Picture this: you’re an engineer who’s just landed your dream job at an uber-promising startup. The company’s growing rapidly, which is great for your stock options, but as you look around your swanky new office, you can’t help but notice the sea of new recruits, all in the process of being onboarded, just like yourself. You realize that all of you are going to be scrambling to learn the ropes as quickly as possible in order to make a big splash. So, how do you get up to speed for your cannonball?
Though onboarding can be quite the albatross for a new hire like yourself, the silver lining is that it also poses a conundrum for your bosses – and all companies striving to reach that enviable “hypergrowth” phase that will transcend them into unicorn status. The reality is that both you and your employer share the same goal: get new recruits onboarded as efficiently and effectively as possible without eating up tremendous amounts of company time and resources.
The process of growing a hypergrowth startup might seem like a catch-22 – in order to grow, you must hire, but the more recruits you hire, the more onboarding effort is required. This effort can result in slower growth, but it doesn’t have to. Here are some of the issues you might face when entering a hypergrowth startup, and some solutions for how you can best step up your game to match your company’s pace.
The issue with onboarding
Whether you’re a recent grad or making a lateral shift into a new company, every employee entering a new job needs to learn both domain-specific and company-specific information. First, there’s the practical, technical side of your day-to-day, such as getting comfortable with the codebase or learning how to sell a specific feature to potential customers. Then, there’s the bigger-picture stuff, like company values or expansion-related goals.
Mastering these two fields of knowledge can enable a new hire to embark on bigger-impact projects, which in turn results in growth, promotions, and endless other benefits. However, for a new employee at a hypergrowth startup, the toughest part of this is, more often than not, knowing whom to ask or where to locate the information you need.
From the employer’s perspective, the goal is to make answering that question as easy as possible. The most common approach to achieving this is what we call the “buddy system,” or when a company utilizes recently onboarded employees to onboard new hires, creating a Karate Kid-esque positive feedback loop in which the student becomes the teacher. The “buddy system” can be great for directly answering domain-specific questions while imparting to the new hire company values through the buddy’s example, but it’s not hard to imagine how this system can take a pretty hefty toll on the buddy’s own work impact.
Herein lies the rub in the onboarding process: you want to learn everything you can – and fast! – but you don’t want to overutilize your buddy at the expense of her own productivity. So, what are some strategies you can use to expedite your own onboarding in a hypergrowth startup whose needs and goals change on the daily?
Solutions to try
If you take stock of those “uh oh” moments you’ve felt adjusting to a new job, they almost always come as a result of a block. When I say “block,” I mean that feeling you get when you don’t know how to move any further toward a goal – when banging your head against the wall seems like the only way to break through it. The best advice I can give a new hire to help expedite your onboarding is, quite simply: become really difficult to block. How?
- Always be curious, even before you know you have a question. There are *almost* no bad questions, so ask far and wide. If a topic comes up in a meeting that you don’t understand, even if you don’t think it relates to your work, ask multiple members of the meeting afterwards to learn the concept. It could come up for you down the road, and this way, when it does, it won’t be the source of a block!
- Remember who knows what. Context is king. Keep a list of the people who specialize in certain aspects of the company’s functions. That way, when an aspect of the problem that’s blocking you overlaps with their specialties, you’ll know who to turn to to fill in the blanks.
- Don’t stay in your lane. There’s nothing above your level – everyone is capable of doing anything. Learning information outside your job silo can be extremely useful to a hypergrowth startup's expansion. So, read documents of interest, code anything you can, and question the decisions being made around you.
- Use your time. In moments of “down time,” explore. Make bold assumptions and test them. Sometimes, the only wrong decision is not making any decision.
Where Glean comes in
In a word, Glean makes all of the above pretty seamless. As a product, it can help to consolidate disparate sources of information so that new hires know where to look to find what they need. And outside of helping to circumvent direct blocks, Glean can allow for a greater amount of exploration into the context behind the inner workings of a company. Not only can you get all the pertinent documents for a topic, but you can dig in and figure out who in the company you should ask your follow-up questions to.
Moreover, in our post-Covid world of virtual and remote work, where calls and person-to-person interactions tend to be more focused, Glean can help compensate for what’s missed now that “water cooler” conversations are nonexistent, and it can turn the entire company into a new hire’s onboarding buddy.