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Onboarding

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The topic of onboarding describes how new colleagues are welcomed and supported when they join an organization. It covers training activities and rotation programs to help new joiners integrate successfully into the organizational and its culture.

A new perspective

Teal organizations invest significant time in welcoming and training new colleagues. This often includes learning new relational skills, understanding what self-management means in practice and going through a rotation program. These programs teach common skills and provide an opportunity for new colleagues to meet a wide range of people.

Every historical stage has given birth to a distinct perspective on onboarding, and to very different practices:

Red Organizations

In Red organizations leaders continually exercise their power in order to maintain control. They often surround themselves with family members and trusted advisers, buying their allegiance by sharing the spoils. The onboarding process typically involves a ritual of allegiance to the leader. Mythical stories of the leaders power make the rounds and are part of the onboarding process.

Amber Organizations

Amber organizations value order and predictability. Everybody has their place in a hierarchy which has clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Onboarding is about learning the requirements of the role and the expectations that come with it. This often means putting personal needs and feelings aside in favor of the organization. People are expected to follow the rules and stay in their ‘box’.

Orange Organizations

Orange organizations are characterized by competition and achievement drive. Innovation is the key to staying ahead. The onboarding process is often functional.. People might receive a few brochures about the company’s history, mission statement and values, or there might be a two-hour session where a senior leader talks about these topics. But mostly, the first steps are often mundane: there are papers to sign, a desk and computer to find, and a password to be assigned in order to access the firm’s network. Once ready to go, the new employee must try to create some time in his supervisor’s agenda to get some guidance on what to do.

Green Organizations

Green Organizations focus on culture and empowerment to encourage employee motivation. Teaching the approach and skills of servant leadership is a significant aspect of onboarding for managers. Managers, in turn, play an important role in welcoming newcomers into the organization and helping them understand the culture. Onboarding is often about community building and meeting the new family in an open way.

Teal Organizations

Teal organizations invest significant time in welcoming and training new colleagues. This often includes learning new relational skills, understanding what self-management means in practice and going through a rotation program. These programs teach common skills and provide an opportunity for new colleagues to meet a wide range of people. Newcomers are also  introduced to the practices of self-management, wholeness and  evolutionary purpose They are invited to consider their calling and talents in relation to the organization's purpose and its activities. 

In practice

Training in relational skills and in company culture

Teal OrganizationsTeal organizations invest significant time and energy welcoming new colleagues. The first days and weeks are critical to helping them understand a new and often very different workplace. At the heart of the onboarding process is some form of training that helps colleagues understand and navigate the new environment they joined.

At Buurtzorg, for example, all new team members are trained in problem solving and meeting practices, so they can operate in a team without a boss in charge. All new hires at Heiligenfeld go through six training modules that include topics like "self-mastery" and "dealing with failure". All new recruits at Morning Star attend a seminar on the basics of self-management.

For people who were previously in leadership positions, the transition can be particularly difficult. They have to learn how to get things done without recourse to command and control.

A significant part of the onboarding process is often dedicated to understanding the concept of Evolutionary purpose. New employees are encouraged to express their personal calling to see how it resonates with the organization' s purpose and to learn how they might support and nurture each other. 

There is no perfect recipe for a Teal onboarding process. Each organization chooses a range of activities that aim to teach new skills and, in the process, touch the heart and soul of those joining. A good way to develop an onboarding process is to ask employees, especially new ones, to co-create their own onboarding program and activities.

 

Foundational training in some of the following practices helps new colleagues starting in a Teal organization.

Ground rules or agreements

Creating a safe workplace starts with raising everybody’s awareness of the words and actions that create or undermine a safe working environment. Teal organizations spend significant time and energy training everybody in a number of ground rules or agreements that support healthy and productive collaboration. These ground rules are a tangible application of the culture and values of the organization. Several of the organizations end up writing down these in a document.

Of course, it takes more than a document to bring values to life. Many researched Teal organizations have chosen to start right at the beginning: all new recruits are invited, as part of the onboarding, to a training session about the company values and ground rules, which helps to create common references and a common language across the organization. Those ground rules and values are regularly revisited to ensure they best reflect and serve the Evolutionary purpose of the organization.

Purpose

A dialogue on how the organization's purpose resonates with new colleagues personal calling can be a great mutual introduction. Teal organizations are seen as having a life and a sense of direction of their own. Instead of trying to predict and control the future, members of the organization are invited to listen in and understand what the organization wants to become. By understanding the Evolutionary purpose, they can see how they can contribute to it whilst also fulfilling their own personal calling. 

Some founders and CEOs—such as Jos de Blok at Buurtzorg and Yvon Chouinard at Patagonia—find this module so significant that they choose to participate in every onboarding session.


