PR’s Top Pros Talk… Successful Onboarding Practices
Tiasha Stevenson, Vice President, Director of Creative and Agency Resourcing, Golin
How can new hires set themselves up for success during onboarding? In the second part of the discussion, Tiasha Stevenson, Vice President, Director of Creative and Agency Resourcing, Golin, emphasizes the importance of listening and being intentional about getting to know your team members to develop strong relationships. Tiasha also highlights the need for employers to create business resource groups to help new hires connect with peers with similar experiences.
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DOUG: Great, you’ve got the dream job, you’ve just been hired to the new team, you’re psyched to get started, the company is excited to have you. How do you make sure the onboarding goes well, any tips for the new employees?
TIASHA: Absolutely. So, if you have the opportunity, get as much of your paperwork done before you start. There’s going to be lots of videos, and codes of conduct, and as much as you can possibly do before you start to hit the ground running, go ahead and do that. That’s not always possible, but that’s one tip. Another tip I have is to listen more than you’re talking in the beginning, I know sometimes people have been waiting for you to get there, and they want you to jump right into the work, but I do what’s called a listening tour when I start a new job, and I want to hear from everyone that I’ll be working with, whether that’s in my current role, the creative team, or some of the senior leaders, or even peers at the agency. I really love talking to people who have been around and seen sort of the way PR and earned first creative has evolved at Golin. Those types of things really excite me because it gives me color that I would have gotten in the office. It just takes 30-minute one-on-ones or even 15 minutes. I like to stack my Friday meeting new people, and learning about the agency, and learning about who they are as people, it really helps me do my job.
DOUG: You mentioned a listening tour, and that’s especially important if you’re coming in at a higher level at the firm because there can always be an odd dynamic if you’re coming in senior to people but you know less about how things go at the company than they do. That can be a source of conflict and frustration, so that’s a really great piece of advice. One of the things I’ve found, and we feel really good about our onboarding since the pandemic because it has to be more intentional, it’s got to be specific. You can’t just rely on people hanging out in the kitchen or at the proverbial “water cooler”, it’s got to be planned. How do you keep it planned but still leave room for people to grow and get to know different people?
TIASHA: Well, I think at the height of the pandemic, there were happy hours happening on Zoom, and things like that can still happen. I think where safe you can try to get together with small groups, but I also think if you plan maybe a 45-minute meeting knowing that 30 minutes of content are happening that relates to the client or that relates to the topic, but you leave the first 15 minutes or the last 15 minutes to just do the type of talking you would have done around bagels in the kitchen or around the LaCroix machine, really being intentional about getting to know people and building relationships. And this is something that PR people do every day – building relationships with journalists, building relationships with clients. We now just have to take an extra step to build stronger relationships with our colleagues and co-workers, and it just takes 15 extra minutes per meeting.
DOUG: That’s a smart idea, and obviously there is more communication with your colleagues via video than there’s been with some members of the team working remotely. And I would think remote work for many is going to continue as a reality even post-pandemic or when we start living with the pandemic at a much less intense level. What’s the importance of connecting with different groups and both from the employee side, how do you go about making that happen, and as a company, how can you instill that in the policy to make it easy?
TIASHA: From the company side there are a few things that can happen. So, my manager set me up with some one-on-ones with both people I need to know, people who it’s important for me to know them to get my job done, but then just other nice, cool people in the agency that it’d be nice to know them because they work there and they’ve been there for a while, or if we would have seen them sitting next to each other. So, I think if you’re a manager of people, think about the functional parts of the job but then also take one additional step to think about what would make it better or how it would have looked if we were sitting together. I’ll also say that business resource groups are very important in connecting, whether it’s moms’ group, a group for LGBTQ+, a group for Black co-workers, whatever it is, those groups and those connections are so important and they’re easier to make now because they’re happening on Zoom. And so, you can reach across geographies, you can reach across time zones, and you can really connect with people who have similar experiences to you. For me that has been a major part of my onboarding at Golin and being able to connect with those folks have helped me a ton in just getting my day work done.
DOUG: Right. Now, a lot of people don’t necessarily work for the larger companies like Golin or major companies. If you’re in a smaller company and say you’re at a managerial level with new employees, and then we’ll say if you’re an employee starting out at that, maybe let’s start with the employee. If you’re at a smaller company that might have 25 people in every affinity group because there might only be 20 people on the entire team, how do you go about trying to create those connections?
TIASHA: For me, I think, asking a lot of questions. And so, again, when you first start in an opportunity, you want to know, what’s my role? How can I succeed at this role? But another thing that I like to do is to ask people about their role, that’s not necessarily related to mine, and to ask more about the business of the business. People get really jazzed when you’re finding out how they do their work and how their work connects to yours or connects to the company even if it doesn’t touch yours. This gives you an opportunity to meet more people and to learn more, which ultimately will help you do your job better even if it’s not a part of your day-to-day responsibility. So, for me, asking about the business of the business has been a really great way to onboard with the new team.
DOUG: Yeah, that’s really encouraging for you to say that because one of the things we do when we bring someone on board is make sure during the first week, they get to connect one on one with everyone just to hear about what that person does. And also, to your point, they might find out they really connect well with this one person who might not be in their department, but it’s someone they can learn from and rely on to make the connections. Any other final thoughts about how people can make sure they start their job well? We like to think the importance of the first day, the first week, the first month. How do you then try and take it to the next level?
TIASHA: Continuing those conversations. So, your first day you’re meeting people whose names you may not remember in a week, go ahead on that first conversation and book a time to meet with them the next month or the next quarter. Think about if you’ve met a lot of people and someone’s name keeps coming up, just go ahead and meet that person because everyone has 15 minutes to talk about themselves. And so, get to know people, get to know them, and also have some talking points together about who you are, what you believe, and what you hope to accomplish at the company because then people can turn to you when they’re ready. If you’re brand new, they don’t know to come to you when they have problems that you can help to solve. And so, I think learning about people, giving them an opportunity to speak about themselves, perhaps some talking points ready about who you are, why you’re at the company, what you’re excited about working on, what you want to be doing.
DOUG: Yeah, and one question that comes up because people who are relatively new, whether they’re in junior or mid-level positions, are almost hesitant to speak up when they’re part of a Zoom, perhaps with the clients. What are the rules of what they can do to make sure that they engage and become part of the conversations themselves?
TIASHA: So, one of the things that I find really interesting that we’ve been talking about when we think about diversity is that some people aren’t as comfortable in large group settings and they have these amazing ideas, but they come to them 10 minutes after the meeting or they say I’m thinking about something, but I’d like to tell you a little bit later. I think it’s important to lean into your communication style. If you’re an extrovert and you want to speak up right then, you can. But if you’re an introvert, there’s still so much value in the idea that you bring to the table and think about ways to follow up after a meeting with the client or with the team just to show that your ideas have value even if you didn’t kind of pull up the gumption to say them right at that time, or maybe they came to you in the shower later, whatever the case may be. But I think there’s such an opportunity in our new ways of working to sort of respect different communication styles and to really pull out the value that each person is bringing to the table.
DOUG: That’s awesome advice. Thanks again for being with us. It’s obvious why you’ve been so successful and been able to establish new paths for yourself in your career.
TIASHA: Thank you. I wanted to thank you for the opportunity. You have been in the industry for so long and so much of our industry is about storytelling but turning the camera on PR professionals and allowing us to tell our own story really shows how dedicated you are to this field. So, thank you for your support and for this opportunity.
DOUG: I appreciate that, thank you.