"Welcome onboard. Here's your team, here's your workstation, there's your credentials, and most important, over here you can tap coffee. Questions? No? Time to get productive, hop! Hop!" Starting with a new company is always exciting. But it often either starts with a cold shower, or so many formalities that one can only dream of code: create an account here, get access rights there. After 1, 2 ... 42 weeks, you slowly become productive. Sounds familiar?
"Ask Me Anything"
We want to make sure people understand our mindset from the get go, and if possible push them in this direction. That's why last year, we started experimenting with "Ask me anything" (AMA) sessions. The concept of AMA comes from the platform Reddit. The idea is for a person to open themselves to any questions of the audience. These sessions last one day each and are conducted at least every 3 months ... or whenever we have enough new colleagues to fill one up (6-7 persons).
Goals of the AMA
The objectives of the AMA are as follows:
- Networking amongst the new employees
- Networking between new employees and "old geezers"
- Answer as many open questions as possible
- Show our culture and values in action: specially our openness and honesty
- Implant a "Growth Mindset" from the start
The guest interviews
An AMA session comprises 5 one-hour AMA sessions with employees of the company:
- A developer/consultant
- A seniors / principal consultant
- Someone who has stepped away from development (scrum master, product owner, project leader, engineering manager, etc.)
- A colleague from the "administration" (Key Account Management, HR, Marketing, Finance, etc.)
- The Chief Learning Officer, yours truly
Each interview is initiated by the guest himself. In c.a. 5-10 minutes they are asked to introduce themselves, to outline their career. From then on, a discussion ensues. As e moderator, I encourage questions to be asked immediately and usually a discussion ensues. It is always very interesting to see in which direction the participants will take each discussion. It's always different and always rich in insights about those new colleagues.
At the end of the interview, we give the participants a few minutes to collect their thoughts and immediately create a poster with key learning points.
Last guest, the CLO
The last guest to be interviewed is the Chief Learning Officer. I strategically step in the hot-seat last. My goals is first to present the learning offer of the company, and then to reinforce some of the points we heard from other guests.
In between the interviews, we have enough breaks to become coffein addicts. We also go for a nice lunch all together, paid by the company, and get a chance to chat even more.
After those breaks, I often add small game to change the mood. Rolling a Story Cube and telling something about the previous interview, integrating the face of the cube you just rolled. A round of Happy Salmon. Communication or activation games, etc.
Of course we don't part ways without a feedback session! First, we create a fictive newspaper cover page with silly titles. This is a funny way to remember the whole day. The goal is to create a picture that the participants will be able to look at in a few months and recall the learnings of the day.
Then we gather comments in the following 3 categories: "A-Ha! Moments","I liked" and "Next Time".
In march, we will have the 8th iteration of our AMA. The response was always very positive and the format I just described has evolved strongly in the first 5 iterations.
The new colleagues are very appreciative of the time the 5 guests are taking for them, and are impressed by the honesty and transparency. None of them had lived such an event before.
Personally, I think it's awesome to be able to see all the new colleagues for 8 hours, right after they come onboard. I get first impressions that will help me do my work as a CLO through coaching, connections etc.
I'm curious to see where this format will lead us, and I can not wait for the next AMA to take place!