PODCAST
Startup Recruitment Failures
JULY 13, 2022

Episode 3: Investing in New Employee's Onboarding

It seems so obvious: when you hire, you need to invest in onboarding. However, most of the time we tend to forget about what is obvious and expect new employees to just join the team and start delivering.
Liudas Kanapienis, Co-Founder & CEO @Ondato

Listen on:

Transcript

INDRE
Hello! Welcome to Startup Recruitment Failures podcast. I'm Indre, Founder and CEO of jobRely - we're building outbound recruitment SaaS. Today my guest is Liudas Kanapienis, Co-founder and CEO at Ondato. Liudas, could you please introduce yourself and your startup?
LIUDAS
Hi Indre, sure, would love to. My name is Liudas, I'm the CEO and the Co-founder at Ondato. At Ondato, we are building "Know your customer" products, basically focused on "Know your customer" automation. We are mostly working with the financial sector - with the so-called obliged entities.
INDRE
Okay, nice, very interesting and very needed nowadays. So when talking about the recruitment failures, I know that Ondato team is quite big. Maybe you could share with us with your experience?
LIUDAS
Yeah. So we actually started just four of us - Co-founders, then quite quickly we added some first teammates. Then we stayed about twelve people company for quite some time. Then we grew fast: first to 30 people before Covid to 196 today.
INDRE
Wow, that's a lot!
LIUDAS
Indeed, it's quite a time. Of course, with all those hires and everything, most were successful, but we had some failures as well, for sure.
INDRE
Could you share the experience you've had?
LIUDAS
Since the podcast is about failures...
From what I've seen - also when working with other companies, launching other startups - the biggest issue is the same everywhere. First of all - it's setting up the expectations right for the the relationship between the employee and the employer or the manager and the employee.

The relationship has to be built. And what I see is that people usually don't have the intention to actually build the relationship and are rather looking to cover one or other type of field. Let's take an example in, say, account management. A very good example by all of the means, because when a startup is small, usually it's the founding team that actually takes care about the customers. And when hiring the account manager, basically, they're looking at him or her to do things in the same way as they do. But it's just impossible. Because what we have to realize, that all the people have their different views, attitudes and literally they're just different. And it's just impossible that the job will be done in the same way as the the founders would do it.

If the business is successful, everything is growing - more clients and more things to manage. And when you realize that you don't have enough time and attention to manage those accounts, you hire an account manager. Your expectations are that everything will be covered by the same way. That's a really high expectation! When you have those conversations internally that, wow, yeah, this person is really great, everything is there, the cultural aspects, everything really fits our environment, everything...let's go for it! And then you face reality. The new person doesn't know lots of the processes, there's lots of historical things and daily work. And basically the view changes. And that's where the biggest failures actually come.

At this point you either help to develop the person - to build up the processes and understanding why this or that thing happened, and help upfront - or you are just disappointed and that's it, you know?
INDRE
When you say "expectations management", I believe everyone expects that once you're onboarding a new person on your team, you have to show attention and introduce all the procedures which are existing at a company. Is there something else there? Should hiring managers expect to be more involved and to spend more time than usual? Like, how much? When is it enough?
LIUDAS
Honestly, I always advise that the expectations should be like twice as bad as the worst scenario.
So then it's always just the improvement. So what does it mean in a daily job? You must be ready to shadow that person all the time, to give as much as you're spending during the day basically and to fully involve within all the processes and everything. Especially within the startup, where those processes and procedures actually do not exist. Because what we also have to understand, in the later stage, let's say within my company today we have lots of descriptions, procedures, processes, lots of the responsibilities descriptions and that kind of stuff, it's easier to set up employee's responsibility area and to give them some kind of understanding even without the actual talk. But in the small startup or the smaller group, lots of those things actually do not even exist.
INDRE
Yeah, they're not written down.
LIUDAS
So how should the person actually realize what is within the kitchen? What he should do with all the processes, relationships with the clients and everything else? There's no other way. Even in terms of, let's say, the cultural aspect. How do we talk with them? How do we approach them? What kind of communication do we have? And even some basic things, the channels, possibilities, flexibility, whatever type of things, is not so easy then to actually understand. But we, as founders, we expect that to happen somehow.
INDRE
Yeah, I totally agree with you. On the other hand, it's such a difficult task, because if you're hiring, it's because you're not capable of dealing with all the tasks, which are on your plate and when you hire, and you expect that that new person will help you.
LIUDAS
Of course.
INDRE
Well, it doesn't seem right, because you have to do your own work and then you have to take care of the other persons. So how to balance this?
LIUDAS
That's the whole point and that's where the biggest difficulties are coming from.
You see, that's exactly what I mean when talking about the expectations management. I see this a lot and I've seen that within my own company, too. Everyone is super busy. When you're so busy, of course the expectation is that, okay, let's cover this part and I will have more time to do my other stuff. And the actual thing is that it's not. We just have to face the reality.

