Using Agile for On-boarding


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How a small company used Agile methodology to recruit and onboard 21 employees in only 8 weeks

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  • Tonight I’m going to tell you about how Perceptive Informatics (a small company), used Agile methodology to recruit, on-board and train 23 employees in only 8 weeks.
  • Technical Writer and instructional designer in the software industry for 20 years. Technical Publications Manager at Perceptive Informatics for 2 ½ years. Agile Team Member since Perceptive adopted Agile in 2009 I enjoyed producing deliverables within the Agile process so much that I became a Certified Scrum Master in July of 2010.
  • Perceptive Informatics is a small software company which has been around for about 15 years. We were acquired by a large parent company last year. And, at the beginning of the year, we had 50 employees. So you may be asking yourself, “Why, in the middle of a recession, would a little company choose to increase its headcount by 30%?” In May, our management team asked us to take on a larger project that we’d ever taken on before. They wanted us to add 6 – 8 major features to our software product and to release within 12 months. These features and this timeframe were required in order for us to continue compete in our market space. Finally, the project needed to start no later than July 7 th . In return, they would give us the budget we needed to hire new employees for all departments: business analysts, development, QA, tech pubs as well as all of the hardware and software we needed to get the job done.
  • So, after being given this objective, the managers of development, QA, Tech Pubs, Business Analysis, gathered together for a sprint planning and estimating meeting. We talked about each feature, looking at it from many perspectives: architecture, development, testing, and documentation. We rated the complexity of each feature and estimated the time so we could estimate the number of Agile teams needed to complete the project. Using Post-It’s and a white board, we created a high-level project plan. Based on our plan, we decided we would need 8 teams, each consisting of 2 developers, 2 QA people, ½ tech writer, and ½ DBA. We had 4 existing teams, so we would need to hire enough new employees to build 4 additional Agile teams. We needed to start recruiting on May 24 and have all employees trained and ready to start sprinting by July 12.
  • No existing on-boarding process. When a new employee was hired, it typically took weeks to get everything established for the employee: phone, computer, email, sign-ons, etc. No formal new hire training program. When new hires started, they usually got some informal departmental training from their managers or peers, but did not get training to help them understand the industry, our product, and our users. Inefficient recruiting process. We had a corporate recruiting department but had not had much success in using them. The candidates provided were usually not a good match and the time between recruitment and generating an offer letter was 2 – 3 months. No dedicated training department. We had no department that could create and administer a training program. No workstations, phones, or computers. To house the new employees, we literally needed to build cubes, buy and build out workstations, and wire all of the cubes for phone and network access. Because we had A LOT of work to accomplish in a short amount of time, we decided to use something familiar to us: Agile!
  • So, all of the managers gathered together again and decided how we would divide the work and who would do the work. We brainstormed together and came up with the following epic stories: Recruit new employees Prepare facilities Workstations Phones Hardware/software Create a training program for new employees Overall Departmental
  • Our product owner was the Director of HR. She coordinated the efforts of the managers and each team to be sure work was being completed on time. Each of the epic user stories were assigned to a team and a scrum master was assigned to lead the team. Recruiting new employees 7 managers plus the HR director Prepare facilities IT manager, development manager, one employee and an independent contractor Create the training program 2 writers, two trainers, scrum master
  • Because of our limited timeframe, the managers decided to work with an outside recruiting agency and that all employees would be hired as contractors. Also, because all of the managers are “working managers,” we needed to be systematic about the process of interviewing employees. The managers met with the recruiting agency where we defined the ideal qualifications for our candidates. The recruiting agency agreed to create a portal that the managers could use for reviewing resumes, scheduling interviews and providing feedback. Each manager would see only the resumes and candidates associates with his/her department. Our HR Director could see the information for all departments so she could quickly identify if there was a problem. To keep the recruitment process flowing: We scheduled specific times during which we would review resumes and provide feedback. We blocked of specific days and times for interviewing so that the recruiter could schedule interviews without needing to bother the manager. We dedicated computers and specific rooms for testing developers and writers. Each department defined a standard set of interview questions. This allowed us to process a lot of candidates quickly without disrupting working managers. The managers “scrummed” twice a week so we could update each other on our progress and identify roadblocks. Scrums were not always successful because “chickens” interjected negative feedback. The most difficult area to find qualified candidates with a good fit was development.  
  • During sprint planning, the Training team agreed on all of the standard things employees needed to be trained on: corporate overview, industry overview, product overview, agile methodology, tools, etc. Managers were responsible for identifying all department-specific training topics. We brainstormed on any existing materials we could leverage (not much). Each person on the team took one area and committed to creating or locating training materials and identifying a person who could give the training for that area. We “scrummed” twice a week to update each other on our progress and we shared all of our materials with each other on a SharePoint site. Based on our work, we created a 3-day intensive training course as well as self-paced training that should be completed in the employee’s first 30 days (tracked by the employee’s manager). We also created this beautiful NHO handbook. For administering training, we designated 2 start days: June 21 and July 7. On those days, new hires received a 3-day orientation followed by departmental and self-paced training.
  • During sprint planning, the Facilities team identified the major tasks that needed to be done: Workstation. Because we needed to build out 25 cubes, the team decided it was time to reconfigure the office. All of the developers and QA would be in one area, grouped by team. All of the shared resources (DBAs, BAs, Tech Pubs) would be in another area. We hired a contractor to come in and, over the course of one day, build out all of the workspaces. Phones. Phones were kind of a mess. We have one system, but several different types of phones. It took several weeks for the IT department to assemble and set up all of the phones. Hardware and software. Each manager was required to send a requisition for the hardware and software needed by their new employees. Network access. At the same time the phones were wired, IT wired the workstations for network access.
  • After the first wave of new hires were processed on June 21, we did a quick retrospective to determine what we had done well and what we needed to improve:
  • We did set up a dedicated IT help desk to work on phone and workstation issues for new hires. We also designated “The Wall” where employees could ask questions anonymously. Managers would walk the walls and answer questions or alert the appropriate resource.
  • Using Agile for On-boarding

