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How I created a mind map for onboarding (and why you should try it, too)

As discussed in our new eBook, Getting Your Company Onboard with Onboarding a recent survey by Kronos Incorporated says more than three-quarters of human resources professionals feel the onboarding practices at their organization are underutilized.

That may seem surprising, given that new hires are arguably one of the most valuable—and costly—investments a company can make. So why expend so much effort on finding the right talent, only to leave them hanging once they start at the company?

As a former employee at Halogen (now Saba), the company that’s renowned for their expertise in talent management, I’ve been a big believer in onboarding best practices ever since I learned about the clear benefits. Here’s a post I wrote about onboarding at the time.

So I’ve been thinking about this contradictory conundrum for a while, and I’ve come up with a theory for why companies don’t do a good job of onboarding. It’s because the time that a new hire joins the business is likely to also be the busiest, craziest, and most exhausting time the team leader is facing.

Think about it. If a company has just hired one or more people, there are three typical—and tiring—reasons for doing so.

  1. The company is backfilling a position after someone left. Let’s face it: the standard two-week notice in North America is no longer adequate time to hire a replacement and get them up to full working speed. And the work that the employee was doing doesn’t just go away. That means that for weeks, and more likely months, the team leader and staff members have been picking up the extra work—on top of their own. We’ve all been there. Even if the departure was expected, such as a retirement or the end of a contract, there’s still a need for others to pick up the extra workload until the replacement is up and running. Oh, and according to Training Industry Quarterly, that can take up to a year or longer.
  2. The leader’s team is growing. Increasing sales and success pushes a company’s growth, which in turn requires more workers. That’s a good thing. But there’s usually a significant lag between the time that demand starts picking up, the need for more permanent help is recognized, and the approval is made to start the recruiting and hiring process. Once again, the team leader and their staff will have likely been working beyond maximum capacity for months before the new help arrives.
  3. The scope of the team’s responsibilities is expanding. With today’s competitive market and the rapid pace of change, teams need to be nimble. Whether it’s learning the latest software program or technology, or taking on a new task like the company’s social media, a team constantly needs to update their capabilities. Sometimes this is achieved through professional development, but sometimes hiring new talent with the required skills is the more efficient solution. But once again, these new expectations for the team require change and churn, and more work for the team manager.

To top it all off, the team leader has just been through the intensive hiring process to find the right person, putting them further behind in their regular work. By the time it comes to the onboarding process, the team leader is at the peak of the workload, while the new hire isn’t yet able to be of significant help. I’m not surprised if they feel they only have time to introduce the new hire to their workmates, show them where the kitchen and washrooms are, and hope they land on their feet.

Mapping out a better way

In Getting Your Company Onboard with Onboarding, we explore how 10 onboarding best practices work above and beyond the success of the single new hire. They create a ripple of positive impacts across your company on productivity, employee morale, turnover and cost savings, and help drive your company’s goals.

And given the time and cost involved in finding and hiring the right talent (about 20% of annual salary, and higher for management positions), you certainly don’t want to risk losing them in the first 90 days, which is a prime time for new hires to quit, often due to poor onboarding practices.

The value is clear, and when you incorporate mind mapping, getting on board with onboarding best practices can actually help reduce a team leader’s workload. Hey, I’m down for anything that reduces workload!

Benefits of mind-mapping my onboarding process

Of course, I couldn’t resist mapping out an onboarding process of my own. Once I got started, I found there were a lot of pluses to mind mapping our own onboarding process

  • While I adding the various steps, I could see the entire process at a glance, so it was hard to miss anything.
  • When I decided to change the order, it was easy to move things around.
  • I could make connections between the various pieces of information.
  • I could attach all the forms, policies, documents, calendar, meeting schedules, and links my recruit would need, rather than handing them a jumbled assortment of paper file folders or having to direct them to various parts of our intranet.
  • Everything was in one central, easy to access location.
  • If they wanted to, my recruit could also add their own notes, questions and documents.
  • The mind map enabled a recruit to do much of the onboarding process themselves, which can save time for a team leader.
  • With my first onboarding mind map complete, I can now simply update the mind map whenever I need to onboard a new employee, which saves me tons of time.
  • An added bonus: the process of mind mapping can help create or solidify a more thought-out and formal onboarding program. It’s a great place to start if you currently don’t have an official onboarding process.

What should you include in your onboarding mind map?

One way to figure out what you want to include in your onboarding mind map is to think about the business objectives you want to achieve, and work backwards from there.

If you look at the onboarding mind map above that I made for Brendan, one of our recent hires, you’ll see the basic objectives helped guide what to include:

  • Goals: I wanted Brendan to understand both the goals of the company and the department, and his role in helping to achieve them.
  • Process overviews: Every team has its own process—how to get a task completed from A to Z. This section allowed Brendan to see who worked on or approved what and when. It can also cover things like how to log in and what to do if you’re having an IT problem.
  • Current projects: This section listed the major projects Brendan would be working on, so he could get up to speed faster and understand his expected contribution to each one.
  • Team: We all remember that first day on the job where we’re taken around and introduced to a blur of people—whose names we’ve forgotten by the end of the day. In this section you can provide an org chart, who the key stakeholders are, and even their team mates along with contact information, bios and photos to help your new recruit get to know who’s who. You can even set up meetings with their internal clients to get to know each other.
  • Resources: This is where you can attach all those handy documents about the company that an employee will need to know and refer back to from time to time, from product sheets to important contacts.
  • HR/ Administration: The beauty of this section is that it can start off with the documents and resources your employee needs, such as their employment agreement, vacation entitlements, benefit forms, and policies, but you can also build it out to house employee objectives, reviews, recognition, and more.

Once I’d worked backwards through the end outcomes I wanted to achieve for Brendan, it was easy to add a schedule so we could see which onboarding tasks needed to completed and when, whether the first day, the first week, or the first month. With this, Brendan was able to manage a big part of the onboarding process himself and track his progress—taking some of the load off my plate.

MindManager Kanban View for MindManagerOur Getting Your Company Onboard with Onboarding has a list of other things you might want to include in your onboarding map, such as a map of nearby restaurants and amenities.

Mind-mapped onboarding from Brendan’s point of view

While I’ve found mind mapping to be really helpful in incorporating onboarding best practices while saving time, I wondered what Brendan thought about it—so I asked him.

“I’ve been onboarded by a few companies in my career and by comparison I found the mind mapping to be the best experience,” Brendan told me. “Having all the information I needed in one place, especially the org structure, was really valuable. I could see who worked where and what they did, so that really helped get me up to speed and become more productive faster.”

Want to try it for yourself?

If you’re feeling energized by the benefits of an onboarding map, download a free trial of MindManager right now! It’s a 30-day trial, so it’s plenty of time to decide if it works for you and your team or not. Plus, once you have it downloaded, you can get a quick start by using the onboarding map template in this blog post.


About the author

Julie Harrison heads up the Global Marketing efforts here at MindManager. She oversees field marketing, content creation, strategic demand generation campaigns and sales enablement. She’s also the team leader to a number of marketing specialists and has been integrating MindManager into onboarding and meeting practices since she joined Corel in 2017.

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