do something interesting that helps the newcomer to get to know the company better.

Each Intro meeting is tailored to its own theme. Purpose: to introduce a newcomer to the company, its values, processes and business. For example, we have Intro to Dodo Business, Intro to Scrum/LeSS, Intro to culture and principles of leadership.

Basically, all Intro lasts 1-1.5 hours. But there are a couple of technical workshops that take 2 hours.

Duration of the process


The duration of onboarding is 3 months and there are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. A voluminous program that should be correctly dosed so that there is no purely humanitarian or "lecture" week. We decided that in 2-4 weeks it is impossible to load all the knowledge into a beginner. After all, he needs not only to get them, but also to learn how to use them.
  2. The smoothness of joining the team and processes. In the first month, the newcomer gradually understands what is going on around us and how we live. From the second to the third, he slowly goes into an independent mode of operation. There is a willingness to take responsibility.

Each company should experiment with deadlines to choose the best time that suits them. For us (like Yandex, Adventum, Net by Net), onboarding for 3 months seemed the most successful solution.

Completion of onboarding


At the end of onboarding, the final meeting of the mentor and the newcomer is held in the 1: 1 format. On it, the guys conduct a mini-retro: they discuss what was good in their joint work, what they did not have time or did not, how they coped with the goals for the trial period. In general, the mentor and the novice discuss everything that their soul wants, and put an end to onboarding.

Main difficulties


At each turn of the development of the process, we encountered small difficulties. It seems important to talk about them, because it can save you a lot of time or nerves.

Unavailability of the process for rapid changes. Initially, our onboarding was suitable only for those who work from the office. But at some point we began to hire remote employees, and then completely left for self-isolation and work from home.Here we have questions:

  • What about Intro, which involves full-time participation?
  • How to issue a wellcome package? And how do you remember to give it away?
  • How to organize work with a mentor: informal communication, pair work, and so on.

There were quite a few such moments, and we were able to solve some of them only now. For example, we have workshops on decomposition and user-story mapping, which previously assumed a personal presence. A simple alteration of the presentation failed. After almost four months of self-isolation, we were able to translate everything into an online format.

Impossibility The complexity of evaluating the effectiveness of onboarding. How to express process efficiency through metrics and numbers? We still do not have a clear answer. On the one hand, we can calculate the number of layoffs in the first months of work before and after onboarding. But on the other hand, even this metric can be affected by anything: a hiring error, employee competencies, the economic situation in the world, and generally anything. So we could not take this metric as an absolute.

You have to invest a lot in onboarding. We believe that all efforts, money, time and resources are investments in the future. We believe that onboarding helps, and people praise it for a reason. “Old men” even came to us (employees who have been working for the company for more than two years) and said that they once lacked such a process. It turns out that while we can reinforce confidence in the effectiveness and benefits of onboarding only at the expense of such feedback.

Now we are actively collecting feedback from participants in the process. We will find out how onboarding suits them, whether it helps, what problems it solves and which it brings. All this helps to understand whether we are moving correctly.

It is this difficulty in evaluating effectiveness that can affect whether or not your company will implement onboarding. But if you figure out how to calculate the efficiency, it will be very cool, come to the comments and write your suggestions.

It takes a lot of time both for the novice and the mentor. We always warn the product of the OUNERS that in the first 1-1.5 months there will be not +1 people in the team, but -1. This is due to the active participation of the mentor in the life of a beginner. Success, movement towards goals, immersion in practice and so on. All this in total eats away a lot of the mentor's strengths. This fact hinders the product development of features of the team and slows it down.

A business is not always ready to agree to such conditions. Then you have to agree to reduce the burden on the beginner or mentor. Only discussion and common sense can help in solving this issue. For example, we had cases when we freed a beginner from some Intro, if he himself was well versed in the topic.

Blitz: Member Reviews
The onboarding process developed iteratively and everything described above did not appear immediately. And oh-ho-how many more are waiting ahead. Now we can say that onboarding helps people. As proofs, several reviews from those who have already passed it.

What was the coolest in 3 months?

  • I liked Intro the most. And that's all. It’s unrealistic when you see people who are so sick of their business.
  • Communication and feedback, a bunch of new projects in which you can participate.
  • In my opinion, everything was very cool, consistent and useful.

What can be improved?

  • It’s hard to imagine what else to improve. I used to work in companies without onboarding. You come and immediately fig.
  • At first, it was not clear what to do, what to give priority to, because there were 100500 meetings in the first weeks, but there were already tasks for work.
  • So far, an individual development plan is lacking.

And here is what the mentors write.

What was the coolest in 3 months?

  • The main thing in onboarding is that, firstly, in principle, it exists, and, secondly, it reacts to feedback. Please do not stop. Thank you for your work!
  • Everything is very cool.

What can be improved?

  • I would like to make onboarding more flexible.For example, use an existing process with the ability to change any part of it to a specific team (except for meetings based on the fundamental principles of the company).
  • Do not rush and make the first weeks of adaptation not so super-saturated.
  • Estimate your mentor time in advance. If he does not have time, then it is easy to fill up the whole process. And it is worth considering that the weaker the beginner, the longer it will take.
  • According to my feelings, onboarding is close to ideal, but imperfect. I feel like I can do something else, but I don’t know.

We collected feedback from all participants: mentors and beginners. And according to the results of the survey, care for the mentor and his time was taken into focus.

Conclusion


I just want to say that onboarding, like any experiment or innovation, should be implemented iteratively. First, close the main pains, then add something interesting, and after that you can look for ways to develop something more global. Do not forget to collect feedback from each newbie on onboarding and its benefits. So you will not let your process freeze and grow with a vine. Remember that it is important to pay attention not only to beginners, but also to mentors, to support them and help them.

AND! If something does not work in a novice mentor pair, this does not mean that one of them is an asshole. Perhaps something is wrong with the process and somewhere it interferes more than it helps.

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