If you haven’t read the first part in this series, you probably should (do not pass go.) This essay is the second in the series on my burnout.

It wasn’t about where I went, or even what I planned to do while there. It was just about the leaving. I decided to leave for four weeks and take two weeks back in the States to rest and see friends. So on August 5, I left for my sabbatical — a word which here means a trendy, privileged way to recuperate from burnout.

You can choose how you want to read these essays — like an Eat, Pray, Love of #startuplife, or just as they’re written (as personal experiences), or some other way you like better. I benefit from a great deal of social structure and ingrained privilege afforded to white cis women, for literally doing nothing, and I try to be fully aware of the systems at play that’ve allowed me to live the way I live. Part of the shame I felt so acutely in the first half of 2019 was that once I swallowed the shame of being burned out in the first place, I realized getting out of burnout would perhaps be made easier by the stepping stones laid by my privilege. …

We’re taking a break from regularly scheduled Edify programming to get personal. This series is a set of personal essays about my experience of burnout. I’ve chosen to share these experiences to validate those of others who might be struggling in the ways I was and to perhaps offer permission to move beyond burnout.

I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. In the first six months of 2019, I’d been a little busy. I was maintaining my own business, adopting the role of interim director of a business accelerator for women-owned startups, and ending a five-year relationship. A generalized sense of overwhelm and anxiety crept in and deepened until finally, on a call with my business coach in May, I said it. …

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This is a new series from Edify about the metrics we rely on to take a closer look at onboarding programs.

Let’s talk for a moment about the metrics we use for understanding onboarding success.

We talk a lot about measures like attrition and retention, but we often overlook two important measures for success. First, is your onboarding technical enough to actually affect retention? And second, what is the time to productivity for new hires that go through the onboarding process?

Here’s a quick definition to make sure we’re all on the same page: When companies bring on new employees, they invest time and energy to bring those employees up to speed. The time it takes to achieve this — for those employees to be truly productive on their own — is measured by the “time to productivity”, and for many companies, it can be as high as six to twelve months.

Are Humans Resources?

Consider the term ‘human resources.’ Now think about everything that just came to mind for you: did it include words like risk, compliance, fungible, headcount, training, and management? I’m betting at least a few of those words come up when you think about the function everyone loves to hate. But why is that? Why do we all cringe when we think about HR?

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ADP’s More Human Resource campaign.

I have some theories, but I wanted to dig a little and get some facts. The history of HR is likely one many of us haven’t been acquainted with: formal histories vary, but the general agreement seems to be that the Industrial Revolution necessitated what was then known as industrial welfare (ensuring workplaces like factories were ‘satisfactorily’ safe — perhaps the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory CEO didn’t get that memo). The welfare concept morphed into the need to manage and introduce consistency to the increasingly more structured workday. World War II also added the need for people specialized in recruiting and hiring (as well as in training), while the labor tensions of the 1970’s ushered in the concept of industrial relations (making nice between staff and management.) Later, folks in those roles actually ended up as watchdogs, ensuring that managers didn’t break new laws about employee treatment and discrimination. …

Does your employee handbook do what you want it to do?

It’s no secret that company culture is a huge factor in both attracting and retaining stellar employees. The secret is actually more about communicating your company culture — and that’s not as easy as it may sound. Each institution (yes, even start-ups are institutions) has its own ideas, methodologies, processes, and ideologies, and of course, idiosyncrasies.

This stuff grows from the people who start the company, and the tone they set and nurture as they add more people to the company is what sets the culture for years to come. Everything from the brand to the way people sit together is part of the company’s culture.

You might’ve noticed that Edify recently spiffed up our branding, started creating worksheets you can use to make onboarding programs better, has been busy putting out a bi-weekly podcast (Up Right & Better) and giving talks, and we just announced our first conference (Human.School). One could say that we’ve been busy! But, one might also say, “how do I learn about all the stuff?! How do I keep track of the talks, workshops, conferences, blog posts, worksheets — all of it?!”

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Well, we’ve heard you! And because we have so much more coming (helpful tools, open-access resources, podcast episodes, and more), we decided to revamp and rebrand our monthly newsletter. …

I’m pretty sure you have one.

In my most recent post about employee growth at your company, I paraphrased Brian Balfour’s words on authentic growth and applied them to employee onboarding. Now, I want to explore the idea of dark patterns, another concept he speaks about as it relates to customer growth. Companies make and practice dark patterns not just on their customers, but on their employees, too.

As Balfour notes, dark patterns arise when a company insists on growing in a manner that benefits them, but not the customers. For example, those awful pop-ups that force you to sign up for something because you have to answer yes to escape are dark patterns. …

Let’s not get carried away with customer growth. You wouldn’t have those customers if not for your employees.

Brian Balfour recently wrote about seeking authentic growth, and something that struck me was how absolutely similar (wait… no, the same) his framework is to the framework for a successful employee lifecycle (shorthand for all the stuff that happens to and for an employee between the signed offer letter and the last day). The funny thing is, we don’t really measure it that well. You probably take great pains to measure customer growth, but what about employee growth?

Balfour posits that authentic growth is trifold: meaningful, sustainable, and repeatable. For him, to be meaningful, growth must be useful for the customer and the company. Likewise, sustainable refers to your ability to keep and nurture customers. Finally, repeatable means focusing your energy on initiatives that will consistently deliver value, rather than one-off hits that take an insane amount of energy to execute on. …

Being a small, rapidly changing startup with no time to do onboarding doesn’t have to mean your employees don’t get onboarded at all.

I meet dozens of startup founders with just a few employees (and even some with 20–100 employees), and the reality is that they don’t have the time, resources, or internal know-how to do onboarding “right” right now. We already know how expensive it is to bring on a new hire, and that it’s even more expensive to have them leave. So, what can we do to ship an MVP of onboarding?

This post looks at some of the questions I hear all the time, and how implementing even the most basic of employee onboarding programs can quickly change your organization for long term and for the better. …


Kristen Gallagher

Founder, Edify. Learning strategist. Tea not coffee.

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