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Episode 13: How To Speak Flamingo… Our 3 Month Onboarding

Episode 13: How To Speak Flamingo… Our 3 Month Onboarding

Corporate America has brainwashed us all. We’ve realized that our culture is so different that we need to deprogram all new hires. That’s why we created a detailed three month onboarding.

We’ve worked our @$$es off to create a next level culture at goodr. We challenge the status quo and we do things our own way. Because of that our culture is extremely unique. It’s like a foreign language to some. We’ve grown quickly, which means we’ve been busy bees hiring lots of new employees year over year. We realized we need to deprogram people from their stuffy corporate ways, and then reprogram them the goodr way. This process connects new hires to the brand. It gives a clear outline on how to be successful, and as a result new employees are empowered to crush it.
Today we have a special guest joining us: Nicole Sedmak, Chief of Flamingos. The non-goodrfied boring name would be the Head of HR and all things culture. Her spirit animal is a wolf. And unlike some employees that require weeks of thought and hours of fake online tests to determine their spirit animal, Nicole knew in five seconds. There is, “something very grounded yet spiritual about them that speaks to me,” Nicole explained. Oh yeah, and she is the human in that inflatable dino suit pictured below. It's a Dinicolf.

Who reading this has had a memorable onboarding experience at a job? Let's watch this ancient VHS tape on HR policies. Party! Young buck employee Carlos, our QC/IT/3D design guy (yes, he wears many hats, or shall we say sunglasses?), is reading this, like, “WTFs a VHS?” Someone slaps a computer on your desk, or points you to a dark corner to slave away in. If you’re lucky you get a tour of the office. It’s dismal. We consider the first year that you’re with goodr your “onboarding period” with a focus on the first three months.
The first week has nothing to do with the new hire’s role. We realized in 2019, when the onboarding was handled by the mentor and it was all role focused, that this did not set people up for success. We shifted that to getting individuals accustomed to the culture and strategically introducing them to all of the key elements of the culture. Gotta back up from diving into something when you don’t really know what you’re diving into. Can't live that dangerously. There are more steps to this process. You betchya they’re very deliberate steps!

The first week has a lot of presentations and wide-eyed stares. If you’ve been listening to this podcast, you might feel like a little bit of an expert going into it. You're welcome. Of course there is a fun side too! After all, fun is one of our core values. Day one we host a Ms. Pac-Man tournament. Our UPS (edit not USPS) driver is the only one that has beat co-founder Ben. We’re secretly hoping some future new hire reads this and is thinking, “OH I’ll take ‘em both down!” For the official record, Stephen does not have a Carl the Flamingo tattoo… There is a company scavenger hunt, because asking strangers awkward random questions is also fun.

To ease the transition we programmed “alone time” into the first week to allow individuals to recharge, let things sink in, and breathe. This was based on feedback we received from our February onboarding group. Another development based on feedback was to have corresponding Flock Leaders be a part of week one. Some people had anxiety about not meeting with them. It can feel like, “I don’t know what I’m doing, what is my job?” So we brought the flock leader into the equation to ease that.

We have our weekly TWC meeting, or Tuesday With Carl. We tend to take this for granted. It’s pretty radical having a 90 minute all staff meeting every week. This meeting falls on day two for new hires. (Hey, better than day one!) Nicole spends an hour going over Tuesday with Carl on that first day. Pre Covid, we had 50 people in The Flamingo’s Nest, and as a new hire walking into this space it could feel uneasy. Not at goodr! At goodr, you’re a rock star. This was actually Nicole’s fave part of the February onboarding-- the new hire group "walk-in". The 16 new people walked in one by one, to killer pump up music (obvi), everyone is cheering, introduced themselves, and then sat with their team. It was such a special moment. Legit tear jerking. What a fun way to meet your co-workers! We tried doing it virtually, but it’s not the same as having that in-person vibe.

Nicole’s first presentation of new hire week is at 10 a.m. and it is called, “How to Speak Flamingo.” Pretty sure Carl the Flamingo is supposed to lead this one, but nobody wants a hungover flamingo as their first impression of a new job. These are where the first jarring deprograming pieces are introduced. However, don’t be scared, because the main message Nicole tries to convey is that, “We’re so happy that you’re here and anything is possible.” The reactions to this sentiment is special. Another key presentation is done by CEO, Stephen Lease. Stephen does a brand talk; he’s there to further hype the crowd. Afterwards, it is the Q&A that he loves the most. To hear people ask questions and see their reaction is meaningful. A hot topic is TWC. We forget how amazing that meeting is, but in our recent hiring batch two people who had no-joke previous careers expressed how blown away at the authenticity displayed by staff in that meeting. There is no facade, goodr accepts people for who they are.

Shaun loves training people on the Enneagram. Surprise! Jk, that should not be a surprise if you paid any attention last week. (Here is the link to that episode if ya missed it. We’ll hyperlink the entire sentence just to make sure you find it alright.) The Enneagram is another space where people realize they can be exactly who they are.

