src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/03/Buffer_SD_Team_–42-of-67-.jpg” alt=”We Included Every Member of This Team in their New Teammate’s Onboarding, Here’s Why”>
We prepared for our first hiring push for the Customer Advocacy (our customer support) team in 2021. We needed to hire five Advocates due to personnel and strategy changes. This is more than we had ever hired since 2016. We started 2021 with 15 Customer Advisors, and finished the year with 19.
We reviewed our onboarding process and documentation to identify any gaps or improvements.
Buffer greets new members of the team by greeting them with a smile, a friend, and a message about their culture. These three people play a pivotal role in the team member’s first 90 days. These three people are like a “phone-a-friend” during onboarding.
Before we started these hiring rounds, however, we took a break.
We knew the position of the first person to join our team would be unique. They would be our first new team member in more than a year. Our team was made up of people who had been Customer Advocates for over four years. Although we had lots of documentation to explain everything, it was impossible to account for the context and experience that each of the 16 team members had.
It was our empathy that spoke, and it stated that entering this well-oiled machine (ahem…as we’d like for it to be) could make the already difficult task of switching jobs more difficult and even more isolating.
When faced with this challenge, our ideal outcome was to create an environment that allows the new member of the team to integrate quickly into the tight-knit group. How can we facilitate this?
We had an idea. What if all Customer Advocacy team members were involved in the introduction of the new member to the company? What would that do for the new member of the team, the tenured members and the entire team?
The team member would still have their role buddy, culture buddy, and manager by their side, but they’d have 16 other rocket boosters to help them grow.
We tried this integrative approach to onboarding in our Customer Advocacy team at Buffer. It was our first attempt. Then, in early 2021, our first hire. Through the year, we used it with four more hires. This new approach not only helped the new member of our team integrate into our tight-knit team but also brought about some unexpected benefits.
Let’s take a look at each benefit we’ve observed:
Benefit #1: Our new team member was able to integrate into the team faster
Let’s imagine two scenarios:
You attend a party in which the host greets you and then goes to tend to other guests.
Szenario number 2: The host introduces you to another person who then introduces to you to a third.
Our goal was to create an experience similar to the second scenario.
Building relationships with coworkers as soon as someone walks through the door will allow them to feel part of the team. Positive Psychology shares that Dunbar and Dunbar (1998) found that people who experience social pain at work from feeling isolated feel the same brain region as if they had experienced physical pain.
Although the manager, culture buddy, and role buddy have been supportive throughout my career, they are just a small fraction of the guests at the party. After chatting with Nate about billing issues and discussing onboarding tickets with Essence I have two additional phone-a-friend contacts. My list is growing.
This relationship comfort can be transferred to other areas of work or collaboration. It is more likely that people will feel comfortable participating in syncs (also known as. Meetings, more openness to asking questions in public forums and overall, more confidence that their opinions matter.
I feel so invested in! It is so encouraging, buoyant, and confidence-building to see the team put their time and energy into this onboarding process. It makes me feel so invested! Five months into her journey with Buffer, Lexi, Customer Advocate.
Benefit #2: It created a system for reinforced learning
New teammates feel more at ease and have less to worry about (that of how they will fit in with the existing team). This means their mental defenses can drop which could allow them to be more open to any new information.
Additionally, information can be presented in multiple ways, which increases retention.
Let’s suppose you share a written resource about a part of your team member’s job from their onboarding checklist. Below the resource is a task for the team member to schedule a phone call with Julia in order to continue the conversation. Once the team member has read the information, they will soon hear Julia’s experiences with it. Julia may have something she can share with the team member to help reinforce the concept. They can also walk together through a scenario if it requires doing.
Just now, we have reached the four major learning styles.
- Writing and reading
- Kinesthetic (doing things yourself, learning through movement)
Having meaningful conversations with every one of their peers helps new teammates fill their context and relationship-building buckets quicker than they would without the meetings. They will also benefit from the diversity of perspectives that they will encounter, which is important for their ability to learn the best way to receive information.
We have gone beyond learning by doing or self-learning. I think we have incorporated these calls into our process. I have enjoyed the blended approach to onboarding, which allows me to be fully async and to also experience different approaches from other Advocates. Buffer Customer Advocate Ben, 90 days into his journey.
Ben shared the following example:
Although I was familiar with Stripe and believed I knew a lot about the platform, Nate showed me how to use Fingerprint to track down payments. Although it is a small thing, I was amazed. This is something I wish I had learned at my previous jobs. -Ben (Customer Advocate), 90 days into his journey with Buffer
Benefit #3: It increased the sense of importance for our team members.
Buffer has never had a single person onboarding. However, the idea of including all team members who will be working closely with a new colleague into their onboarding is a great way to take multi-support onboarding up a notch.
It is a great way to boost morale and make a difference in the onboarding of new employees, customers, and other team members.
It was an opportunity to share my knowledge and experience from my previous work as part of the onboarding process for new colleagues. It was great to listen to their thoughts and questions. It was not only a time for learning but also to teach. -Cheryl Appiah Customer Advocate
No matter how long a person has been with Buffer, they are valued for their help in onboarding new Advocates. Two of our team members, who were onboarded in September 2013, were asked to help with the onboarding of two new team members. They started onboarding in December and January.
It’s a wonderful way to show gratitude.
Asking team members to welcome, onboard and train new employees is a passive but effective way to show leadership how trusting and valued they are. Each member of the team is important, and each individual’s experience adds to the richness of the team.
We are not finished yet
We are always learning and adapting our process. With each new member of the team we add, we discover more about how to make our processes stronger and more individual.
The message that our onboarding process sends to our new team members as well as our more experienced ones won’t change.
We will help new team members think outside the box in order to make their onboarding as seamless and inclusive as possible. Existing team members are valued for their creativity and experience. They are all important and their contributions to the onboarding of our new team members are invaluable.
We would love to hear your thoughts about this onboarding approach. Send us a Tweet!
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