So, if you hire someone and you're busy like 10 hours a day, so you will be literally busy 12-14 or 16. And that's what we have to set up as an expectation from our side, so that the amount of work and time spent will actually increase, but not decrease on the same things. Because you will literally have to duplicate, replicate those things, to explain that to other person. But it is an investment into the future.

And that's what we have to understand - to admit that, to accept that, and to invest that time, because those are harsh 2-3 weeks of time going through the onboarding process. If it's actually done and the time is invested, so then, of course, it will repay back with a really huge release in the daily job.

The only problem is that if it's an actual growing startup wich generates demand for its product in the market, the team is expanding, so they as founders have to be ready to do that all the time. Because you just onboarded one person and spent like 2-3 weeks of time with them. Of course, they will require some time later on as well. And then you're hiring another one, then another one and another one. That's what we have to be ready to do, you know. So even today with 200 people, I don't spend time with them like those 2 weeks, because there are other people doing that, but I still spend some time with them. I do have those meetings with them, like general meetings, explaining the history, telling about the story of Ondato, how we came into this sector, what we are aiming to achieve, what are our goals, what is the culture that we have and all the stuff.
INDRE
Giving all the background.
LIUDAS
Yeah, of course. Because people within the company have to understand not only what they're doing, but also why they are doing this. And what is the background of the company itself, why it is solving one or the other type of challenges within the market and how does it serve its customers and it's not only some kind of written words with the statements of mission and vision, but they have to actually understand this and it's our job to do that. Because nobody else will do that right.
INDRE
Of course. So did you have this experience of mismanaging your expectations yourself?
LIUDAS
Oh yeah, of course.
INDRE
Maybe you could share any particular situation when this happened and what was the outcome? How did you deal with that?
LIUDAS
So maybe I'll start from the end. The outcome was that we had to say goodbye to each other and that was honestly quite a few times and it's nothing new - I don't expect to make only the good hires. Just maybe what I've learned from those mistakes that I've made is that you should kind of come with a bit of neutral expectations as such. Then it' easier to manage that and to make any kind of decisions. Because if you have those big expectationss, really big hype that "Oh yes, that is the person" and all the stuff and then you have this some kind of disappointment. It's quite difficult actually to make a decision that maybe it's time to say goodbye to each other.

Now sharing the example. I really had quite a few of those, but they are not recent. When I hired a head of one department I really had an upfront opinion of that person, and after discussions and everything, I was like a bit of too hyped expecting that now the problems and issues of that department will be just solved. And what then I did wrong, basically, I did not invest enough time into development of that person. It ended up that there's no the result that I was expecting.

So you know, it's anyway my mistake in that. Because I didn't manage that right. Of course, I have so many excuses around that. Because I was so busy, I think we were fundraising at that time or something like that. There was so much of the things that I was doing and of course I have an explanation that I literally couldn't. But in that case, maybe I just actually had to postpone this hire. Or to manage that somehow differently. Because everyone of us is busy with something all the time and the question is then about the priorities. So if I expected that department to actually be solved and covered, I had to invest at least 1-2 weeks or something like that. Instead, this example cost me about half a year then restructuring rehires, onboarding gain and sorting out all the mess.

