Startup

Shortlister Spotlight: Meet Mercy, People & Admin Lead

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At Shortlist, we love building and growing our team as much as we love building yours. In this instalment of our Shortlister Spotlight series, (a Q&A series to get to know more of our team members), meet Mercy Igoke, People and Administrative Lead in our Nairobi Office.

Mercy is a movie fanatic, globetrotter and social impact enthusiast! Read on to learn more about her journey at Shortlist and what makes her tick!

Hi Mercy! Tell us about what you do at Shortlist 😊

I am the People and Administrative Lead in our Nairobi office. A highly dynamic environment where the demands are high, and I’m challenged every day is where I thrive best. I support the team in administrative needs, planning, organisation and HR-related requests on a day-to-day basis.

Two years ago I joined Shortlist as the Administrative Officer, a role I  learned a great deal from. I began learning how to assist the team to accomplish their respective goals by giving the best support in each and every request. With the growth of the business, I also grew professionally and got promoted to my current role of People & Admin Lead.

What is your professional background, and what were you looking for in your next career step when you found Shortlist?

I have a diploma in Business Administration from Maseno University, Kenya and a Diploma in Food Science and Postharvest Technology from Jomo Kenyatta University. In my search for what I wanted to be in my career, I realised Food Science was not my calling. I then enrolled for a diploma course in Business Administration so that I can do what I love most, office management and support.

Previously, I worked with the USDA and USDA donor-funded program in Kenya for over six years. I decided to join Shortlist because I had reached a level in my career where I felt I could do and contribute more to a rapidly-growing company. Having worked in the corporate world for a while, I felt I was well equipped to make the move.

I must say that this was the best decision I ever made and I am loving the journey so far!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little, I used to be the household announcer (aka MC), and I would present every single evening before the dinner table was set. I would present a summary of diverse topics to my mum, dad and sisters on a set like on TV.

Although I wanted to be a TV presenter when I grew up, I’m happy to be where I am at this exact moment – though I would have been famous if I was a TV presenter! 😜

What’s your professional superpower?

I would say it’s multi-tasking. I once won an internal office award in my previous workplace for the best multi-tasker of the year. Trust me, I have the certificate to prove it. 😉

Shortlist has some amazing values, which of these is your favourite and why? (Learn more about our values)

Enjoying the waters in Zanzibar

I love all our values; they are all great and amazing! My favourite one, however, is Find the Adventure!!

Indeed, changing the world as well as yourself should be a fun and adventurous experience. I love to bring this to life each and every time I show up to work. It also feels really satisfying to inject an adventurous spirit into each day.

#BeBold #DreamAloud #Swashbuckle.

What are three words or phrases you would use to describe Team Shortlist?

Diverse, Supportive and Good Leadership

We love making memories in our day to day work! What has been your favourite Shortlist memory so far?

I have so many great memories at Shortlist, but I would say that one of my favourite memories is when we had to move from a tiny co-working space to a bigger space because the team was growing fast. This made me realise that as much as I was happy with the initial team, I was excited to have new people joining and making the team even better and more diverse.

Why is the Shortlist mission important to you?

I care a lot about the bigger picture, which is helping candidates unlock their potential and helping employers find and bring on board the best talent. I believe that our mission is not only stated but truly lived from thousands of success stories as told by applicants placed and employers who have used our process.

Every now and then the hats come on

As you know, we like to give “high-fives” to recognize when our team members do something awesome. Now is your chance to make a public high-five to a fellow Shortlister:

Ceverene – Always my go-to person for any questions, task, advice and even fun!

Brenda – We joined Shortlist together and I have truly seen you grow in your role. Congratulations!

Yasmin – Your commitment to bringing the best out of your team, making the necessary changes to make sure we are positioned to succeed as an organization and not forgetting the support you give to each and every department both locally and globally.

Maggy Mushira – For taking time out of your ever busy schedule to let me bounce ideas off your super amazing brain, and again for the appreciation you show to the team.

Last but not least – TEAM Kenyay! Y’all are a bunch of amazing superhumans!

