Onboarding & Ramp Up
Hiring new people is great. We love everything about the whole process, and we are always excited to have new people on board. Although the initial onboarding process is fun and exciting at the same time, we have to get our new hires up to speed quickly to be able to perform efficiently and to our highest standards. That may sound strict, but we are a company after all.
Bringing new hires up to speed has always been and is still a challenge. Every one of us works on projects with high impact, and therefore, we might not always find time easily. Even though taking time for a proper onboarding may seem like a slight waste of time it is an investment of incredible importance.
Before a new hire arrives
Before a new hire shows up for work for the first day, everything must be prepared and ready for our latest addition to settling in. To make the onboarding process as smooth as possible, we will equip each workstation with everything new hires need to be productive. At ESR Labs you can select your laptop, your peripherals, as well as your smartphone all from a selection of high performance hardware. And I haven’t even mentioned the best part. Every workstation comes with an automatic stand-up desk and a super comfortable ergonomic chair.
Apart from supplying all the hardware, all the required software tools and logins will be provided upfront so that the workstation setup will be no hassle to the employee. No tech support. No problems signing up or logging in. Just pure joy about your new workstation.
With all your toys comes a checklist and a First Time Employee Manual (FTEM) that assists you in finding your ways around here.
First things first. You can find the coffee machine in our beautifully bright lounge at the end of the hallway. You will probably make your way to fetch some coffee a couple of times within the first day.
Besides crucial information like where you can resupply your caffeine, the FTEM will provide you with every little detail such as what internal web pages are available, whom to contact for information or access to specific pages or software, particular configurations for projects and whatnot.
Before the first day kicks off, every new employee is assigned, two mentors. One mentor within the new hire’s project, and one mentor who is not part of the new hire’s project. Both help out with information about how things work. Pretty straightforward, but useful to have.
The first day
Getting the first day right is paramount to us. We want it to be an excellent experience since it will set the mood for the rest of the week. On the first day, our reception desk will be awaiting the new hires since they are always up to speed about what is going to happen that day. Although we try to have both mentors available by the time the new hire arrives, this might not always be possible. In that case, our receptionists will find a suitable member of the organization who can greet and introduce our new hires to ESR Labs.
After an initial meet and greet, we will lead each new hire to their respective workstation. We equip every workstation with everything our new team members need. That is why we give each new hire time to get settled in. We usually give new hires 1-2 hours to get settled in before the introduction to the company starts. The company introduction not only provides the chance to meet other employees, but it also provides the new hire with other information about what the area around the office, where to buy food, where to go if you feel the urge to engage in some physical activities, etc.
For all technical employees, the project mentor will help you setting up the development environment. At the end of day 1, new hires should be able to compile and run the application that we use within the project. Also, new hires will receive a proper demo and explanation of the project to grasp the big picture.
The Rest of the Week
It is very substantial that the first week is outlined clearly for the new hire to see where we are going. Thus, throughout the first week, the new hire and the team mentor should meet for a couple of coding sessions during the mornings. Those sessions should be used to discuss what the new hire will attempt to accomplish during each day of the first week so that our new hire can actively start on the task for the day.
Such as session might last anywhere from 60 up to 90 minutes. Those should provide the new hire with enough assignments work on independently until the end of the day. Every day within the first week will be wrapped up with a meeting between the mentor and the new hire that lasts about 30 minutes. Wrap-up sessions are used around here to discuss the progress of the day.
Having a quick and easy feedback loop is important for us since there might be a ton of questions that we want to answer early on. There is nothing worse than being stuck and not feeling confident to ask for help. Hence it is significant that the mentor is active in helping the new hire. By the way, if you think you should know something but you don’t, it is no shame to ask for help.
The tasks that you work on during the first week should have some characteristics that aim the onboarding process:
- They should provide an understanding what the project is all about
- They should be manageable for the new hire to accomplish
- They should be broken down into pieces that a new hire can complete within one day
- This structure helps build confidence. It also contributes to training them on the new technology used by the project.
We try to get you to the point where you contribute and make your first commits early the first week. Expect that your commits will not be accepted the first time. Not accepting commits is not meant to be discouraging but reflects the high standard which we have. All commits from all team members go through a review process and might be rejected several times until they make it in.
To perfectly guide the new hire throughout its first week, the project mentor will meet up with the new employee about twice a day. This meeting has no first structure since it can happen over coffee, over a cold beverage at the pool, or walking around the campus. The point of this exercise is to share history. The new hire needs to get to know the team, the project, the nuts-and-bolts issues around here. They need to know the individuals on the team, their experiences, and abilities, and most importantly, new hires need to know whom to ask in case questions bug them.
Weeks 2 through 4
Onboarding doesn’t stop after the first week. Depending very much on the speed the new hire learns and acquires knowledge, the following weeks might be quite similar. If the new hire is making quick progress, then bigger tasks can and will be assigned. Here, however, it is important to continue the daily check-ins with the mentor to see how it is going.
The rest of the month focuses on building the confidence of our new employees. If they are assigned big tasks and then left alone for days, it can be dreadful for their success at our company. But we also need to be careful about assigning repetitive or linear tasks for multiple weeks. New employees need to feel they are contributing to the success of the project. Thus, providing feedback on a daily basis is critical.
Monthly Management Meetings
At least once a month the new employee should meet with one of our directors, Gerd or Wolfgang, for a one-on-one meeting. It is integral to provide feedback to the new employee on how well they are performing in the company. Of course, our founders will not assess the performance of our new hires since they are not directly working with them. Around here feedback is given according to the 360-degree principle. In other words, our founders will find the people who our new hires have been working with for and collect their feedback, positive and adverse. Finding and addressing performance problems early on is the best way to prevent little problems from becoming bigger problems. At the same time pointing out the strengths and outstanding skills of our new hires helps them to see where they can hone their abilities even more.