For accountants, client onboarding is perhaps the most important stage in building successful relationships. Learn how to optimize your onboarding...
How we onboard our team at Pixie
Your team members are the foundation of your firm’s success, so it pays to have an amazing onboarding process. Take a peek inside Pixie’s own onboarding process
Ever since I started Pixie, one of our most popular features has been our client onboarding workflow. It makes sense; the onboarding process can be stressful, yet also sets the tone for the future of your client-firm relationship.
Over the course of hundreds of conversations with our users, I realised that while most firms are concerned about optimising their client onboarding processes, they sometimes overlook their new team member onboarding processes.
New team member onboarding not only sets your new people up for success, but supports their development, helps educate them on your firm’s goals, and settles them into your culture.
Setting up onboarding processes can be challenging, especially when you’re scaling fast and balancing that with client service.
It’s an ever-evolving process that needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure it’s still relevant to your goals and workflows, which can feel overwhelming. But there’s nothing worse than hiring new team members without a clear process for onboarding them.
Over the years, I’ve invested a lot of time in developing our onboarding process at Pixie, finessing this as more people have joined our ranks. Today, I’m outlining that process for you – and have asked our two recent hires to share their perspectives on the process, too.
Pixie’s onboarding process
Priorities and goals
A common issue new starters face is the insane amount of dead time during their first week. Onboarding a new starter can be time-consuming, and managers often don’t have enough time available.
When setting up our onboarding process, my priority was to create a system that new starters could navigate independently, with set times that I or my team would be available to offer support. This cuts down on time wasted twiddling their thumbs and waiting for their next instructions. It also gives new starters an opportunity to show they can take initiative.
Pixie's onboarding process has three goals:
- Teach the new starter about our goals, values, and processes
- Give them everything they need to be productive and excel in their role
- Immerse them in the company culture and integrate them into the team
With that in mind, let’s look at our process in more detail.
What’s unique about our onboarding process?
- The Welcome Pack shared via email before their first day: This outlines what they’ll do on their first day, welcomes them to the team and provides reading material to get them excited.
- Information is written down and easily accessible: I store all our onboarding documentation in Notion, with links to external resources and tools where necessary. This supports remote onboarding and allows the process to be pushed down the team if I am out of the office.
- The onboarding process lasts several weeks: I make sure I have time set aside to support my new starters for at least two weeks. The onboarding process lasts for the entire period between when we extended an offer to the end of their probation.
- Notion: As mentioned, we use Notion to manage our onboarding process. This software is easy to navigate and is perfect for building documentation. When a new starter first lands in our Notion, the first thing they see is our company goals, helping get them invested in our mission. They then delve into a personal to-do list and a specific team to-do list, guiding them through their set-up and education process, which promotes autonomy and accountability.
- Clearly and accessible resources: I recommend a set of books to each new starter to immerse them in our culture and provide a list of tools they need to download based on their role.
- Opportunities for feedback: Throughout the process, I encourage new recruits to share their thoughts with me and the team. This shows their opinions are valued and encourages their investment in the business’s future.
Let’s take a look at how this process breaks down across the onboarding period.
Before they start
Starting a new job can feel overwhelming, and as the leader of my team, it is my responsibility to mitigate that in any way possible. This begins with the creation of a Welcome Pack that each new starter receives before their first day.
I email each new starter directly with an introductory email; this welcomes them to the team, sets the tone for their experience with Pixie and outlines what they can expect on their first day.
While it may sound obvious to say, there’s a person at the end of your emails. Many forget their new starters may be anxious in the run-up to their first day. They may be worried about turning up at the right time, whether they’ll make a good first impression, and what the company will be like once they get there.
So, this introductory email seeks to relax them and support them on a human level. Importantly, I tell them to arrive at the Pixie office at 10am. There’s no point in them rushing through the city just to arrive at 9am when we likely won’t be ready to get them set up yet!
Their first day
To prioritise productivity, I tailor the process for each individual based on their background and job role. However, most people’s first days look fairly similar.
After arriving at 10am, our new team members follow a set routine. In the morning, they’ll:
- Set up their computer
- Set up CharlieHR, which manages everything from payroll to sick leave
- Download the tools needed for their role
- Attend a casual meet and greet with the team
This process is purpose-built to allow me or another team member to help them get settled without needing to be available for the entire morning. Everything they need, from tools to download to the company directory, is available on our company Notion, so they can navigate this without additional support.
At 12pm, we go out for a relaxed team lunch! After this, I set time aside for CEO induction and an informal Q&A. This gives the new starter a chance to ask questions about the company, their role, my expectations and the plan for the week.
Their first week
In the first week, there is little expectation for the new starter to jump straight into client work. This is the time for them to get to know the business and arm themselves with everything they need to excel in their role.
