in DEIB, Life

I’m New Here: Human-centered Onboarding

I wrote this post for my company’s November 2022 newsletter.

Three months ago I started working at TMI Consulting, after over a decade of working at a large state university. In my previous job I onboarded new employees often, but I had not started a new job myself since 2009. I was nervous about the transition, and worried about whether I would be able to succeed. But through my first few months of employment, the TMI team has given me space to find my way, made it clear that I am welcome, and showed me that my contributions are valued.

Here are some ways TMI has made my first few months so meaningful.

Keep in touch. I was hired in May but didn’t start work until August. Through that time, TMI staff reached out periodically to check in on me, make sure I had the information I needed, and remind me that they were excited for me to join. This allowed me to focus on closing out work at my previous employer while feeling confident and excited about starting at TMI.

Walk, don’t run. During my first few weeks at work, my new colleagues made sure to remind me that they didn’t expect me to know everything right away, and told me their own stories of starting work at TMI. The expectation was not that I would hit the ground running, but that I would take time to be curious and explore at the start of my journey.

Welcome the beginner’s mind. Moving from the public sector to the private sector reset many of my mental models about work. I explored the company with a beginner’s mind and colleagues supported me wholeheartedly. Rudimentary questions I posed in meetings or on Slack were answered sincerely and quickly. In meetings, folks asked what I thought as someone with fresh eyes on the business. Rather than seeing me just as someone who needed to be brought up to speed, my colleagues saw my newness as a value-add and encouraged my contributions right away.

Give space, give grace. TMI values space. Space to breathe, think, thoughtfully reflect and respond, and let ideas grow. By resisting the rush to a conclusion, avoiding either/or solutions, and not believing that there is only one perfect solution to everything, we actively resist the characteristics of white supremacy culture and give time for the best work to emerge.

Focus on people. As a core value, TMI employees honor each other’s humanity and dignity and enact that in all the ways we interact with each other, in every space. The baseline view is, “You are good enough. Your contributions make us stronger.” This means checking in, paying attention to how others are doing, listening, and valuing everyone’s perspectives and ideas.

Scaffold social time. Like most companies, TMI went fully remote in 2020 and didn’t look back. In addition to an annual in-person retreat, we have twice-weekly virtual check-ins that are optional, and the only rule is we can’t talk about work. I have loved being able to get to know my coworkers better in these spaces.

Make boundaries and rest everybody’s job. In my previous job, work-life balance was individuals’ responsibility and not an organizational mandate. I had dialed in a good work/life balance after years of finding out the hard way what my boundaries were. At TMI, there is clear organization-wide reinforcement of boundaries. There is no expectation of after-hours availability, we have dedicated days for rest, and we check in with each other to avoid overscheduling or overextending ourselves or others. This new-to-me consistent, predictable rest time has given me valuable space to learn, reflect, and find my way. I also love seeing how much this benefits my colleagues.

Hold space for unlearning too. When there is a culture that honors the wholeness of employees and communicates consistently “you are good enough”, it might take a while for new employees to adjust. I have been unlearning some of the patterns and behaviors that served me and my team in my previous job, but that are no longer necessary at TMI. This isn’t an indictment of my former workplace – this is, in fact, how most workplaces are! So, when an organization talks the talk and walks the walk, expect new employees to need a minute to breathe and to heal.