“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
-The Borg, Star Trek
Sounds eerily like some kind of red-flag, hazardous onboarding speech, doesn’t it? Onboarding a new team member is often an overlooked or underrepresented stage of the hiring process. Of course, your HR team is ensuring they have the proper paperwork completed for payroll or computer access but truly onboarding and creating a stickiness to the firm is often informally delegated to whatever team or manager the new hire is reporting to or, worse, left to no one at all. According to SHRM, a good onboarding process gives your firm a 69% chance that the new employee will still be with your firm three years later.
For those of you wondering what that strange Star Trek quote has to do with onboarding a new hire and didn’t instantly hear the collective voice of The Borg when reading the quote, I’d like to welcome you to my 4th annual #nerd blog. Let me give you a brief run down on the re-occurring antagonist of the Star Trek universe, The Borg, before I get too far. The Borg is a technologically advanced group, regularly called a “collective” with one mind. They seek perfection by assimilating other species to incorporate their knowledge and technology to become more advanced. They travel in spaceships shaped like cubes, are connected through cybernetics, and adapt quickly. For all intents and purposes, they are cyborgs.
While becoming Borg is not something humans in the Star Trek universe want to have happen, the Borg has assimilated some humans. One of the most important humans assimilated was Annika Hansen, best known as Seven of Nine. She was assimilated as a child and disconnected from the collective as an adult to join the crew of the starship Voyager. It was imperative that Seven of Nine was successfully and intentionally onboarded to the crew of the Voyager so she could become more human-like and a lasting, influential, and strategic crew member contributing to the mission of Voyager.
Whether you are Star Trek fan or not, I hope you can apply the Star Trek analogies to your own onboarding process so you too can reach your firm’s purpose and mission with new team members.
1.) Onboarding is not a Borg assimilation
Do not take this blog as encouragement to create a “one mind” “resistance is futile” culture. Instead, encourage your team member to add their unique point of view, background, experience and voice to your firm’s culture instead of stripping those things away. Encouraging and embracing differences allows for creative solutions to problems and long-lasting relationships.
2.) “I’m just a cook who sometimes imagines himself to be a diplomat.” – Neelix
Neelix was Voyager’s resident cook and self-appointed morale officer. He was always working on something to lift the spirits of his crew members and recognized that fun and food were a natural way to bring people together and bond. Neelix was also responsible for sharing the joy of food with Seven of Nine.
According to a 2015 study by Cornell University researchers, eating with your team can increase collaboration and productivity. Within the first week of your new team member’s first day, schedule a team lunch and make one rule: no one talks about work. If you are a remote team, provide a budget for team members to buy their food and expense it back to the company. Set up a Zoom or Teams meeting with cameras on. Don’t make this a “one and done” experience, schedule a team fun event quarterly, no matter the season or how busy you are, and bond over coffee, a breakfast, or any other food theme. Get creative, laugh, and build your connectiveness over food. Need some ideas? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org we have a plethora of resources and tools we would love to share with you on creating fun in your firm.
3.) Find out what excites or interests your new team member
Seven of Nine had knowledge ranging from engineering to technology to problem solving to even spending some time in Sickbay (the main medical suite of a starship). However, one area that particularly interested her was the Astrometrics lab, a designated lab to chart the universe and a way back to Earth. She was given the opportunity to update the lab when she showed interest and it later became invaluable to Voyager surviving.
In the same way that Seven of Nine was given the opportunity to focus on an area of interest, recognize that you may have hired someone for a specific role but they are most likely bringing more to the table than what you see on their resume. When you lean in and listen to what interests your new hire, you are demonstrating that you want them to grow at YOUR firm instead of somewhere else. Plus, according to Gallup, 59% of Millennials, 44% of Gen Xers, and 41% of Baby Boomers want opportunities to learn and grow when they are applying for a new position. If you offer that opportunity at your firm during the onboarding process, they won’t look somewhere else for growth.
4.) Use away missions to expand your team’s horizons
For any Star Trek crew member, it is a privilege and an exciting time to be asked to join an away mission. It is your opportunity to be on the front line, learn a new culture, and get off of the ship. Those who go on an away mission often find themselves solving problems and gaining more responsibility.
As your new team member is acclimating to your firm, ask them to join you on your own away mission, like a client call or a business development opportunity. It will give them the opportunity to learn about your firm’s best practices, expand their knowledge, discover different pathways within your firm, and opens the door to delegate action items and create more capacity!
5.) Assign someone to connect with the new hire on a regular basis
Seven of Nine often felt like an outsider as she was coming into her own and adjusting to the culture of Voyager. And, throughout the series she connected with the Doctor, a computer hologram, forging a bond over their commonalities and helping each other learn and grow as valuable members of the crew.
This relationship was key to Seven of Nine’s onboarding process, much like assigning an experienced team member to be a new hire’s shepherd in your firm. The shepherd should plan to meet weekly with the new hire at first, to ensure the new team member feels welcome and comfortable to speak up. After the first 90 days, taper the check-ins down to once a month or quarterly but keep them going on an ongoing basis.
As you hire new team members, I hope that you continue to make an engaging onboarding experience for your team members a top priority. And, remember, the goal is to not assimilate your new hires but instead to bring their unique experiences and knowledge to add value to your firm.
Make it so,