The heart of leaderships is relationships. If you can't connect with others, you can't lead them. This is why the core of a strong onboarding program for new team members must be relationship building. This is best accomplished by curating different ways for different people to interact and connect.
At the most recent Hatch Experience I joined an eclectic group for a long weekend of exploring and leveraging creativity for the better. As Hatch founder Yarrow Kraner explained to me,
A key component of HATCH is the integration of technology, innovation, and spontaneous creativity with more typically "business-centric" realms as a way of exploding people's perceived limitations and illustrating just how interconnected all of our worlds are... in business... in community... in mission... throughout out lives.
Kraner curated this by assembling some of "the world's top creative minds with tomorrow's most promising talent". This is a guy who understands that the world needs three types of leaders: artistic, scientific and interpersonal. And this is a guy that has seen the power of them working together along with Intel, Hatch's main innovation partner.
Over the weekend he and facilitator Pete Strom put us in a blender and shook us up. For one exercise, they had each person in groups of five take turns having their "higher self" introduce their "real self" and their super-powers and Kryptonite in the third person. While it seemed a little "touchy-feely" at first, it produced an astoundingly intimate interaction between the five people.
This won't work in most corporations. Hard to imagine most corporations pulling people out of the business for three-day retreats with new hires. Try as they might, corporations can't create the safe space that the Hatch Experience does. People in corporations test and judge each other on a routine basis. Few can ever come close to the intimate connections made at Hatch in just a couple of days.
Additionally, Kraner is clear that Hatchers "are not a team per se, rather a community that imposes the highest of expectations on its constituents, and helps them meet them. So our intention is to work towards like minded values and impact- not that we always need to be working together."
Still, there are aspects of this that can and should be applied to your future onboarding efforts:
Environment - Adjust your thinking from assembling the best athletes to building synergistic teams. Each player you add should make the whole team stronger. Then, make sure everything about your environment welcomes your new team members.
Values - Clarifying intentions up front is critical. Make sure your new team members understand what matters to the organization and why. And make sure the organization understands what matters to those new team members and why.
Attitude - Relationships take time to incubate. Inspire and enable that incubation by managing the ideas and experiences your new hires are exposed to early on. The mindset change is to curate the right onboarding for your team's situation as opposed to letting it be a one-size-fits-all mechanical process. You brought these new team members into the organization so they can help move you all towards your purpose. Invest in their onboarding.
Relationships - This is the heart of leadership and therefore must be the core of onboarding. Authentic relationships are based on trust, earned by trusting and being trustworthy. Help your new hires connect with like minds by explaining in advance to all what you're going to do and then giving all the support and resources - including time - required to take advantage of those efforts.
Behaviors - Have a bias for action. Get your new hires engaged in productive work sooner rather than later so they can start racking up early wins to build everyone's confidence. This is not so much about building others' confidence in the new team members as it is about giving the new team - including the new team members - confidence in itself as a team.
Onboarding right takes a while. But you can do it much faster than you do now.