    1. 1. How a small company used Agile methodology to recruit and onboard 21 employees in only 8 weeks
    2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Technical Writer / Instructional Designer </li></ul><ul><li>Technical Publications Team Lead at Perceptive Informatics </li></ul><ul><li>Agile Team Member </li></ul><ul><li>Certified Scrum Master </li></ul>
    3. 3. What I’ll tell you about <ul><li>Why we needed to increase our staff </li></ul><ul><li>Potential impediments </li></ul><ul><li>The EPIC user stories we created and accomplished </li></ul><ul><li>How we did the work </li></ul><ul><li>What went well </li></ul><ul><li>What we need to improve </li></ul>
    4. 4. Why increase your staff? <ul><li>New, large-scale, multi-million dollar project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Add 6 – 8 major features </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>12 months from start to release </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Start date of July 7 th </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Compete in the market space or go home </li></ul>
    5. 5. What we needed to accomplish <ul><li>Recruit 21 employees </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Developers (8) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>DBA (1) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SQA (8) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business Analysts (1) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical Writers (3) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Begin recruiting on May 24 </li></ul><ul><li>Have all employees on-boarded and trained by July 12 </li></ul>
    6. 6. Problems to be solved <ul><li>No existing on-boarding process </li></ul><ul><li>No formal new hire training program </li></ul><ul><li>Inefficient recruiting process </li></ul><ul><li>No dedicated training department </li></ul><ul><li>No workstations, phones, or computers </li></ul><ul><li>Use Agile! </li></ul>
    7. 7. Our Epic stories <ul><li>Recruit and hire new employees </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare facilities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Workstations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phones </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hardware </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Software </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Create and administer a training program </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Overall </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Departmental </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. The Teams <ul><li>Recruit new employees </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare facilities </li></ul><ul><li>Create a training program </li></ul><ul><li>Administer training </li></ul><ul><li>Managers / Recruiting Agency </li></ul><ul><li>IT </li></ul><ul><li>HR / Technical Publications </li></ul><ul><li>SMEs </li></ul>Product Owner: Director of HR
    9. 9. How we did the work <ul><li>Portal & process for reviewing resumes </li></ul><ul><li>Schedule for interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Standard tests & interview questions </li></ul>Recruiting New Employees
    10. 10. How we did the work <ul><li>Corporate / industry overview </li></ul><ul><li>Product overview </li></ul><ul><li>IT / Systems overview </li></ul><ul><li>Agile methodology / Rally </li></ul><ul><li>Role-specific </li></ul>Creating & administering a training program
    11. 11. How we did the work <ul><li>Workstation </li></ul><ul><li>Phone </li></ul><ul><li>Hardware </li></ul><ul><li>Software </li></ul><ul><li>Network access </li></ul>Preparing Facilities
    12. 12. What we did well <ul><li>Recruitment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>19 new hires ready by the starting date </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Only 2 employees were not retained after the 90-day mark due to performance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Creating & administering training </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Enthusiastic response from the new hires </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New hires came up-to-speed very quickly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reusable for future new hires </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. What we can do better <ul><li>The area hardest hit was IT: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability for new hires to access systems was sketchy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Computers not available for new hires after the orientation period </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No one considered impact of increased traffic on servers and network </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Team Leads were not available to answer questions due to meetings, etc. </li></ul>
    14. 14. What we can do better <ul><li>Solution : New servers were ordered after the first wave of new hires; however it took 6 weeks to get them in place </li></ul><ul><li>No one considered impact of increased traffic on servers and network </li></ul><ul><li>Solution : New servers were ordered after the first wave of new hires </li></ul>