What do you like to do outside of work?

On a normal day off, like Saturday, I like binge-watching any interesting series or movies.

My favourite genres are paranormal, Sci-Fi, horror, mysteries and documentaries especially speculative ones! History Channel is also a great place to get so much information on everything and anything.

I actively participate in support groups, especially for the less fortunate, orphans and the needy. I am a sponsor and mentor for Berur Children’s Home (Eldoret) and a charity work for Zaidi Ya Dreams Children’s Home that takes in children from the age of 0 to 14 years old.

Travelling around the world is one of my favourite things to do, especially when I have more than three days off work. I have been to many places but ultimately my dream destination would be to go to Israel and visit the Holy Land. I would also like to see places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Galilee!

What surprised you about working at Shortlist?

The laid back non-corporate culture. It didn’t shock me, but I was excited by the fact that I could come to work in trainers or jeans, with my blonde/platinum short hairstyle and still perfectly fit in. Amazing!!

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

If you were to swap places with one person for a day, who would it be and why?

I would like to swap places with my loving Mum, Mrs Agnes Bahati Igoke. She has been a pillar in my life, and she helped shape me into the person I am today. Her strength, wisdom, values and the morals she instilled in us kids have been a great foundation for us. Her compassionate nature and selflessness to us as her children and the neighbours is a great value that I carry with me to this day.

I’d love to one day see through her eyes and experience a day through her thoughts.

I’m a backup singer sometimes 😉

Anything else you want the world to know about you?

At the moment, my cell phone has over 15 audiobooks saved on it (yes, it has massive storage).  Hopefully, I will get through at least 10 of them by the end of 2020!

I love art! Animation, architecture, Christian or religious, conceptual, artistic design, drawing, illustrations, mosaic, painting, performance, photography, you name it!  I used to draw sketches when I was in the lower primary – I might pick this up again in a year or two? Who knows!

I listen to Beethoven, Earl Klugh, Jerome Najee, Louis Armstrong and any great jazz songs.

My favourite quote is on respect: “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” – Albert Einstein

My favourite place to eat at is Manor 540 – their fish and plantains are the best on this side of East Africa.

Final words?

Be you and do you; do not imitate anyone, because you are the best, an original!

Book Recommendations Shortlist

Need a book recommendation? Check out these non-fiction classics

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I love to read. So when my team asked for book recommendations in a recent Town Hall, I hopped on the opportunity to reflect a little on the books I’ve found helpful on my career journey these last 15+ years. These are all nonfiction favorites — narrowing my fiction favorites is simply too big a task — and all made a strong impression at the times I read them, even if they may not all stand the test of time equally. While these aren’t the most original or arcane selections, they’re ones you’ll almost certainly be glad you checked out.

Happy reading!

Books about the world: 

  • Guns, Germs and Steel (Jared Diamond) – One of the very first books I read that sparked my interest in why certain places were different than others. I am pretty sure I read it while backpacking in Vietnam. One idea that stuck with me was about the conditions that enable a production surplus (i.e., enough food that we can save it for the future) and how that served as the foundation for modern civilization (e.g., science, philosophy, commerce). The flipside, of course, is how horrifying it is to learn the ways those tools were used against the defenseless as imperial ambitions grew…
  • Cosmos (Carl Sagan) – This is a Carl Sagan classic, and if you don’t know about the Big Bang or time dilation or how big the universe is and you want to have your mind blown, read this book. While it hasn’t directly shaped my career, it’s definitely shaped my worldview (er, universe view) and I like to think there’s an alternate dimension in which I’m an astrophysicist.
  • Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari) – This guy writes his book as if he’s sitting on a nearby planet, thoroughly untroubled by the contemporary concerns of humanity and more interested to understand our trajectory from a cosmic or millennial perspective. The way he grounds the arc of human experience as an extended trajectory of conquest and stories, always within the frame of Earth’s lifetime, makes everything feel small but in a powerful, mind-expanding way.
  • India After Gandhi (Ramachandra Guha) and The State of Africa (Martin Meredith) – I read these books about a decade apart (IAG around 2009, SoA only this year) but they were indispensable books for me as I seek to better understand the context and history of these amazing markets I work in. The books are similar: massive tomes that take on the task of telling the myriad stories of hugely complex and diverse places from the time of independence movements (roughly mid-20th century) through the early 2000s. Obviously, any book like these is totally incomplete and I’m sure disputable on many fronts. But for me, they’ve been useful tools to help me structure my understanding of where India and Africa have been and search for clues about how best to navigate the present and look ahead.

