MVP Onboarding For The 97% of Startups Who Have None

MVP Onboarding for the 97% of Startups Who Have None

Being a small, rapidly changing startup with no time to do onboarding doesn’t have to mean your employees don’t get onboarded at all.

I meet dozens of startup founders with just a few employees (and even some with 20–100 employees), and the reality is that they don’t have the time, resources, or internal know-how to do onboarding “right” right now. We already know how expensive it is to bring on a new hire, and that it’s even more expensive to have them leave.

So, what can we do to ship an MVP of onboarding? This post looks at some of the questions I hear all the time, and how implementing even the most basic of employee onboarding programs can quickly change your organization for long term and for the better.

I often hear things like:

  • How can we avoid an abrasive “getting-up-to-speed” process for new hires?
  • How can we keep our turnover rate low (or lower it to start with) and retain our best employees?
  • How do we maintain a healthy, welcoming, and supportive environment for all hires, but especially those from underrepresented groups?
  • How can we create processes that evolve as we change?
  • We have no time. How do I get any of this done without taking a day off to write it all out?

Here’s the thing to remember:

The point of onboarding is that it allows new hires to learn the basics easier, better, and faster.

Great onboarding programs cover the smallest topics (from using the copier and kitchen) to larger concepts (employee culture, where to find policies and procedures) and help both new and existing employees adapt to changing environments. Buddies and pair programming can support employees as they learn the context, but it can also facilitate knowledge transfer and reduce employee discomfort.

I wrote about this in Onboarding is Unboxing, but I’ve found that successful onboarding programs all have a few things in common:

  • They let everyone know what is expected
  • They’re designed to allow new hires to arrive ready to be productive
  • They offer open communication paths so that new hires can ask for help or offer critique
  • They are lightweight enough to evolve (read: they aren’t precious)
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Posted by Kristen Gallagher

Kristen Gallagher
Kristen Gallagher is an organizational strategies and learning designer. Specializing in onboarding systems, manager development, and knowledge management, Gallagher delivers programs that are designed to evolve and scale with rapid changes. She is the founder and CEO of Edify and has architected and delivered onboarding programs for companies bringing on just one person a quarter to 50+ people a quarter.

She brings over eight years of learning design, business development, and program operations and strategy to Edify. She guides growing tech companies to create amazing people systems, learning programs, and cultures that scale. Kristen speaks on human resources, human centered design, learning & development in technical environments, and integrated people operations across the country. Informed by her interests in technical product design, art history, contemporary Southeast Asian art, and museums, Kristen brings an iconoclastic approach to designing and implementing learning programs in tech environments.

She's spoken and taught at Learning Dev Camp, ATD Cascadia, ACTW, Refresh Portland, Product Tank, PHRMA, and dozens of other conferences. Effective, efficient programs, events, and strategies are what motivate her, and in every project, she engages teams to understand trade-off’s, make data-driven decisions, and design evolvable solutions.