Random thoughts, curated sporadically.

Girl guides, fairy dust and onboarding

A colleague of mine used to chant ‘welcome, welcome, welcome’ whenever a new starter announcement was made, clapping her hands in the spirit of the Girl Guides. Apart from being slightly concerned about her state of mind, she did highlight that it was an event worth acknowledging.


It’s not the most exciting term. I'll admit when the word is uttered I have to stifle a yawn, but it is a crucial part of the new starter experience. No doubt you’ve either managed or been involved in someone’s onboarding process.  Whether as the designer of a program or as a participant. Maybe you’ve shown someone around the office? Taken them through the login process? Shown them which coffee mug you should never use under any circumstance?

The bottom line with onboarding programs is that we do a lot of telling. A lot of showing ‘how it is’. It’s all about them, but somehow it becomes entirely about us as we focus on:

- providing people with the tools and information they need to get productive (stat)

- welcoming them into the community and giving them a sense of belonging (or fitting in)

But what are we missing? The obvious, as usual. These people have been outside our organisational bubble. They are experiencing 'us' as an organisational immigrant. And that’s fairy dust kind of stuff.

When we’re new we tend to remain silent about things that are a little odd, or totally insane. We keep quiet about the nonsensical processes that our new colleagues seem wedded to and we don’t question social norms because to do so might suggest we don’t fit in (at best) or that we’re going to be difficult (at worst).

And the fairy dust remains in our pockets.

I know Instagram-worthy welcome packs are all the rage. I'm not knocking them. I promise. I am, however, suggesting we look beyond aesthetics to create the space, and trust, for a little less 'show and tell' and a little more conversation. That we invite new starters to articulate what they're experiencing in their first few days, weeks, months - before their fresh eyes glaze over with new norms.

That we welcome, welcome, welcome the unique insights born of a fresh set of eyes.