Nightmares Onboarding People Operations

Onboarding Nightmares: Not so healthy

This is the first post in a series labelled Onboarding Nightmares. We’ll recount honest & true accounts of times where someone joined an organization only to have their first pivotal weeks full of confusion, frustration, and neglect (to name a few things!). These are real stories. All names have been faked and no real company names used.

Today, I’m sitting with Jesse, a global health consultant. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jesse was onboarded to a large health agency to help track & accurately disseminate data on the virus. Sounds like a dream job for someone in Jesse’s field right? In many ways, it was, but it could have gone much better, from the start, with a better onboarding experience!

The Interview

Evan: How did it all start?

Jesse: I received a contract about a month into lockdown here in Canada. This came from a personal connection I’d had previously. He called me in on a Friday, and by the following Wednesday, I had returned a signed contract to start… the next day.

Evan: Wow, quick turn around.

Jesse: It all moved very quickly, which I was prepared for. I was excited at the opportunity. This was an organization I wanted to be a part of very badly, during a very tough time for the health space in general. I wanted to contribute!

Evan: What happened next?

Jesse: Well, I was given my email and started to get setup with the various IT systems I’d need to do my role. This included data portals, a personnel portal for me to submit my hours, and a few other systems. This included needing to install some software on my own personal laptop.

Evan: Ah, so it was a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) work setup?

Jesse: Yes, their headquarters are in the US and I wasn’t being sent anything. This is probably a silver lining to how fast everything moved. With that said though, it took me 2 weeks to get my team chat application up and running!

Evan: 2 weeks with no team chat?! That must have been rough working remotely.

Jesse: It was. Turns out my laptop was a bit older than they expected and couldn’t use all the software my team used on a daily basis. I had to create some pretty ugly work arounds, some of which plagued my entire time with them, just to exchange IM with my colleagues. The other biggest pain was that I wasn’t introduced to anyone!

Evan: What do you mean? Like you weren’t given people’s name?

Jesse: No one took the time to tell me who did what and where, I was completely left to fly blindly. Between my IT issues and the lack of introductions and hand-offs, my first few weeks were spent “waiting for action to happen” you know? Meanwhile, I know this organization was madly busy and needed my support. That disconnect between what I could provide and do, and actually being connected or tasked with those things, was painful. I was eventually pulled onto specific work tasks, and my IT issues were resolved to a degree, but it was tough for me to say the least.

That disconnect between what I could provide and do, and actually being connected or tasked with those things, was painful.

Evan: After that initial period of frustrating onboarding and run around, was it smooth sailing?

Jesse: At the least, I could start doing work and contributing. Some of the files I got were fairly large and impactful. That said, I still had some lingering questions that I carried through my entire experience there. I never got the chance to really connect with my colleagues, it really felt like just a work environment. I am proud of my involvement there, but those feelings are largely intrinsic.

Evan: Yeah, that sounds tough. We hear often about how pains or problems during onboarding carry all the way through to when team members leave. Bad onboarding comes up very often in exit interviews. Well, it sounds like a mixed experience of great work after some initial struggles! Thanks for your time Jesse, I look forward to hearing about where you landed next!

Jesse: Happy to share Evan!

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