How MailChimp’s Onboarding Has Evolved

Every year, we onboard about 200 people, which is no easy feat. That’s why I helped create what is now MailChimp’s onboarding program. As a result, gone are the days when a new hire would be dropped off at their desk and left to their own accord.

When the program started, I was the only new-hire wrangler. Now I manage a team of Employee Integrations Associates that ensure each new person feels welcomed—and gets all of the resources they need.

When we first created the program, a few obvious things needed to be addressed, like reading handbooks and electing benefits. Through our Chimpanion Program, we paired new hires with cultural ambassadors so they didn’t have to eat lunch alone their first week. We also started having department representatives explain how their teams contribute to MailChimp.

My team is always looking for ways to improve, though. In the last few years, we’ve spent countless hours sifting through new hire feedback and having conversations to figure out what could be done better. We found that teams were amped to become even more involved in the new hire process.

There are a few ways that new hires get to know their manager and team. Before they even start, each person fills out a survey of their favorite snacks, colors, hobbies, etc., and their team uses this information to decorate their desks. It’s amazing to see a grown person’s face light up at the sight of their desk covered in pizza wrapping and streamers. Managers also write welcoming notes on postcards to put into their new hire’s swag bags. And once a new coworker starts, their manager and team take them out to lunch.

When employees arrive for their first day, they take a tour of our main office and settle in for some quality paperwork time. After that, my team explains their onboarding schedule for the week—and it’s really an entire week! We go over the itinerary, which includes things like free lunches, department overviews, a talk about MailChimp users, and a co-founders chat with Ben and Dan.

We let them know what they can expect to have accomplished by the end of the week, like gaining a general understanding of the company and how it functions, meeting their team, and having their computer all set up.

We also let them know what they will not be doing their first week—coding, filing paperwork, writing blog posts, or getting thrown into the deep end on a project by their manager.

See, our motto at MailChimp is “Listen Hard, Change Fast.” While our cultural onboarding experience only takes place in person the first week, each new hire will be listening hard in their first 90 days so that they can help the company continue to change fast in the future. We want them to understand what makes MailChimp unique and how we work together. We also want them to get to know their team, their manager, and their role here.

We’ve grown quickly, and sometimes it’s unclear who to ask questions when you have them. Lots of teams have their own departmental onboarding, which includes a department org structure and setting up their computer to the team’s specific needs. New hires spend a lot of time reading Wikis and chatting with their teams to learn the ropes. They also need to spend time getting to know their peers, so there’s lots of one-on-one time chatting.

Sometimes new hires struggle to “do nothing.” Have you ever told a developer they’re expected not to code for the first week of their new job? But at MailChimp, listening is important business. It might not feel like they’re doing a lot, but learning how to navigate the company is imperative to their success. They’re able to be more productive later in their tenure if they have a better understanding of what their team does and what their role is—plus how they can most effectively do their job by working with others. The goal of “doing nothing” in their first week is to set them up for success in the weeks and months beyond.

Through feedback and iteration, we continue to improve on our onboarding process to create a more impactful experience. We’ll continue to listen hard to our new hires, and change fast!

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