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Welcome Aboard: Why Medallia has spent 9,360 Hours (And Counting) Onboarding


Starting at a new company can be stressful. The feeling of, “Yes! I got the job,” can quickly turn into, “Oh, wow. Take a deep breath,” as you begin to realize that you’re headed into uncharted territory. New faces, new responsibilities, new environment, new culture.  As the new kid on campus, you’re going to have a lot to learn.

Most (good) companies have a set of processes to help mediate this transition, whether it’s through skills training, an employee handbook, or a crash course from HR on where to park and how to get paid. Often, there’ll be cultural elements mixed in, too: “Here’s what our culture is about. Here’s how to fit in.”

In effect, it’s some mixture of logistics and indoctrination.

At Medallia, we don’t hire Medallians — we hire people who are smart and empathetic. They just happen to also be Medallians. It would seem to be a bit of a waste to hire people because they’re different, and then spend their first week trying to make them all the same.

So our onboarding process isn’t one of indoctrination at all.

Instead, the core of onboarding at Medallia is self-discovery. Sure, the wisdom of “knowing thyself” is rarely disputed, but it’s also rarely taken and turned into a weeklong company program that everyone has to go through. The foundation of our onboarding curriculum is self-reflection: on where a given person is “at” (in career, life, etc.), where they want to go, and how they want to grow (see: Growth Mindset). From there, we encourage people to let go of perfect and form working team dynamics with people well outside their usual teams. We also provide a safe and supportive environment for people to face their fears — whether it’s overcoming a fear of needles by donating blood, or a fear of being the center of attention by singing in front of an audience.

This may seem like a gross deviation from the skills training that is required with any new position, but it’s not a “feel-good” week of fluff. Instead, it’s designed to challenge our employees’ assumptions and to instill a common language of understanding that forms the glue of our company culture. Relationships are formed as people get vulnerable together, hard truths are acknowledged through safe introspection and sharing, and deep-seated fears are conquered.  Honesty and open communication isn’t always comfortable or “nice,” but it’s a critical for any company trailblazing a new market.

The program has been described as “life changing” and “inspiring” by our employees and has even gotten the attention of TechCrunch and Business Insider. And that’s the other big reason we do it — we want to be a transformative workplace, helping our employees succeed wherever they go and whatever they set out to achieve. Peoples’ first week here is the entree to this commitment.

As a company, we’ve invested 9,360 paid hours (or 390 days) and counting into our employees through onboarding. It’s an investment we see as long-term and far from ephemeral. But WHAT exactly is onboarding, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to come work with us to find out.

Photo credit: Submarine Group Ten