Books about work and teams: 

  • Execution (Larry Bossidy) – I read this book a long time ago, and I fear it’s better suited to a simpler, pre-digital age — in certain parts they recommend writing hand-written letters! It contains a lot of wisdom and best practices about how to create systems for people, strategy, and operations to get stuff done and ensure maximum impact, productivity and accountability. While some of the tools work better if you’re leading big teams, there are ideas anyone can take advantage of, even if you’re just the boss of yourself. Another book recommendation on the execution theme is The 4 Disciplines of Execution. This one pushes us to focus on our “wildly important goals” and keep track of progress via “lead” measures on a scoreboard, all while (reassuringly) acknowledging the whirlwind of day-to-day stuff that can suck up 80% of our week.
  • The Four Hour Workweek (Tim Ferris) – The Tim Ferriss classic… It seems cliche to recommend this but what I really liked and what led to some useful epiphanies is the reminder that a good business makes money, and some of the best businesses make money quite simply — without crazy new ideas, lots of VC money, and impossible odds. It’s kind of an antidote to the voracious world-dominating viewpoints of most VC / entrepreneur books (e.g., Zero to One!) and re-grounds business in a simple profit equation: Put in as little resources as possible to make as much money as possible, and focus on actual free cash flows so you can live a really cool life.
  • High Output Management (Andrew Grove) – Another classic, written by the longtime Intel CEO and Silicon Valley legend Andy Grove. Maybe a little dated, but still largely applicable and covers a lot of amazing basics about building and growing teams, running complex organizations, creating leverage points, and making decisions.
  • The Culture Code (Daniel Coyle) – This one rocked my world, and was a topic of a previous blog post. In essence, Daniel Coyle asks, “Why some teams are more than the sum of their parts, and some are less?” This gave me a way for thinking about teams of all stripes (athletics, business, etc.) and what makes them great, without just falling back on some flaccid notion of “shared values.” There are a number of other culture-oriented books I’ve also enjoyed (including Primed to Perform, Delivering Happiness, and Setting the Table, to name just a few), but this one is special.
  • New Power (Jeremy Heimans) – Written by the CEO of Purpose, I recently found this book a very insightful and useful framework for thinking about the role of social media and movements and virality in building great businesses. I fear I am still an “Old Power” kind of guy (maybe it’s my age?), but there’s a lot in this New Power method and philosophy I’d genuinely like to learn and leverage to unlock professional potential through Shortlist.

Books about development: 

  • The Mystery of Capital (Hernando De Soto) – The book that drove me to become (briefly) a real estate lawyer… This is one of the most insightful development books I’ve ever read, describing the complicated interplay of law, record-keeping, and politics that turns things we own into “capital,” i.e., things we can easily turn into money through mortgage, collateralization, etc. The idea of widespread “dead capital” in emerging markets was fascinating to me, and I went into real estate law so I could learn in detail how a web of property rights and contracts could actually turn this dead capital into living, breathing capital ready to be deployed toward investment and growth.
  • The Elusive Quest for Growth (William Easterly) – The William Easterly classic (along with White Man’s Burden), which I remember as one big, brilliant takedown of traditional development economics and the development-industrial complex that rests on it. Easterly became a persistent counterpoint to Jeffrey Sachs and his “if we only had enough money, we could solve all the problems!” idealism. I like that this book eschews big development aid in favor of letting a thousand flowers bloom. This was an initial spark that got me more excited about tools like microfinance and entrepreneurship to solve big problems rather than massive institutions like the World Bank.

