In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the perfect onboarding plan for a new hire.

Making a new hire is an exciting time for a team, however, it’s really to get onboarding right, as the experience that a new hire gets at the early stages determines if he’s going to succeed in the team or not.

So in this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how Hiten handles onboarding of new team members, why you want to make new team members feel like they’re in the right place, How some onboarding plans set up new team members for failure and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:26 Why this topic was chosen.

01:14 How Hiten handles onboarding of new team members.

02:11 What Hiten’s onboarding process looks like.

02:45 Why you want to make new team members feel like they’re in the right place.

03:33 Why you should make sure that they can get to work as soon as possible. 

04:35 How isolating it can be for new team members.

05:28 Why getting onboarding right is very important.

09:03 How some onboarding plans set up new team members for failure.

10:00 What you should do if your startup fails or is failing.

3 Key Points:

  • We want to make sure that new team members feel supported.
  • You make sure that they get to know the team.
  • You want to make them feel like they’re in the right place


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about the perfect onboarding plan, the first 30, 60, 90 days of a new hire. What are the best practices to make sure that, once you’ve gone through the intense exercise of recruiting and hiring and finally making an offer and that offer being accepted. And having this new team member that you are now bringing into the company, into your startup, how do you make sure that you onboard these people in the most successful way possible to really set them up for success and longevity? And what are some mistakes that companies, teams and founders make when it comes to onboarding new hires that we have made or witnessed painfully and you should avoid? So let me ask you first, Hiten, when you hire somebody new, do you have a formal 30, 60, 90 day onboarding plan? Do you do that with everybody or is it something that with some roles you do, sometimes you don’t or? Is it something that you don’t like and just out of principle, you never do with anybody?


Hiten Shah: I don’t know if it’s like a 30, 60, 90 days. I like to do a [Koster 00:01:11]. The way we think about it is we want to onboard someone within two weeks and make sure that they have everything they need. I think one thing that we keep in mind is this idea that when an employee joins, one concept we try to make sure that we’re accounting for is the idea of they don’t want to look stupid and we want to make sure that they feel like they’re supported and don’t have this situation where they feel like they’re looking stupid to anyone else. And so we have a very deliberate process around that.


Steli Efti: What’s the process around that? I love the framing by the way. I’m not surprised that I love the way that you guys frame things but not making them look stupid. Just tell me more about that. I think that’s super awesome.


Hiten Shah: So you make sure that they get to know the team and the team’s really friendly. That could be as simple as a really solid welcome message inside of Slack, welcoming the person to the team and encouraging that person to write their own version of it as well after. I think a welcome email for the person. We haven’t done this yet, but one thing I’m really excited about is as we’re scaling teams and scaling people, it’s actually having a deck that’s presented by either myself or my co-founder Marie about the company and how we do things here and doing it either in cohorts as people join or one-on-one if we need to. So I think that’s a big piece of it. Basically you want them to feel like they’re in the right place and they know what’s going on. There’s a lot of details around, make sure they have access to the right accounts and documents and this and that and they have a computer if need be, whether it’s remote or in a co-located office. All those things are cool. I think those things, there’s lots of stuff out there about them. What people don’t talk about though is how do you make someone feel great during onboarding? And that’s the part that I think I would optimize for and emphasize that I don’t see enough people working on. And so when you have 30, 60, 90 days, I feel weird about it personally because I feel like it’s almost like they’re onboarding for a long time. So we simplify the onboarding process so that they’re not onboarding for a long time and we also make sure that they can get to work in whatever job they have as soon as possible. And they’re not inundated with a bunch of busy work just because we have a bunch of onboarding steps they need to take.


