The one thing that matters most at a startup company is talent. It’s where you spend most of your money and it’s what will make the greatest difference in defining your success. So let’s not be stupid about it: you have to invest more in this asset than anything else. That means getting started right away — before Day One — if you want to onboard as efficiently and effectively as possible.
With startups, you don’t have room for any bad hires. Everyone has to contribute right away, but even if a new hire is experienced, he or she will need to learn your company’s product and unique culture. Too much process around this is bureaucratic and stifling, and too little process yields chaos. Here are four things I think every startup should consider to get new team members up to speed.
Start working together before you officially start working together.The time between when someone resigns and takes a new gig is always a vulnerable period for the hiring company — another company can swoop in and take them. Prevent that from happening by reducing this amount of time. Even if they don’t officially start right away, include them right away. It’s a good idea to share information with them, invite them to weekly team meetings and ask if they want to help on projects. I find that people make time to do this; they also want to get up to speed quickly.
Be prepared. Have all of the equipment ready so people can get started with real work right away. Have someone take them to lunch the first day of work. Assign someone to be available to answer questions and help them. Get new folks in the fray immediately and give them something to do. Make them feel like an integral part of the team.
Leverage content. It’s key to codify important knowledge, make it adaptable and communicate often. But every startup moves so fast that it’s hard to recommend having a formal playbook, which gets out of date pretty quickly. One thing that I’ve found to be successful and scalable is having a good content plan. Y Combinator offers a list of resources where founders can get their questions answered and then have a platform to share their learnings with the rest of the community. I like this system because it is dynamic by design and stays current.
Check in constantly. The easiest way to see how things are going is to check in and ask. Everyone learns at different rates and in different styles, but it’s easy to tell when people are happy or when they are struggling. Have one-on-one meetings daily during the first week or two and then have weekly check-ins.
Instead of looking at this transition time as “training” — which sounds hard, uninspiring and like extra work have on top of your real job — think of this time as an investment in your most precious resource and think about all the ways to help make them most effective.