Books about startups:

  • The Hard Thing about Hard Things (Ben Horowitz) – A more recent hit, written by the iconic founder of venture behemoth Andreessen Horowitz. I found the first half a bit self-congratulatory, but the second half was full of interesting examples and insights about the challenges and celebrations along the way of building startups.
  • Traction (Gabriel Weinberg) and Lean Startup (Eric Ries) – These are good books to refer back to every once in awhile; they’re kind of like two sides of one coin. Lean Startup focuses on the “rules” of building product in a rapid prototyping/iteration model (“build-measure-learn” cycles), and Traction focuses on distribution and goes through a bunch of marketing and sales tactics to get your product out there.
  • Zero to One (Peter Thiel) – This is the Peter Thiel meditation on what makes a high-growth, dominant startup. There’s a lot here that I question or don’t agree with (e.g., the focus on building a monopoly as a positive thing, the need to dominate markets, etc.). But, it’s a really useful framework to try to make sense of the modern tech landscape and the difference between a normal business and a venture-backable startup.

I hope you were able to pick up one or two ideas for your next read. I’d love to hear your thoughts and your own book recommendations, so please leave comments or write me at paul@shortlist.net.

Top startups in India

Top startups in India: Three lessons on culture and team-building

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Ravi Venkatesan — in his analysis of some common threads between these top startups in India — said it best:

“Becoming a magnet for talent is a very strong predictor of eventual success for all companies and even more so for startups.”

Being the recruitment geeks we are, this got us wondering… what makes these top startups in India so good at attracting and retaining top talent? And what can other growing companies learn? Read on for the three lessons on culture and team-building that you can apply to your startup today:

  1. Craft an amazing employee experience

Even though access to the world’s most advanced technologies continues to become easier and cheaper, it feels like it’s harder than ever to find the right people to power your business. Add to that the fact that it’s often difficult for a scrappy startup to compete on salary with established industry players. How, then, have these upstarts been so successful at using their people as a competitive advantage?

An engaged workforce is a motivated and high-performing workforce. If there’s one thing that stood out to us across these top startups in India, it’s the care with which they craft their employees’ experiences. This means everything from obsessing over their onboarding (like Schbang’s potli of hope) to making sure employees are challenged and given room to grow every day, and to being deeply invested in employees’ physical health and wellbeing.

Every new joiner at Schbang is greeted with a ‘Knapsack of Hope’ (Photo Credit: @letsschbang)

2. Build a strong connection with the customer

Love your customers and they will love you back”, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Purposefully creating a direct connection between your team (regardless of seniority) and your end users not only helps keep your team’s ears to the ground but also creates empathy and ownership for the problems your customers face (which is ultimately why you are in business).

For example, all new employees at Dunzo — a Google-funded, online concierge services startup (and one of our clients!) — are required to complete a customer order to understand the nuances of the business firsthand. Similarly, Razorpay team members at every level are required to answer customer calls for 4 hours a month.

It may seem counterintuitive to have employees spend their precious time on such unscalable things when your primary goal is growing faster than your competition. But you need to look no further than companies like Amazon or AirBnB to realize that the world’s most customer-centric organizations are also the most innovative (and successful).

3. Create a business that solves real, everyday pain points

From working with over 200 companies across India and East Africa over the past few years, we’ve noticed ‘problem-solving ability’ to be a nearly universal requirement for any position employers look to hire for. It also happens to be the case that the brightest, most ambitious talent is attracted to companies that are committed to solving large problems in a unique way.

Mukesh Bansal led Cure.Fit is a stellar example of this, combining primary care clinics, yoga studios, no-equipment gyms, and food delivery into a one-stop healthcare platform (or, as Aviral Bhatnagar put it in his fantastic analysis of Cure.Fit’s business model, “a combination of Swiggy, Gold’s Gym, Baba Ramdev and Metropolis”).

It’s also no surprise to see Digit Insurance make the list of top startups in India given its bold mission to create simple and transparent products in an industry that is otherwise anything but simple or transparent.

