Case study: Onboarding & Offboarding – Mailigen’s story

In search for the answers we approached one of our customers, where I know they have invested heaps of time, thought and planning to build an exceptionally well detailed onboarding process.

There are many myths and misconceptions floating around about employee onboarding and offboarding. Most managers tend to think that its synonymous to company orientation while in reality, onboarding is broader and more crucial than that.

Increasingly more companies these days realise the value of a happy employee, and how that affects the growth and productivity of the business. There is a general consensus that each employee needs an onboarding of some sort, but what exactly makes an onboarding successful in securing that the new employees’ piece will smoothly fall into the organisation’s big puzzle as a perfect fit?

In search for the answers I approached one of our customers, where I know they have invested heaps of time, thought and planning to build an exceptional well detailed onboarding process.

Setting a precedent

Janis, Founder & CEO of Mailigen believes that an onboarding provides not only the first but also the only real opportunity to show the new employee that they have arrived to the most perfect for them job in the world. It’s about setting a precedent from the very start.

“When we welcome a new employee into Mailigen, we want them to feel both welcome and empowered to do their job”, says Janis. “The first day at the office should be a celebration with balloons tied by the chair, lunch with a cake, signed card and moreover, a gift for the new employee and their spouse.”

Mailigen had its first foundations laid while Janis was travelling around the world, spending most years in Asia. He came back to Latvia four years ago when Mailigen already had grown to respectable 20+ employees. Evidently there was a high turnover and Janis saw how employees were taken for granted, hired as a quick fix to fill a space on the project, without a proper selection process. The lack of onboarding didn’t help and without proper consideration towards the employees, many of them consequently ended up “burnt out” in no time.

From his travels around the world Janis brought back with him a wealth of experience in international communications, on many levels. He realised just how different was the organisational behavior and communication back in Latvia, in comparison to the open mentality in some of the Asian countries.  He went on the mission of integrating that openness into the reserved and somehow limited Latvian model of communication and team-spirit. Janis knew that it was worth investing time in mapping out an in-depth thorough onboarding process, which would return happier and more productive employees.

Fast-forward to the present day and now around 10 employees at Mailigen have already experienced the well designed onboarding process. Janis has noticed how the new employees get on to their responsibilities independently much quicker and more effectively. They have a well defined understanding of “the bigger picture” and belonging to the “Mailigen family” as they call it.

Engaging employees right away

Every workplace is unique. Each has its own culture, personality, goals, values, and philosophies. Every new employee should have a sound understanding of management expectations and the specific role they play to help the company achieve its goals. Onboarding also includes telling the new employee what they can expect from the company in terms of resources, management support, and growth opportunities.

Something that surprisingly often gets missed; employee engagement should begin during the onboarding process, first impressions last. If you want your employee to be happy and productive they should be engaged way before they sit at their desk. An engaging onboarding process includes fostering a healthy and supportive relationship between the management and the new hire. Janis takes the employee engagement very seriously, this, he believes, is the pinnacle of a harmonious and productive working relationship. He is satisfied that at Mailigen,

they “have moved away from throwing the new person in the corner with unrealistic expectations. Instead we integrate them so they become an added value. They also acquire a better developed product knowledge regardless of the position in organisation.”

Team building exercises, icebreakers, as well as quick self assessments provoke any employee to think about themselves not only in a professional but also in a personal way. A perfect example in Mailigen is a Dreamboard, which isn’t just part of the onboarding but also of the whole length of the employment. The Dreamboard is placed in the staff kitchen, traditionally the social space in most of the companies. You can see all kinds of messages left on it, by employees with all lengths of service, mainly answering to questions, such as: “What do you want to experience in life? How do you want to grow? How do you want to contribute to the world?” Janis believes that these are the three most important questions everyone should give a thought to, an idea that is borrowed from Mindvalley.

Onboarding is a team effort

Naturally, there will be a person in the company that will be in charge of coordinating the onboarding process for new hires. Another mistake that many organisations make, is when they put the responsibility of the whole process on this individual and they become a “go-to person” and inevitably the new employee will feel like the only person they can approach with questions is this one person that not necessarily is always around and accessible.