By their second day, they've been through a presentation on all things Pixie. We went over our funding, our values, our goals and our processes. This includes going through the core processes relating to their role step by step.
They’re then left to their own devices; this is a great opportunity to see how they make themselves useful. While I don’t expect them to hit the ground running, as this applies unnecessary pressure during a stressful time, it’s important to understand how proactive a new Pixie is. From taking the time to go through product demos to shadowing other team members, there’s a lot they can busy themselves with.
Their first months
Our onboarding process only concludes once the new starter reaches the end of their probationary period. Too many businesses fall into the trap of limiting the onboarding process to only one or two days, failing to see the importance of slowly integrating their new starters into the business over time and offering them support every step of the way.
Over the next months, I prioritise being available for regular one-to-ones, providing ample opportunities to ask questions. Business-employee relationships should always go both ways, so I also ask them to share feedback on the process and our ways of working.
By the time we sit down for their end-of-probation review, they should feel settled in their role, immersed in our nascent culture and comfortable with their understanding of what I expect from them.
So, does this process work?
In my opinion, Pixie’s onboarding process is effective and supportive, but that means very little if our new starters don’t feel the same. An unbiased third party recently interviewed our newest team members, Jack and David, who were onboarded into Pixie’s sales team in September. Let’s hand it over to them now to find out what they liked (and didn’t like) about their experience.
We’re given autonomy, though there is a plan
I always felt trusted to make the right decisions about how to use my time, even during my first few days. It wasn’t just, ‘oh, I’ve got to go to meetings,’ — there was freedom to decide what to do and when, and they trusted me to make good use of my time.
But there was also a clear plan. It wasn’t without direction entirely. I think that’s great because it means that people who need more guidance can get it, but we also have the freedom to run our onboarding experience in a way that supports our personal growth. That’s really cool and means the process can flex depending on the type of person you are.
Opportunities for feedback
They were always open to hearing my feedback, even when I was super fresh. That means that with each improvement made, by the end, we have a very streamlined onboarding process that will only benefit new starters in the future.
Taking baby steps to be client-facing
I wasn’t expected to dive straight into the deep end, which was great. In previous jobs, there’s been this expectation that you can hit the ground running without being given any of the tools to do so. With this breathing room, I had time to shadow more experienced colleagues and understand what was expected of me before I had my first calls with clients.
Having a buddy
I wouldn’t say having a buddy is a necessity for a good onboarding experience, but there were benefits of starting at the same time as someone else. On a personal level, it’s nice because there’s someone to bounce ideas off and go to for support. On a business level, it saves time for management as it’s not as laborious as onboarding people one by one.
Background company context
I was super impressed by how thorough the process was. Celos provided tonnes of background context about why he founded Pixie, what the funding has been like, what the company values are, and the like. It was clear he wanted me to feel invested in the company.
There was also a lot of discussion of visions and values, which was cool because he was totally transparent. I do think understanding the business position makes you feel far more invested.
Utilising time between joining and starting
I’ve never seen the window between being hired and joining utilised very well. The pre-onboarding experience at Pixie was great and really helped ground me in the approach.
The starter letter and books help get the most out of us as they set a solid foundation. It acknowledges that you’re here for a job but that you’re also here to continually learn and develop. The books especially are a great way to communicate the company’s values as Celso has read them previously and thought, ‘yes, this embodies what I want Pixie to be or my team to be.’ That’s helpful context to have.
I thought, ‘Oh my god, it’s so nice,’ when I got the new starter letter. It was nice to see my first-day anxiety acknowledged and for my feelings to be considered. Onboarding often feels too focused on getting you up and running and nothing else, but this process was more than that.
What they didn’t like
In all honesty, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like because if I had suggestions on how to do things better or alternative methods of approaching the process, they were open to hearing them. It was very refreshing.
Four must-dos for an effective onboarding process
If you're open to it, let me leave you with my four must-dos for creating an effective onboarding process that sets your team up for success.
Invest at least two weeks: Onboarding can’t be condensed into two days or even a week. While you can’t be available 24-7, make sure you set time aside during this period to provide your new starters with the help they need.
Write everything down: There’s a reason we use Notion at Pixie to document our processes. Writing everything down allows your team to return to the clearly defined processes time and time again, supporting repeatability and autonomy.
- Personalise the process for each person and each role: While some steps will be universal (such as HR set-up), others will differ depending on the role. Engineers will need access to different tools, resources and advice than customer success managers, so tailor as much of your content as possible.
Remember, they’re human!
New team members aren’t robots, so we don’t treat them like they are. Each will have their own experiences at previous companies, expectations of their role and preferred ways of working — plus, they may be feeling a little anxious. We make sure everything we do is done to support them and ease them in gently.