At Shortlist, we’re always thinking about how we can help growing companies build happy, high-performing teams. Did you see any other big lessons we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks to Sneha Iyer, Olivia Wold, Doris Muigei, and Yvonne Kilonzo for their contributions to this post.

best career advice

Seven young business leaders in Kenya share the best career advice they ever received

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Whether you are just getting started or at the peak of your career, insightful professional advice will not only help you excel in your day-to-day but also see you through career transition and advancement. At Shortlist, we are consistently inspired by our clients and partners who have made their mark in Kenya early on in their careers. We asked seven young business leaders in Nairobi to share the best career advice that has propelled them to rewarding and impactful careers.

Tweet us at @Shortlisthires with your favourite one!

Christopher Madison, CEO — Dentsu Aegis Network

best career advice

Christopher Madison is CEO at Dentsu Aegis Network, a Marketing and Advertising company that innovates the way brands are built. Dentsu strives to make its clients’ brands win in a changing world. Chris shared the best career advice he’s gotten with us:

“The worst business advice I ever received was ‘do what you love’ at my New York University graduation-commencement. I have since learned “do what makes you money” works much better for me. I know, I know — it’s not exactly the stuff that makes a good Instagram post. And on one level, this approach goes against everything our culture tells us we should do with our careers. But there’s something to be said for financial stability.

To a greater extent than most of us want to admit, you’re only as principled and independent-minded as your bank account allows you to be. “Do what you love” is probably much better advice for someone who’s born rich, or holds a tenured academic position, than it is for the rest of us 99 percenters.

Besides, are we really so sure that the best thing to do with passion is attempting to monetise it, anyway? Why assume it’s easier to turn passion into money than it is to turn money into passion? Why not side hustle for love, and enjoy your career to make money?”

Lelo Koinange, Regional Operations Manager — Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos)

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Lelo Koinange is the Kenya Regional Operations Manager at Hivos, an international organisation that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues. Hivos works on projects that are against discrimination, inequality, and abuse of power with the aim of moving to a world where all people have the same rights, irrespective of gender, beliefs or sexual orientation. Here’s the best career advice Lelo received:

“I had a great HR mentor earlier on in my career; she was both fire and wind on any given day. What resonates with me till today was her opening and closing statement at literally all meetings and that was, “Go the extra mile, never settle for what’s expected of you” by Nadya Salim.

I know you’ve heard it a million times, but the truth is if you want results you have to be willing to put in the work — and more. Develop a great personal brand that’s based on working harder than everyone around you. A few guidelines for this:

  • Get in early
  • Ask the questions no one wants to
  • Do more research than what’s requested
  • Understanding the business of the organisation no matter your position in the organisation
  • Take risks early on in your career
  • Identify your skills and utilise them
  • Acknowledge that mistakes are part of learning

…as long as you never ever settle for what’s expected.”

Wawira Njiru, Founder and Executive Director — Food for Education Foundation

Wawira Njiru is the Founder and Executive Director at Food for Education Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation in Kenya that provides heavily-subsidised meals to students in urban primary schools. The firm sources fresh food directly from farmers and uses a central kitchen model to deliver the nutritious meal. Here is the best career advice Wawira had to share:

“I was lucky to discover what I wanted to do early in life, but along the way, like any other young person, I found myself distracted by other interests I wanted to pursue. I started a Masters in Public Health thinking I wanted to get into the health system but discovered that I was not as passionate about that and decided to focus on building Food for Education and providing meals to more children.

It’s easy to get side-tracked especially if you’re talented (or think you are) in many things, but there’s a lot of value in mastering one thing and learning how to do it well.

There’s also a lot of value in consistency and learning how to do things excellently. It may sound boring but doing the same thing over and over will help you become better and a master in your field.”

