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At Elastic, we think about onboarding differently than most. It’s not just a starting point in one’s journey but it can be the beginning of an individual’s path to help shape the future of Elastic. We have a focus on creating a process that is simple, which is directly tied to our “Source Code”, a set of ideas that makes Elastic, Elastic. We believe that our employee experience doesn’t start on someone’s first day or stop on their 90th. We care deeply about how our folks are engaged, ALWAYS.
For anyone to understand how we focus on connecting our Elasticians around the world, it’s important that you understand what ‘being distributed’ means at Elastic, and how we approach onboarding. Since we are in the business of data—here are some stats... Last year, we onboarded an average of 50 employees every month across 25 countries. This accounts for 25 different country-specific payroll documents with employees in almost every time zone... you get the picture—it’s complicated. When I joined Elastic almost two years ago, we were around 300 employees. Since then, we have added over 800 employees across the world. Crazy, right? The faster we are growing, evolving, and changing, more consistently we receive a piece of feedback which says: ‘the best onboarding experience of my career.’
Don’t get me wrong, this experience doesn’t happen by chance or by a wave of the magical HR wand but it happens by reinventing the process at every opportunity; empowering the HR team to take chances on new ideas or systems/tools and by challenging everything. Nothing is above reproach.
"Our team believes in pulling together all the requirements ahead of the start date so when they show up as an Elastician for the first time they can dig into their role and focus on connecting with the team"
For a moment, think back on how you were onboarded in your last company. You show up with excitement and desire to do great things, ready to take on your role but not so fast. You probably had to meet with the folks in HR and fill out the required paperwork which delays employees from connecting with their teams in an impactful way. Most of Elastic’s onboarding is done through an online tool. We have one onboarding specialist who manages the process for us (yes, ONE), and she does her onboarding magic using this tool to gather what is needed from each new hire. The tool makes it easy for our folks to stay engaged (visibility) through date-driven tasks, assigned based on the new hire’s start date. For example, the tool helps notify our IT department when we have a new starter to coordinate the equipment necessary for their jobs, for example a laptop. Simultaneously, the specific office manager, where the employee would join, is notified ahead of the start date to set up a desk, and add them to the daily lunch orders, and obtain access cards, etc.
In addition to these assigned tasks, we have a different setup for each country which requires information for the employee based on geographical location. So, a person in the USA will have a different experience than an employee we bring on in Sweden. We don’t just do the basics, we ask if they will be managing people, can we share your birthday, what’s their shirt size, any food allergies, obtain authorization to use their photo etc.—we do this so folks aren’t answering these questions multiple times during their first couple of weeks at Elastic. The system helps educate every step of the way from “office hours and how to access the building” to “here’s where you can locate the travel policy.”
Our team believes in pulling together all the requirements ahead of the start date so when they show up as an Elastician for the first time they can dig into their role and focus on connecting with the team. Over the last two years, we have refined our onboarding process many times and the experience that someone had six months ago is different from the employees hired this month. Even though we have evolved, consistency is key and we’ve learned ways to help remove the guesswork around the onboarding process. A simple shift from having employees start on any day of the week to Mondays allows for the IT team to modify their processes so they are spending less time ordering equipment and more time helping our folks with IT challenges or implementing cool features or tools. This is just one example of how a small change can have a large impact on a team and their resources. We also provide new hires with access to their email two days before their start date which helps them to sift through emails and work through calendar invites ahead of time that enables them to plan their week. The onboarding team holds new hire calls each week which includes the IT folks as well as the local HR support to help answer those last minute questions or handle any IT issues straight away so they aren’t blockers.
Being a part of such a distributed organization creates unique challenges that make us fundamentally think differently about every aspect of employee engagement. This challenge is turned into data, and we leverage the system to help get stuff done faster especially when your manager is in the US and the employee is in Asia. We gather the new employee bio and picture in the system so this US manager can announce their new hire without a delay. Easy. Benefit documents are completed in Greenhouse for Australian employees and sent to the carrier ahead of time so they have coverage from day one. You name it we gather info and coordinate before our person starts so it’s done. Long gone are the days of mindless droning over new hire paperwork during your first couple of days as a new employee. Our team does the heavy lifting which allows our new hires to provide us with the needed information one time and we leverage the internal team to move, input or disseminate the information—Elastic magic.
Our team is looking at the next ‘wow’ in onboarding and how we can leverage a new idea, tool or on-demand videos explaining, for example, the benefits offering or pension plans. We are most excited about how artificial intelligence (AI) will all be a part of this new future for HR. Evolving is key to our success. As long as we are always looking to grow and elevate how we approach the employee experience, we will always amaze our Elasticians.