Awesome People - Ep 90
onboarding, people, talent retention, and your new part-time Head of People!
Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!
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Now, time for today’s star 🌟
Meet Sehr, your part-time Head of People 🤩
I met Sehr through this newsletter and I’ve been super impressed by her strong communication skills. Sehr built the early People function at several high-growth, now unicorn startups, backed by a16z, Founders Fund, and top VCs. Every company that she’s worked with has tried to hire her as their full-time Head of People — a great sign! A key metric for a Head of People is the Glassdoor rating, aka how much people like working at your company. The Glassdoor average is 3.7. She’s helped every startup achieve a 4.5+ out of 5 rating by the time she’s left.
One little-known fact about Sehr is that she founded 2 companies earlier in her career, a retail electricity company and a fashion label!
Sehr embeds with your team on Slack, email, and meetings. She’ll help you build your People function, hire your early People and Talent team, and recruit a full-time Head of People.
There are 3 main reasons why founders need a part-time Head of People:
You don’t have enough time to be the sole recruiter, doing HR tasks, running onboarding, and acting as the office/community manager.
You know something is breaking. You need help fixing it or getting ahead of it. Miss your recruiting goals? Someone had a poor onboarding experience? Mismanaged performance issues? Layoffs? Offboarding?
You are increasing your hiring velocity or team size, and you want to get ahead of your People debt.
Need a part-time Head of People? Respond to this email and I’ll intro you to Sehr!
Sehr was gracious enough to teach us about high ROI onboarding 🚀
Your onboarding experience will have an outsized impact on how new team members feel about your startup — make it count.
Most startups do a good job with basic onboarding — provisioning, equipment, and HR forms. Then, they leave the rest to the new team member to figure out. After all, self-starters are part of the DNA of startups, so they should be able to figure it out, right? I’ve talked to hundreds of new hires at early-stage startups and the common themes I hear over and over are:
“No one really knew what I was supposed to work on so I ended up wasting a lot of time during my first few weeks.”
“People kept forgetting to include me in things, so I didn’t feel like a part of the team for a while”
“I still feel like I don’t know certain things but it’s kind of awkward to ask now that I’ve been here a few months”
A good onboarding program includes three key elements
Administrative: can my team member get to work (provisioning, equipment, legal)?
Context Sharing: does my new team member know what we do, what we stand for (values and culture), and their role in making us successful?
Community Building: does my new team member know who to go to for certain things and do they feel included?
A little over a year ago, I joined a series B proptech startup as their interim Head of People. They were doubling their headcount and doing an awesome job recruiting incredible talent in a tough labor market. So far, so good.
The founders quickly realized that their new team members were missing their goals. They were shipping slowly, burning out, checking out, and quitting because they didn’t feel like they were “set up for success.” Ouch.
To solve this problem, we reviewed their onboarding. Their onboarding was mostly administrative items. We upgraded their onboarding to include more context-sharing and community-building elements. The early cohorts that went through the new onboarding program had an NPS of 80+. When we checked in with them 90 days later, they were still thriving.
Upgrading your onboarding experience has incredible ROI. It’s easy to set up, accelerates new team members, and improves employee retention. Here’s how we got started.
And, here’s how you can hack together a high ROI onboarding experience
1. Chat with a few new team members and ask them about their onboarding experience.
Look for gaps in your current process and fix those. Some sample questions:
Were there any delays in getting you set up to work (laptop, email access, getting added to meetings, etc)?
Was there any information you have access to now that you wish you knew when you started?
Did you have a good sense of what was expected of you at the end of your first week?
Did you feel like you got to know people at the company within the first month?
At the proptech startup, we learned that it was really hard for someone from outside the industry (for example, an engineer) to get up to speed on industry terms and the roles their team members were playing. It took them months to cobble this information together which led to product mistakes. This information was super valuable to the founders. They came from the industry and needed an outside perspective to understand where things were breaking down.
2. Grab a few slides from a recent fundraising or board deck and turn it into a context-sharing deck for new hires. Make sure to include:
Your company’s history and what the org looks like
What your company does and its business model
Your current company goals and metrics
Your company’s values and some company history or lore (you may not have this slide on hand, but it’s helpful to include)
For the proptech startup, we created several sessions of content. It went surprisingly fast since we had a lot of the content already. We pulled from pitch decks, investor updates, sales materials, and internal training docs. The founders and early employees helped stitch these documents together.
3. Ask managers to work on a Launch Doc for their new team members.
It helps them think through how to make their new team member successful, plus it’s a super helpful reference doc for new team members during onboarding.
Here’s a simple template I came up with to help you get started.
New team members consistently said that this doc was the single most useful document they had during onboarding. In fact, new team members continued to refer to this doc 90+ days after they started.
4. Set aside some time to do an onboarding check-in.
Are things going well? Where can we course correct? What could we be doing better? Here’s a template that you can use to get started.
During these sessions, we learned that we were providing too much information in the first week of onboarding, and that at times, it felt overwhelming. We iterated and spread out our onboarding content over a 4-week period, which helped a ton.
Try these tips and let me know how it goes!
Want an intro to Sehr? Respond to this email and I’ll connect you!
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As always, please let me know if you have any questions and if you want an intro to Sehr!-
Founder of Awesome People Ventures & Talent
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