Ariane Fisher, Managing Director, East Africa — Shortlist

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Ariane Fisher is our Managing Director based at the Shortlist Nairobi office. Shortlist helps growing companies in Africa and India build and develop world-class teams. The Shortlist platform screens candidates using predictive chat-based interviews and online competency-based assessments, letting employers skip the most time-consuming and bias-prone phases of hiring. Here is the best career advice Ariane shared with us:

Surround yourself with the right people — There is no single greater influence on who you are and who you will become than the people you spend time with. Surround yourself with people who you think are doing interesting and important work, who you can learn from, and who you can grow with.

Listen, listen, listen — Develop the ability to ask great questions, and truly listen to other perspectives. Build comfort with having your mind changed with new evidence, and for making everyone around you feel heard.

Learn how to give and receive difficult feedback — Developing the skill early to give critical and constructive feedback to those around you, as well as seek out and truly receive critical feedback yourself, will help you in your entire career.”

Christopher Mwirigi, Learning and Development Manager — I&M Bank

Christopher Mwirigi is the Learning & Development Manager at I&M Bank Ltd, a privately owned commercial bank. The bank is a dominant player in the Kenyan market and has been consistently growing by innovating the type and range of products and services it offers. Here is Christopher’s best career advice:

“For me, I remember being told that, ‘Always remember that integrity is something that nobody can ever take away from you. You always give it away willingly.’ That was from a professional mentor, and it is a lesson that has stuck with me for the rest of my career and life.

Another one I received from a very special leader I reported to called Hellen Akello was, ‘Never come to my desk with a problem only, always come with a problem and a solution.

She was a brilliant leader I must add, and that lesson has been with me ever since and will follow me for the rest of my career.”

Isis Nyongo’ Madison, CEO — MumsVillage

Isis Nyongo is CEO at MumsVillage, a vibrant online village in Kenya that enables mothers to access and share locally relevant content and products through peer-to-peer communities. The parenting website provides resources, support and expert advice for pregnant women and parents for them to relax and express themselves among a community of like-minded friends. Isis shared her best career advice with us:

“As I reflect on the advice I’ve received over the years, I consider myself quite fortunate to have a diverse pool of people in my life to seek advice from. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way is to understand the perspective of the person giving the advice and how they perceive you.

For example, if your high school friend works in an industry completely different from yours, it may be more helpful to seek advice on navigating office politics (since they happen everywhere!) as opposed to advice on which graduate program to choose. The person giving the advice must be giving informed opinions and not just an opinion because you asked them for it or it was shared unsolicited.

That said, one of the best pieces of advice I received was from my brother almost a decade ago when I was deciding whether or not to accept an offer from a company for a senior role. He works in academia, and I work in tech so our fields and work environments couldn’t be more different. But this is what he said that helped me then and continues to help me to date:

“Know what people want you to do and if that is work you want to do.”

He shared examples of how when you get to a certain level of expertise, you’ll attract opportunities that want that expertise, but perhaps you no longer want to keep doing an aspect of what you’ve been doing so well.

For example, you may excel at building strategy documents but may get so tired of doing them that that’s the last thing you want to carry forward into a new role. This has helped me make so many decisions, big and small, about how I spend my time and also enabled me to open up opportunities to others.”

Fiona Mungai, Managing Director — Endeavour Kenya

Fiona Mungai is the Managing Director at Endeavour Africa Limited, a not-for-profit organisation that supports high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. Endeavour offers advice to entrepreneurs from a network of world-class business leaders with the aim of breaking down economic and cultural barriers to entrepreneurship. Here are the words of the best career advice that Fiona consciously tries to live by and have this far healthily manifested in her life as a young woman in corporate leadership:

“There is no truism or realism in the pursuit of WORK / LIFE BALANCE — it’s a myth. In order to thrive, we should strive to integrate what really matters into ONE LIFE with harmony — everything you do complements your life’s work.

I received this advice from a Harvard Business School Professor — Prof Lynda Applegate during an Executive Education Program. I initially thought this applies more to women as there’s a lot of discourse on working women trying to balance life and having it all together. As I reflect more upon it, it definitely applies across the board.