Steli Efti: Yeah. So I love that. Yesterday, just yesterday, I might tweet this later out, but it was a screenshot of a Slack chat that one of our directors shared with me in Slack. Where a new marketing hire that we had just pinged him in today, “I don’t know who you want to share this with, but today has been my first day and it’s been really amazing. The amount of personal one-on-one messages I’ve gotten from all kinds of people in the team. The warm welcome I’ve received, I had one-on-one sessions with a bunch of people. The culture’s really incredible. I’ve been really impressed by how enthusiastic and warm and friendly my first day has been here.” And so, the director of marketing took a little screenshot and shared it with me. And yeah, I think people on the estimate how isolating it can be to be the new person on the team, right? And to be the type of person that’s trying to figure out how does everything work here? And who are these people? And being friendly and being warm and welcoming and making somebody feel on the first day, yes, this was the right decision. These are the people that I want to work with. I feel safe here to speak up. I feel safe to bring in my passion into this business. I feel like this is a group of people that really deserves my energy and I’m going to do great things here and that will set the tone for everything that happens afterwards. Versus joining and feeling like, well, this was a weird day. I didn’t interact with anybody, I don’t know anybody. I still try to figure things out, but I’m not sure should I bother anybody since it’s silent here and so weird. That kind of an experience can bring up all kinds of doubts. Ooh, did I take the right offer? Is this the right company for me? And this is the worst thing that can happen. You don’t want somebody who joins you on the first day to be filled with doubt. So I think that’s an incredible useful tip. The other thing that you said that I want to comment on is the whole, don’t make them look foolish or dumb or whatever. Don’t embarrass them. I think the amount of times I see people putting together onboarding plans that setups and the new hire full failure is really astounding to me. In the early days, you want to find the right balance between not giving them a bunch of small busy work that is safe because it’s meaningless, right? That’s one extreme. They can’t look dumb. They cannot fail because what you’ve given them is utterly meaningless to the business and nobody will care or notice, but it’s safe. And then there’s the other opposite of the spectrum that I see often where you’ve given them something that’s so mission-critical, so complex and almost impossible to deal with well, if you don’t have an incredible amount of context. So the chances of them messing something up and then pissing a bunch of people off in the company or creating a first massive negative impression within the team and the business of super high. Those are the two extremes that I see most commonly used when it comes to onboarding plans. Either they give people too much too soon or they give them too little. And in both cases, either you’re set up for failure or you have no chance to succeed. Obviously the golden rule applies here as well, where you want to give people things where they can accumulate wins. Where they can shine but you want to ramp it up quickly, but taking step by step, the first thing somebody does in the business can’t be the most mission critical thing that if they make a mistake, the entire business collapses. Right? That’s not good for you and good for anybody. So finding the right balance, setting up people for success, allowing them to shine and show their talents early on and to have a little bit of impact in some meaningful but also public way is usually really good to set them up in the right tone. But what I see oftentimes, it’s one of those two extremes. Either it’s a 90 day plan, where it’s like if they do all these things, have they had any impact on the business? No. Will anybody notice? No. So what are we doing here? Why are they going to be working for the business for three months and nobody will notice that they’ve been there? They would have had zero real wins in the company. That sucks. And then I see the other examples where it’s like, wait a second, you’re giving them this for the first three weeks? This is a very complicated mission critical project that nobody, that everybody was avoiding in the company and so you’re giving it to the new person. That seems like setting them up for massive failure. And just avoiding these two things I think you can be way ahead of the competition because most companies make one of the two mistakes, at least in my experience. I’ve done this myself, I’ve seen this in my company, but I’ve seen this in many companies for sure.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. Over and over again. I think you want to think when you build a product and you build a business, you’re thinking about your customer. Where in this case when someone new joins your company, they’re your customer and you want to think about how they’re thinking about things and what you’re looking to avoid with their experience. And also what they’re feeling is and how much momentum they have coming into the company. The only thing you can do is support that. Anything else you do is bad. And so that’s why I’m not a fan of 30, 60, 90 days. I like two weeks and we also like to get people to work as soon as possible because that’s really the longterm environment they’re going to be in.


Steli Efti: Yeah, I think that that makes a ton of sense. Anything else? To me, those are some of the biggest points for the overall onboarding philosophy. Any other big mistake or big success thing that you always do because it’s been working so well? Or thing that you never do anymore because you’ve seen it feel over and over again?


Hiten Shah: Not determining the basically off boarding and the opt-out. So, I don’t think companies should be keeping people beyond a certain point, whatever their tolerance point is, with a new team member. And those things should be made clear to the employee about what success looks like and if they’re not successful for whatever reason, you should be able to communicate that so you can let them go super early as well.


Steli Efti: Yeah, that’s a really good point. A big mistake that I see is once people hire somebody, usually because it takes a long time and a lot of effort to find somebody that the company or the team is excited enough to make an offer to, oftentimes what happens is in the first one or two weeks there are early signals that maybe this wasn’t the right hire, but then people have such a strong bias to want to make it work, that they ignore all those signals. They don’t have a clear off boarding plan, they don’t have a clear plan of these are the numbers or the criteria by which we’re going to measure your success and if we don’t hit these things together, then this isn’t going to work out. They don’t have this clearly defined enough. And then what happens is in the six months into some of these role, a company will part ways with somebody and when you ask them, when was the first time that you knew this new hire isn’t going to work out? Typically the answers are on the first week in the first three weeks. There were all these signs, but we really wanted to make it work and we really wanted to give this person a chance. And we were not sure if we maybe didn’t onboard this person right. And we didn’t make sure if we needed to maybe train and coach them more, be more patient. And so because it’s so hard to hire, once you made it, a lot of companies the mistake to not be clear enough on the criteria for success and on the consequences of failure. And be very strict on those in the early days versus because it took us so long and now we hired this person, we’re going to look away from all the early, maybe red flags that this might have not been the right hire and we’re going to string along somebody for months that we would have had to just reverse the decision. But it’s going to be more painful six months into it than three weeks into it. And that’s definitely something that I’ve seen over and over and over again.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, totally.


Steli Efti: All right, that’s it from us for this episode. If you enjoyed it, make sure to give us a five star review and rating if you have not yet. As always, if you have any questions, ideas for episodes, wishes, we would love to hear from you,, And until next time we’ll hear you very soon.