Until recently Janis has always solely overseen the Onboarding process at Mailigen, but he knows, it is time to let go and put his trust in his Team leads to drive the process. This, again, is a significant learning curve not just for the company but also individuals, this is a new culture where middle management takes responsibility and care of their subordinates. It is not easy to adapt to changes and it is an ongoing work in progress, but Janis is already receiving the feedback from his Team leads about how they increasingly recognise the value of time they have put in new hires, should it be a mere conversation, training or lunch hour. This delivers an early development of relationships, and mutual awareness of opportunities on personal, team and organisational level.

Unification of the process

Mailigen have created a handy checklist for onboarding process and via HR management software CakeHR management system this template helps ensuring that the onboarding goes off without a hitch. There is a general part for everyone to get through divided in tasks that need to be done before the new employee arrives, on the first day, first week, first month and finally quarterly tasks. Also depending on particulars of the role the onboarding tasks extend in different levels.

CakeHR helps bringing it all together, by offering various Onboarding functions, such as customisation of Tasks and Workflows, documents share, continuity, automation and ease of the process. What is really helpful, the system is process-based, which means, it can be applied to sensitive situations therefore avoiding for an individual to come across unfair or inconsistent.  It also helps revisiting information. Print helps in processing and understanding the information, maintain consistency, flag weak and incomplete points. It provides accountability, by being a tool people can refer to.

CakeHR Onboarding module
CakeHR’s Onboarding module

Since Janis is trying to move away from micromanaging, he puts significant time and effort in training the rest of the team, to follow the guidelines. An HR software such as CakeHR without a doubt works as a great tool for the Team leads and Managers, and finally, Janis as the CEO can step back from micromanaging and focus on developing new processes for the organisation.

Offboarding is equally important!

Offboarding is another process at Mailigen that is thoroughly followed an appreciated.

If onboarding is all about creating first impressions, offboarding is concerned with last impressions — which is as important as the first. A good offboarding process makes sure that the employee leaves the company in the best way. Why? An employee has built certain know how that needs to be passed on to the next generation or people taking over his responsibilities, projects and tasks. A belligerent employee can easily go online and rant about your company — affecting your company’s reputation and discouraging potential talents to work with you. A disgruntled employee who spent years working in your company carries important, confidential processes and information with them. A good offboarding process should make sure that all data security areas are well taken care of.

CakeHR's Offboarding module
CakeHR’s Offboarding module

If an employee is happy with the company and left the business on good terms, they will not hesitate to recommend your business to their friends and family. They may also become customers and use the products or services you provide.

Burning bridges because of an ineffective offboarding process will mean that you miss out on the talent and skills ex-employees can offer to your company…again. Not to mention the amount of money you save from re-hiring ex-employees who already know the ins and outs of your business compared to hiring new ones.

Mailigen's dream team
Mailigen’s dream team

In reality, employment is just like a relationship. If we want it to work, we need to take care of it from the very beginning, first impressions, highs of receiving the offer and accepting it, getting to know the employer and team, learning new things about the world, the role and yourself, facing the challenges, conquering them and getting stronger, until the lows of realising that you have outgrown your position and it’s time to leave, on good terms. This is all achievable, if we put effort in every each step of it, from the beginning to the end.

Ilona Kalniņa, Customer Success Manager at CakeHR

We at CakeHR, HR software company, stay on top of the latest HR trends as it is important for us to know what are the challenges and opportunities our customers are focusing on, so they can leave the management of HR data and day-to-day errands to CakeHR. The time-off, calendar, employee data and reports’ management and production are CakeHR’s currently more popular functions, however, we are about to add brand new vital and exciting modules to the existing ones – timesheets, onboarding and performance management, just to name a few!

Written By

Ilona Kalniņa

Experienced HR Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Skilled in Intercultural Communication, Recruitment, Office Management and Administration, with excellent People Skills. Strong education professional with a BS focused in Library and Information Management from University of Latvia.