An example I can draw from is when I decided to go back to Graduate School — I had attempted to combine both school and work but found that at any given time there was always a casualty to my juggling and that tended to be school. And because I was aware that the networks and top tier education were integral to where my career was headed, I opted to enrol to a full-time program at the London School of Economics (LSE) and quit my job at a leading Private Equity firm.

Looking back, that was probably the best decision of my life as the LSE created amazing opportunities and ultimately turbo-charged my career in ways that I would’ve never imagined.”

Thanks to the seven leaders for invaluable advice!

What’s the best advice you have received in the pursuit of your career goals? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section or on Twitter @Shortlisthires.

For more career advice, Shortlist updates, and recruitment resources sign up for our newsletter here!

Related: Five young Indian business leaders share the best career advice they ever received

Onboarding Ideas: 3 Fun Tips for Startups and SMEs

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Great onboarding isn’t just for corporates with big budgets! Build an effective and affordable orientation program with these free and fun onboarding ideas.

Onboarding is a crucial part of recruitment, but often feels like an afterthought once you’re done with the screening, selection, and the offer process. As a super busy startup or SME, it might seem unattainable to dedicate even more team time and resources for onboarding.

onboarding ideas
Credit: Criene Images/Twenty20

However, you may want to reconsider. In addition to making new joiners feel excited and welcomed, quality onboarding processes have been proven to increase employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction, and reduce turnover and absenteeism in the long run.

How to begin? In partnership with the Shell Foundation, we created a starter guide to help you build an effective and affordable onboarding program. Here are three of our favorite fun and free onboarding ideas for you to incorporate today!

Tip #1: Create an informative and fun welcome packet to prep new joiners ahead of time

Create a packet of key information that you share with the new joiner a week ahead of their start date. It can be anywhere from a one-pager to a lengthier document, to a video, and you can update it and re-use it over the years.

Some onboarding ideas for what to include in your welcome packet:

  • Your mission and vision statements.
  • A timeline of key company milestones and fun facts about your founding story
  • An overview of your key products with images and feature descriptions
  • Case studies that demonstrate your impact on customers and/or society
  • Organizational chart with names, pictures, and titles, so they can get a head start on learning names!

For bonus points: Print out your PDF and send it to your new joiner’s house so they can flip through it more easily. Everyone loves deliveries!

Tip #2: Time your existing company events to create an engaging and busy first few weeks

Does your team already hold regularly occurring internal events? These could include all-company gatherings (like Town Halls or leadership Q&As), functional team meetings (like brainstorms or check-ins), or social events (like a monthly happy hour).

Try planning your team calendar so that these events and meetings occur during your new joiners’ first two weeks at the company. With a little bit of advance planning or rearranging (and no extra cost), you’ve beefed up your new joiner’s onboarding agenda with fun and engaging events that help them dive right into your company culture and routines.

For bonus points: Load these events into your new joiner’s calendar so, on their first day, they see lots of fun activities already planned for them.

Tip #3: Pair the new joiner with a buddy

Setting up your new joiner with a buddy gives them an automatic friend on their first day! Ask for team members to volunteer to commit 2–3 hours in the next three months to be a buddy. Ideally, the buddy is familiar enough with your organization (over 6 months tenure) that they can explain team policies and culture, and are not the new joiner’s manager. Once you’ve selected a buddy, here are some activity ideas:

  • Introduce the buddy and new joiner over email about a week before they join, giving the buddy an opportunity to welcome the new joiner and share any informal tips before their first day.
  • Set up a lunch or coffee between the buddy and new joiner on their second or third day, so they have someone to share questions and observations with after the initial deluge of information.
  • Ask the buddy to schedule a one-month and three-month check-in with the new joiner, so that they don’t feel like onboarding stops at activities of the first week!

For bonus points: Try to identify a common interest or trait between the buddy and new joiner, which can help as an ice-breaker. Make sure to go beyond the obvious (e.g., same university) to highlight that team members at your company strive to connect over shared interests and behaviors that go deeper than surface-level.

Thanks for checking out our top onboarding ideas for startups and SMEs!

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