Yeah, so had to spend way more time than I would be spending on the actual real good onboarding.
INDRE
What mess are you talking about? What happened that you had to solve so many problems?
LIUDAS
Yeah, so you see, when you hire a head of the department, it means that you're bringing anyway some kind of view, culture, attitude and that kind of stuff into the department as such. There was some kind of system created within the department, some kind of procedures, processes, some people hired within there and all the stuff and then it like all of that part, has a bit of the different view than the actual companies and the Co-founders viewed on it.
INDRE
So the department didn't align with company culture?
LIUDAS
I'm not talking about the mess as mess, you know? It was just not aligned with the company's stuff and with the other departments and then it creates this kind of mess, that just needs to be sorted out. So it means that then it involves not one person but even more people that then need to be either changed or moved to other positions, and then lots of the cultural things sorted out and that's kind of mess I'm talking about.
INDRE
After how long did you start noticing that something is not going according to your plan you had when hiring?
LIUDAS
That's a good question. If I remember good, that was something like 2-3 months or something like that.
INDRE
Okay, so not too much time. But still...
LIUDAS
You notice something first, then you kind of try to solve it, then you wait and see if it was actually solved - all this process takes time. So first of all is that if something is going wrong from the very beginning, it's always the best to notice that sooner than later, but the reality is the reality and it takes time. And the worst is that all that time you actually didn't go to the same direction that you actually wanted to. And that's an issue. Because you're kind of going to a bit of other direction than you were supposed to go. And it has its own results. Especially when you're in the in the startup environment, in this so quick and fast changing environment.
INDRE
But wasn't it possible to fix this after you started noticing that something is going not according to your plan? Didn't you have a conversation with the head?
LIUDAS
Of course, you always try to fix it first. You have those conversations all the time. But that's why to fix something takes more time anyway than just to do it right from the very beginning. It's true not just with hiring people, but in life, generally.

Of course I've tried to fix it and we tried to do that together. But that's where you have a big waste of  energy. Because fixing something is more difficult than doing that right and that's just a loss for everyone. It didn't work out in my case. I've seen examples where it actually works and fixing is possible, but that wans't my case.
INDRE
I see. So your advice would be to manage your expectations when hiring. But how does this practically look like? So you found the person you very hyped about, right? What  steps should you take?
LIUDAS
If you know that you're hiring the person from Monday next week, basically you are then dedicating your time if you're a direct manager. Then you are dedicating your next two weeks of time, basically, to work with that person very closely.

It means explaining everything, shadowing and that kind of stuff. The first expectation should be to manage that now, because you may think that you've solved that type of issue that you had and that's why you're hiring in the present. But it's actually more complicated. So that's the number one expectation that needs to be managed. Yeah, so when you have dedicated that your next two weeks of time are fully committed to the person and to the onboarding process, then it will be solved.

Of course all those small tips don't prepare the onboarding plan itself - what you will go through, what you will discuss, what kind of processes, procedures you will have, maybe you will create some together. So maybe it's a good time to do that, because you're kind of still spending the time to do that.

So to expect that those really good people out there - and for sure, there are lots of good people that you will hire and they will bring a huge impact on everything - but you still have to review them and everything. Even if they are, like, a senior person, who have lots of competence and knowledge that they will bring in, but still it has to be reviewed at the very beginning in order to align how does it fit the existing structure, culture and everything. And then that person can go on its own.
INDRE
Great! Thank you so much Liudas for sharing your story and for such a great advice. I think we all have to remember that people don't onboard themselves - we have to do that for them. Thank you all the listeners! For more podcasts please visit http://jobrely.com.

All Episodes

Have a Story?