A proper onboarding experience is one of the best investments a startup can make to ensure the success of its employees — and, by extension, the success of the organization overall. But there’s one critical component of onboarding many startups overlook: the presence of you, the founder.
As a company scales, the founder’s priorities can shift, and their input on hiring and onboarding may become minimized or muted. However, no matter how rapidly your startup is growing, it is still important the founder be involved in this process to some degree.
Here are three reasons why the active participation of founders during the onboarding process is vital:
1. Connecting With New Hires
During your startup’s early days, you may have interviewed every candidate personally. You were probably on a first-name basis with each team member. You could likely even name their spouses, children, and dogs, too!
Over time, personally interviewing each candidate has become less feasible as your growing company has needed to scale its people and processes. While a good founder knows delegation is key, you can still get to know new hires on a personal level, even if you need to distance yourself from the day-to-day realities of the recruiting process.
As a founder, you are uniquely positioned to connect new hires to the company culture you helped cultivate. Try to find time to connect with new team members, even if you can’t fit it into the formal onboarding process. You might bump into new employees at the water cooler or when riding the elevator. Take these opportunities to introduce yourself, ask questions, and get to know your team members. It will mean a lot to them.
2. Telling Your Story
No one is better equipped to tell the story of your company than you are. The heart and soul of your company rests with you, its founder.
Many new hires were likely attracted to your company because of your story, leadership, and ongoing involvement. Prepare a talk you can give during onboardings that brings these new hires into the story, making them feel like part of the company.
Depending on how much ground you need to cover, you may need to give more than one session. If that’s the case, one of the trainings should absolutely be focused on the company itself. This will give you an opportunity to communicate your mission, vision, and values, all of which are vital and exciting for new hires to hear and understand. Other sessions could focus on more tactical aspects of the business. For example, in our company, my husband (cofounder and CEO) gives the company overview, mission, vision, and values, while I speak to our brand, industry dynamics, and related skills.
Don’t know where to start? Check your inventory of corporate presentations and pitches you’ve delivered to banks, investors, or business partners. These can be repurposed as training materials and should spark some ideas for how you can structure your training. Some of this information may also be living on your corporate blog or in a company handbook.
3. Empower Your People
Your primary objective as a founder in the onboarding process is to give your people the confidence they need to carry out their roles and responsibilities. As a founder, your words weigh significantly more than anyone else’s do and will have a greater impact on day one. Make sure they are good words!
While crafting your message, remember: This is your chance to launch new employees into the business and the world of serving your customers. If you’re unsure how to convey your message, try helping your team understand:
- how their individual efforts contribute to the overall success of the company;
- that you want to see them grow professionally and personally while they work with you; and
- that you care about them and are walking this journey together.
Use your passion for the business to spread your vision and light a fire within each new employee.
At the end of your presentation, send your team away with a benediction. Part of what you convey during the training should reinforce your enthusiasm for employees’ work and assure your new hires that the company is there to support them in achieving their goals.
Founders play an absolutely critical role during the onboarding process. Not only will being part of this process keep you connected to new team members, but it will also provide a platform to share what matters most to you in the business. Onboarding is your opportunity to educate, equip, and empower others to fully participate in the mission, vision, and values being lived out in your workplace every day.
Stephanie Ciccarelli is cofounder and chief brand officer of Voices.com.