Blog»Knowledge Management

Why Even Top Agencies Struggle with Onboarding

Kristen Craft on July 17, 2018 · 3 minute read

According to a new survey we ran with the experts at Databox, the average agency reports that it takes over three weeks to onboard a new employee. Given that people are the largest cost drivers for most agencies, a three-week onboarding process is akin to flushing thousands of dollars down the toilet. Admittedly, onboarding is hard, but why does it take so long? And what do agencies cite as possibilities for speeding up onboarding? Ultimately, almost all of our survey attendees cited one (or multiple) of the following issues: learning about the client base, getting to know new processes/tools, and becoming acquainted with the culture.

Learning about Clients

No client wants to feel that they’re being supported by someone who doesn’t understand their business and priorities. So it’s no surprise that many agencies start here. The agencies we spoke with make it a top priority to get new hires up to speed on a client’s business, goals, pain points, and preferences. One agency places great emphasis on

“…helping our new hire learn all of the intricacies of a client’s business…we go to great lengths to make sure that everyone working with us understands and appreciates that each client is different.”

From our perspective, this is exactly the kind of documentation that can make onboarding faster and more efficient. For example, one Tettra client tags client conversations in Gmail anytime the client makes a new request. With the Zapier integration, this trigger creates a new Tettra page within the “Client” category. With this model, a new hire can see the history of the client relationship and get a feel for how communication has flowed in the past.

Getting to Know New Tools and Processes

Nearly every agency notes that they use a lot of processes and tools. It takes time to pinpoint everything you need to learn, and then it takes further time to actually learn. Even the most talented developer or marketer needs to get acquainted with new things when getting up to speed in a new role.

Within team Tettra, we try to document all of these tools on a single onboarding page, along with detail about how we use them. We store passwords in 1Password for easier access. By giving new hires access to these Tettra pages even before the official start date, a hire can begin logging in and poking around if they so choose.

Finding a Fit with the Culture

Because culture is such a big part of what makes an individual agency special, this is an area most agencies prioritize. When agencies ignore this component, they increase the risk that a talented new employee will leave for a new job. The best agencies out there want new hires to understand not just what to do but also why:

“Our new hires’ first weeks are always the same, focused on helping them understand our agency (values, structure, systems, etc,) and giving them a deeper look into what we do, how we do it, and why. That last part is extremely important.”

This last part is especially tricky since even the best documentation can’t give a new employee first-hand visibility into how people apply the organizational values to real-life situations. However, if asynchronous learning and documentation can reduce friction in the first two areas, it frees up more time for conversations about the company culture and values.

Tettra’s Role in Onboarding Success

We were delighted to see so many agencies pinpoint Tettra as a critical asset during the onboarding process. Not only did people cite the fact that Tettra makes onboarding easier, but they also mentioned that it accelerated the process:

“Our old onboarding process was 90 days, we’ve since compressed the onboarding to 6 weeks. It’s improved employee retention and set the right expectations…everything is defined in Tettra.”

We’re honored to be an integral part of many agencies’ growth and success. Please share any stories about your team’s onboarding processes!

CRO at Tettra. Reader, long-walker, Sloanie, beer brewer and drinker, 'villan, parent, spouse, friend, human. Previously at Ovia Health, Wistia, and Transparent Language