Amazon is known as one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world.
Much of their success can be attributed to their onboarding process.
In this article, I’ll show you some of the key principles of Amazon’s onboarding process.
Principles they use to bring new employees up to speed quickly and effectively.
And teach new hires the Amazon company culture and values.
Use these principles in your company onboarding process and they will invariably show up in performance metrics for new employees.
Can You Teach Someone To Care More?
How many times have you heard managers complain about employees’ poor performance or low standards?
That was the subject of a 2017 letter to Amazon shareholders.
Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote:
“One of the things we constantly work on is improving our hiring and onboarding processes so that we can continue to bring in more talented people.”
“It’s not uncommon for a new hire to come in with great potential but then fail to meet expectations.”
Can you teach new hires to care more? We think the answer is yes.
The first is the bar-raising hiring process.
This is where existing team members ask candidates what they would do if they were given a problem with no obvious solution.
The point is to see how candidates think and approach difficult problems.
An interviewer from a completely different team may even be called in as a “bar raiser” to ask tough questions.
Not because there’s a right answer. But to test for rigor throughout the entire process.
The second example is leadership principles.
These are the values new hires are tested for and educated on in the Amazon onboarding process.
It could be a shock for companies who treat high standards as a “you’ve got it, or you don’t” quality.
It Boils Down To 4 Key Themes
Here’s a 3-minute drill-down on Jeff Bezos’ four elements of high standards.
Plus how you can use the Amazon employee onboarding process in your company’s employee onboarding program.
1. High standards are teachable and contagious
Jeff Bezos argues that high standards are teachable through exposure.
He said, “High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high-standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt.”
“The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread”.
Apply it to onboarding: The onboarding period is the most powerful time to set good impressions.
And start consistent habits.
It’s the only time when a new hire is completely focused on learning about the company.
They’re more open to reading the employee handbook and trusting the onboarding process.
From a new hire’s start date, create a training plan of high standards.
Set The Right Tone In Your Company Policies
Define the behaviors you want to see in your onboarding checklist.
For example, if you want your customer support team to be empathetic, give real-life scenarios in training.
Show new hires examples of how empathizing with the customer brought successful results.
Build this into your employee onboarding checklist.
Make sure to present a well-organized and united front with onboarding stakeholders.
This solidifies the perception that your team exhibits high standards set by the company.
2. High standards are domain-specific
Bezos also refers to high standards as domain-specific.
In other words, one may develop high standards in an area that they excel but not have high standards in another area.
To instill the importance of high standards, Amazon has a unique employee onboarding process that emphasizes hands-on experience.
Amazon recognizes the onboarding process period is a perfect time to assess compatibility between the new hire’s job position and related standards.
It is a strategic process that goes way beyond new hire paperwork.
Apply it to onboarding: Surveys and quizzes are strong ways to assess new hires’ standards in different areas.
First, it’s important to determine job-specific standards.
Introduce it to new employees right away.
For example, if a new hire is going to be working in the accounting department, ask them to review someone’s work with attention to detail.
See what they find.
Then go over the exercise to explain the why.
HR Teams Should Seek Exercises Out From Hiring Managers
Hiring managers appreciate it when HR professionals do this.
Adding exercises like this into your onboarding programs sets employees up for high standards from the start.
And don’t forget to collect data throughout your employee orientation. You’ll be glad you took the time to quantify and measure over time.
3. Recognize and set high standards
Bezos provides two examples to illustrate that some standards are obvious.
Like how to do a perfect handstand.
And others are more ambiguous such as what makes an excellent memo.
New employee onboarding at Amazon includes how to recognize different standards.
Which shows up accordingly in the onboarding process.
Apply it to onboarding: In the last step, we talked about determining the types of standards related to the domain of a specific job.
For example, customer-facing new hires should have standards around customer service.
Now it’s time to specify or set the standard expectations and then assess the new hire.
For example, a retail associate can take a quiz to assess their standards for customer service.
Now Is The Time For Reps And Sets
If the results indicate low standards, this is an area to strengthen before they are released for on-the-job productivity.
Practice and coaching are key.
Highlighting and coaching for nuances like this is the hallmark of an effective onboarding process.
4. Keep a realistic scope
As Bezos explains, sometimes the problem is not a matter of high standards but unrealistic scope.
For example, he said that a great memo could take a week or more to complete.
So, if a new employee writes a memo in 2 days and comes up short, it could be due to an unrealistic scope of time and effort.
Not low standards.
Apply it to onboarding: Companies vary when it comes to the standards and scope expected of employees.
It’s stressful for employees to overshoot and be admonished for taking too much time and resources.
It is equally disappointing to be told that their standards aren’t up to par.
One of the most helpful things for new hires is to clarify standards and acceptable scope for different tasks.
Give examples and clarify when an “okay” job versus an “excellent” job is expected.
Thinking through these four key ideas about high standards will help any organization set up its employee onboarding process for success.
Start by surveying and assessing new hires’ standards.
Then, work with managers to identify exercises that will help employees reach the desired standards.
Recognize and realistically set high standards.
Practice until the right behaviors are repeatable.
And finally, keep a realistic scope in mind when establishing expectations.
These tips will help your organization raise the bar on employee productivity and satisfaction.
This easy-to-follow checklist by Dr. Talya Bauer will help you make your onboarding process more effective, streamlined, and repeatable – all while ensuring that nothing important is forgotten.