Why onboarding is the biggest opportunity to create a Best Place to Work

1: One of Ritz-Carlton’s strategies to engage their workforce is to create a memorable first day at work .

Same for us at PCI. 

“You only get one chance to make a great first impression.”  

I’m convinced onboarding is the single biggest opportunity for many organizations to significantly improve their workplace cultures.

Getting better at onboarding certainly has made a big difference at PCI.

About 10 years ago, I had the privilege of attending “Get Plussed” at Talent Plus, a talent management firm we work with specializing in selection, development, and analytics.  Talent Plus repeatedly shows up on Fortune’s Best Places to Work lists.

During Get Plussed, the professionals from Talent Plus share best practices they have learned on how to build a great workplace culture, including how they do onboarding.

Recommendation #1: Have an onboarding day on which all new hires begin their employment.  At PCI each month we have a specified onboarding day on which all new hires start.  

Recommendation #2: Make it memorable.  We call our onboarding day “notthetypicialfirstday@work” a play on our notthebigcompany branding.

2: We begin by rolling out the red carpet.  

Literally.  In the pre-pandemic world, new hires would be greeted by a red carpet which they would walk upon to enter our office.  

Next, we gather everyone together – previously in person, now virtually on Zoom.  Included are all the new hires along with their new managers plus a number of our senior leaders, including our Chief Operating Officer and myself, the CEO.

The presence of our top leaders is intended to send a message:  This is important.  You are important.  

“Listen to what people say,” I tell them.  “But watch what they do.  That will tell you what is important to them.”

I will be spending a majority of my day with them.  Why?  Because today is an opportunity for PCI to get better.

How does an organization get better?  By hiring great people!  

“Each of you showed up this morning with talent, knowledge, wisdom, experience, and passion,” I tell them.  “Our bet is when you contribute your talent, knowledge, wisdom and passion, we are going to get better as an organization.”

If I believe this – and I do – then spending a majority of my day with them is the single most important thing I can do this day. 

I then share that the reason each of them is here is because they share our five values.  Before we ever looked at their experience and skills, we first screened them to see if there was a values fit.  Only then, do we consider all the information on their resume.

After my opening remarks, we transition into “Focus on You,” an exercise designed by Talent Plus.  The symbolism is key: in their very first meeting at PCI, we “focus on you” – our new hires.

All of us are given a few minutes to fill out the Focus on You form which includes your name, “hot buttons,” i.e. things you are passionate about and enjoy, a personal and professional success, and a personal and professional goal.  

I kick things off with sharing my answers and then select someone to go next.  This process continues until each person has presented.

3: After lunch, I return and spend 90-minutes walking the new hire group through our notthebigcompany booklet which lists the five key elements of our culture, what we call our 5byFIVE: 

i: Our purpose: to inspire dreams and transform lives

ii: Our vision: To earn a spot on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies in the world

iii: Our goal: Every client should be referenceable

iv: Our five client promises (how we achieve our goal): Be proactive.  Be accountable. Be trustworthy.  Be positive.  Be passionate.

v: Our five values: Pursue Excellence Purposefully, Unlock Human Potential, Act with Integrity, Innovate a Culture of Relationships and Fun, and Lead with a Servant’s Heart

This session is one I always look forward to because sharing the “whys” and “how’s” of our 5byFIVE is one of my favorite things I get to do.  There’s always lots of questions and discussion.  Between this exercise and Focus on You, I have the opportunity to really get to know each of our new hires on their very first day of work – which has tremendous benefit going forward for them and for me.

Other agenda items for notthetypicalfirstday@work include presentations by other leaders on (1) Servant Leadership, our leadership model at PCI, (2) how we “Add the Wow” to make every client referenceable, and (3) an overview by our training team on the path forward.

The goal for our notthetypicalfirstday@work is for our newest associates to feel welcomed and comfortable.  Because only then will they be able to contribute all of their talent, knowledge, wisdom, experience, and passion.

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Reflection:  Might any of the ideas above translate to my organization?

Action: Discuss with my team or a colleague.

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