When it comes to deprogramming and reprogramming there are a few pieces that stand out as sticky points for new hires. Let’s start with autonomy. Autonomy is hard. Everyone thinks they want autonomy, but they do not realize the challenge of owning their role and actions. It is not, “you can just do things whenever,” checkpoints exist. For example, the dude in charge of Global Sales, he shares his numbers every week during TWC. There is no hiding from that. If people ask “What does Shaun do?” That’s a problem.

Another sticky point is personal ownership. This takes coaching, and that is okay! Lean into it. People are afraid that they’re on the hook so they chicken out on taking ownership. The truth is the faster you own it the faster you move through the uncomfortableness. Just OWN IT. Be excited about the things you go for. Let the defense mechanisms down.

There are many other marvelous aspects of our onboarding process, including: informative brand flash cards to fill out, a volunteering component, Deep Dives hosted by Flock Leaders to get to know each department, and did we mention the Connection Questions?! Every person that is hired connects with every employee. They have three months to do so and have four awesome ice breaker questions to ask. (Go follow our Instagram account @culturegoodr if you want to know what they are! Guaranteed there is going to be a post about it this week…) It’s a 15 minute meeting, but 30 minutes is standard, and some schedule them for an hour because, why not?! You might not get to meet with that person again. When does goodr get too big for these things? When there are 1,000 people maybe we’ll give ya a year to get those questions answered by everyone. Okay… we’ll tell you one of the questions… “What’s your spirit animal?!” TBH we just wanted to post a pic of Duncan and Elena's cat Mystery. She was a standout extra on our Circle G shoot.

At the end of onboarding the feedback system is important. Nicole’s personal challenge is to constantly improve the new hire experience. At first it felt like we were trying to download too much info into everyone’s brain. We don't want exploding brains on our hands.
There is so much more after week one. Everyone participates in READ goodr. The group of newbies read the book Drive, by Daniel Pink, and Getting Things Done for Teens, by David Allen. Yup, yup, yup, we’re obsessed. The reading concludes with a book club. It is not meant to trip people up, its purpose is to see how everyone is appropriating the new info.

Stephen heard that it takes six months for a person to be fully onboarded to their role. Some gurus will even say 18 months. True autonomy on the other hand takes a full year. Our point? The onboarding process doesn’t stop at week one. From month three to six the Flock Leader takes the reigns. Every new hire gets a special deck created for them (yes, you should feel special). We don’t want our new hires to feel like they’re out alone in the wilderness of goodr. Being thrown into the fire doesn’t feel good. That’s why it’s called fire. It hurts.

Have you ever gotten close to beating Ben in Ms. Pacman? Nicole: “Not even close." Stephen: "Never."
Favorite part of onboarding week: Nicole: The walk in during Tuesday with Carl! Stephen: Loves his brand talk.

What’s the hardest part about joining goodr? Autonomy! You can’t hide here.

What’s the one comment you hear the most about onboarding? “I’ve never experienced anything like this, this is amazing.” or “I feel so lucky to be at goodr.” #truth

Would you onboard again? Nicole is all in. She was the 5th employee and def missed out on a proper onboarding. Stephen is content where he is.

What is the future for onboarding, or on your “someday maybe list”? Nicole would like to take a field trip! (Seriously hoping she dresses up as Miss Frizzle for Halloween this year…) Stephen would like to spread out his time with the new hires a bit more.

Enter Nicole’s early morning thought, “I think what we’re doing now with our onboarding is we’re shifting people’s paradigm into the thought of everything is possible here, but you have to own it, and you have to have autonomy. It’s a, ‘Yes, and…’ culture.” Versus those dreaded, “No, but…” cultures. This is the biggest shift. It really is all possible at goodr.
We touched on it a little bit, however moving forward next year, the new hire’s role is going to be detailed out. We haven’t done a good job of doing this. That will make onboarding way more easier. Clarity is crucial. Oh snap! And we didn’t even talk about how we get to onboarding. Guess we’ll have to do a bonus episode on the hiring process! Nicole, you game?

If you want to follow a similar path, think outside of the box. What is special about your company and your culture? What do people need to know? Take those findings and structure the onboarding process around them.
1. Throw away your current onboarding process. Start from scratch.

2. Golden rule it: What is everything you’d have wanted to know about your culture?

3. Map it out over a long period of time. It doesn’t have to all be done at once.

4. Make it fun! People are starting a new job, it should be fun.

Next week learn how chill is the new busy, our approach to work life sanity. Yep, it’s possible, we hear those mumbles under your breath.

Tune in Now: Listen to the Episode Here

Get to know the dynamic duo

Meet the hosts

stephen lease

Stephen Lease is the CEO (Chief Executive Octopus) of goodr and the co-host of the CULTURE goodr Podcast. Since Stephen co-founded the company in 2015, goodr has grown to over 140 employees, with award-winning sunglasses sold in more than 5,000 doors worldwide. Stephen’s spirit animal is an octopus, he’s soul-bonded with a basset hound, and he is 16% flamingo.

shaun tinney

Shaun Tinney is the Dean of goodr University (Head of Learning and Development at goodr) and the co-host of the CULTURE goodr podcast. When he’s not helping goodr employees level up their behaviors, he’s writing and performing music. Recently he released his first EP, Living Driven, about the quest for self-reliance, fresh perspective, and creative freedom.

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