Sep 29, 2015

Maintaining Company Culture Through Onboarding

In the past year, MailChimp has hired 132 new employees. By the end of 2015, we’ll have more than 500 folks working here. When I started 2 years ago, I was employee number 207 and even that seemed wild to folks who’d been here since the double-digit days. It’s really exciting to be growing this fast, but it’s also scary. What does it mean for our company culture? Are we turning into a big, soulless corporation? Wait a second, where did all these TPS reports come from?!

We’ve done a lot of work to make sure we stay weird as we grow, like developing MailChimp University and designating Marti Wolf as our Chief Culture Officer. We’ve also made changes that strengthen—not just maintain—our company culture. And that’s how I became MailChimp’s first-ever new hire ambassador.

It used to be that new MailChimp employees were greeted at the front door, handed some HR paperwork to sign, issued a security badge, and dropped off at their desks. Maybe someone would take them to lunch at the Thai place around the corner. Otherwise, that was pretty much it.

Eventually we realized it was taking new folks months and months to get comfortable at MailChimp, and no wonder! That was unacceptable. Onboarding is important, and can make our company more efficient and fun when it’s done right. So earlier this year I was given the opportunity to improve and manage the onboarding of all our new hires, from their first day through 6 months.

Now, I send every new hire a detailed email of what their first day will be like so they know exactly what to expect. That kicks off an automation series that delivers important information about schedules, benefits, and more to their inboxes throughout the first few weeks. I also work with managers to ensure that new hires understand team-specific skills and processes.

When new hires arrive at the office on day 1, they each get a tote bag full of MailChimp swag and a full tour of the office so they can learn all the most important stuff, like where we keep all the snacks (duh). Then we have our first of many get-to-know-you lunches with folks from around the company. No more feeling like the awkward new kid on the first day of school.

That first week we also host departmental overviews to show what each team does and how they fit into the big picture of MailChimp. New hires spend the afternoons with their own teams and managers, easing into their new roles and responsibilities.

All this new information can be overwhelming, so I throw in some fun stuff, too. We don’t do trust falls or make friendship bracelets, but we’ve developed a pretty intense scavenger hunt that sends new hires on wild missions all over the office. Every time I’m sent a selfie with an alien butt (don’t ask), I love my job even more.

the-chimpanion-program

Week 2 eases up a bit. That’s when the support team’s new folks begin their month of super in-depth app training, and all the other newbies get a full-day boot camp. It’s also when our Chimpanions step in.

This is another new thing we’re doing, where we pair a new hire with a more seasoned MailChimp employee in a different department. They’re not always a perfect match, and that’s OK. We’ve had pairs realize they’re basically the same person, and others that had absolutely nothing in common but still got along well.

After each new hire is settled in, we gather feedback from them and adjust the next round of onboarding accordingly. It’s a perpetual work in progress, and it’s so gratifying. Week after week, I get to help our new folks learn the ropes, then watch them flourish as they find their niches. But I can’t stand around admiring them for too long—there’s always a new group coming around the corner.