Meeting practices

Meetings, more often than not, turn into playing fields for the egos, pushing souls into hiding. For that reason, almost all researched Teal organizations have instituted specific meeting practices to help participants keep their egos in check and interact with each other from a place of wholeness. For new hires, it is important to know about practices such as moments of silence,  and structured decisions making. This enables them to contribute to productive meetings.

Rotational programs

Some organizations choose to train every new colleague in frontline skills. The goal is to build relationships with other employees across the company and to build understanding of how the company operates. This understanding enables people to develop new ideas and suggestions more effectively.

At FAVI,  the French automotive supplier, all engineers and administrative workers have been trained to operate at least one machine on the shop floor. This builds community and allows everyone to help on the shop floor when demand is high.

At Sun Hydraulics, all new hires start with a “manufacturing tour”, no matter what their future role will be. This approach builds understanding and a sense of community across the organization. It is not uncommon for people to take on a different role to the one they were hired for after this process.

Frequently asked questions

How to reduce the risk of new colleagues leaving the organization during onboarding because of a Teal practices mismatch?

Have in depth interviews with candidates performed by future colleagues and focus on fit with organizational purpose and practices of self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. Pay particular attention to candidates that formerly held senior positions in other organizations. Turnover rates are high within this group, which is illustrated by the following example:

Paul Green Jr., who heads Morning Star’s Self-Management Institute, estimates that close to 50 percent of people who formerly had senior positions in other organizations (VP levels or above) end up leaving the organization after a year or two “because they have a hard time adapting to a system where they can’t play God".

How to maintain Teal practices when many new colleagues from non teal organizations are joining?

The onboarding of large groups of new colleagues from non Teal organizations can result in tensions. Best way to avoid disruptive tensions is to have a steady intake of new colleagues and avoiding very large groups of new people starting at once. 

How to onboard new colleagues by formal training and at the same time give them time and space to be able to find their way by intuitive exploration?

Make sure you select a mix of practices that not only appeal to the rational, but also touch the heart and the soul of new colleagues. Further, you may consider inviting them to co create their onboarding program. 

Concrete examples for inspiration

Here are some practical examples of onboarding from organizations that have adopted Teal practices.

FAVI

Metal Manufacturing - France - 400 employees - For profit

FAVI newly hired engineers and administrative workers are trained at operating at least one machine on the shop floor.

New hires also end their onboarding process writing a free format open letter to the group of colleagues they have joined, frequently expressing joy and gratitude.

At FAVI, the French automotive supplier, all engineers and administrative workers have been trained to operate at least one machine on the shop floor. The training is regularly put to good use: when orders must be rushed out, it happens that all hands get called on deck. White-collar workers come down from the office space on the first floor to man the machines for a few hours. It’s a wonderful community-building practice. People in engineering and administrative roles work under the guidance of the machine operators. They witness first-hand how hard the work on the machines can be and how much skill it involves. At the end of the day, when the orders are out on time, colleagues share a sense of pride in the work accomplisheɖ.

FAVI’s onboarding process ends on a nice touch. New teammates who have gone through all the training modules of the first two months are asked to write an open letter to the group of colleagues they have joined. There are no instructions on what the letter should be about, so new hires often dig deep in their selfhood to find something worthwhile to say. The letters are, time and again, deeply touching accounts of gratitude and joy. Many blue-collar workers join FAVI scarred from past experience of mistrust and command and control. Joining an environment where they are considered trustworthy and where their voice counts is often a groundbreaking experience. For many machine operators, writing is not their preferred style of expression. Finding the right words for the letter can take a lot of effort, and the practice is akin to a ritual, a rite of passage into the community.

Sun Hydraulics

Manufacturing - United States - 400 employees - For profit

At Sun Hydraulics all new hires start with a manufacturing tour in which they learn to operate several work stations before they take on the roles they were hired for.

At Sun Hydraulics, all new hires start with a “manufacturing tour,” no matter what their future role will be; they learn to operate not just one, but several work stations. For hourly employees, the tour lasts for two to four weeks, and they work in four to six different areas. For salaried employees, it takes even longer: one to four months on the shop floor. Only then do they take on the roles they were hired for.

Why such a long induction? People at Sun Hydraulics believe it’s critical to build relationships with other employees across the company to understand it from all angles. A self-managing environment provides opportunity to make things happen, to freely reach out to colleagues, to discuss change without going through a hierarchy of approvals. The more people you know, the more you understand the whole, the more you’ll be able to come up with new ideas and turn them into reality. At Sun Hydraulics, it is not unusual that after the manufacturing tour, new hires end up taking up a role that wasn’t the one they were hired for. They stumble upon a new interest or some urgent need and end up in a different place.

Related topics

Notes and references