- How Acquira’s Sourcing Team onboards and trains new employees.
- How Acquira developed its new hire onboarding process.
- Acquira’s onboarding reading list.
- The importance of developing a solid onboarding process of your own.
At any company, preparing people for the work they’re going to do is a vital aspect of hiring new employees.
Onboarding–when a company provides new workers with the training and information they need to acclimate to their new position–is one of the most effective ways to ensure that good employees stick around.
After all, studies have shown that replacing a worker can cost a company between 100 and 300 percent of the individual’s annual salary. Another study showed that roughly one in ten people has left a company thanks to a poor onboarding experience.
So, while pretzel days and kegerators might seem like good incentive programs, one of the most effective employee retention methods is actually a solid onboarding and training process. In fact, companies with great onboarding practices have shown that 69 percent of their employees are likely to stay for at least three years.
The Sourcing Team
The process of onboarding new employees has proven particularly important for Acquira’s Sourcing Team.
It’s the Sourcing Team’s job to find businesses that aren’t listed with traditional brokers but are looking to sell to a committed buyer.
Due to the nature of the job, those working for the Sourcing Team need to be able to think quickly. They need to be able to answer any question that might arise in the course of their day. In short, they need to be experts.
As such, the position demands an intensive and thorough training and onboarding process. But before you can begin training folks, you need to have qualified candidates.
Onboarding Employees: Finding The Right People
“I always aim to hire people who are better than me,” says Tatiana Dyack, Sales Enablement and Business Development Manager for Acquira.
Before working with Acquira, Tatiana spent her time in enterprise sales for a SaaS (Software as a Service) company, specializing in digitizing health benefits in the United States. Before that, she was in adult learning and training and development.
Tatiana was approached to help build out the sales side of Acquira. The team was tasked with finding small business owners who were interested in selling their companies to one of Acquira’s acquisition entrepreneurs.
But building this team meant finding talented people, and Tatiana started by looking for people with different experiences than her.
“One person on my team, I knew that he had several years selling water filtration systems, which means that he's going to be able to offer a vantage point that I don't necessarily have,” she said. “I'd only worked with C-suite executives at the Googles and Walmarts of the world, which is totally different from a small business owner at a plumbing company in the States. So I reached out to him knowing that his background would be absolutely perfect. And he'd be able to really understand our prospect a lot better than I would.”
Different perspectives allow for a more versatile Sourcing Team. When reaching out to companies, you never know who you’re going to meet. A variety of different life experiences ensures that we’re able to relate to more people. You wouldn’t send a vegan to negotiate with a sausage factory.
Get Ready To Read
Acquira as a whole holds voracious learning as one of its core values, and the Sourcing Team is no different. Those joining the team are handed a hefty reading list when they come on board.
New hires will spend the first two weeks completing the company’s required readings. This helps ensure that everyone has a basic understanding of how Acquira operates and the space as a whole.
“The overarching theme at Acquira is you don't need to have a background in X to do Y,” explains Tatiana. “So what we start with is company concepts. We do all of the required readings that are absolutely necessary for everyone in Acquira to complete.”
The reading list includes:
- Financial Intelligence by the Harvard Business Press
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber
- Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
In fact, reading is so central to the onboarding process that it comes up very early, according to Tatiana.
“One of the things that we ask in our recruitment process is do you like to read? What's your favorite book? What's your favorite nonfiction book? What's the last book you read?” she explains. “So usually the people that we do hire are naturally voracious learners, which is great for us. But we do offer the option of having audible or ebooks.”
The Learning Process
The goal of the entire onboarding procedure is to get people to the point where the knowledge is second nature. Tatiana and her team rely heavily on the Conscious Competence learning model to guide this process.
This model explains the stages by which people learn and acquire new skills. Learners always begin at unconscious incompetence, then pass to conscious incompetence and conscious competence, before arriving at unconscious competence.
As Karla Gutierrez explains in her blog for Shift Learning, “The first few steps in the process seem almost too easy. Then, at some point, the learning gets a little tougher. You become confused or uncomfortable about parts of the new process, and you may get frustrated. You realize at this point that there are things you didn’t know that were not apparent when you began the learning process. In short, you didn’t know what you didn’t know.”
These people need to be authorities on the subject matter. If someone has a question, they need to be able to answer it. It’s our job to make sure everyone gets to that point and that’s what this training process is all about.
The model is especially useful for a group like Acquira’s Sourcing Team. “These people need to be authorities on the subject matter. If someone has a question, they need to be able to answer it. It’s our job to make sure everyone gets to that point and that’s what this training process is all about,” explains Tatiana.
“We want to bring our sales people to unconscious competence because they need to come across as subject matter experts,” she says. “They need to be able to think on their toes in a cold call and answer all of these questions about a company that is new to them and a process that is not typical.”
Developing The Training Material
To design the training process at Acquira, Tatiana used the ADDIE method, a common framework used by instructional designers and training developers to build courses. The name is an acronym for the five phases used to build training and performance support tools:
Using this method, Tatiana decided that the best way to teach the ins and outs of Acquira’s methods was to use bite-size, gamified, fun activities that rely on explaining the “why” behind everything the company does. Then people who went through the training could give feedback on the process.
Once that is completed, the whole training method is evaluated and any necessary changes are made. That makes the process an evolving one that is improved upon as each person moves through it.
Throughout the process, “booster events” are used to reinforce the training in an attempt to combat the dreaded Forgetting Curve. The forgetting curve represents the decline of memory retention over time.
“We're not good at remembering things,” says Tatiana with a laugh.
“So throughout the training, we'll learn everything but then later we'll come back and redo it,” she explains. “We have a little game that quizzes them or we have flashcards that we've created.”
Trainees are also given access to a learning planner, according to Tatiana. After each exercise, the planner will ask a series of questions to gauge how much of the material you’ve retained.
New Hire Onboarding: Gamifying The Experience
Learning can be pretty stuffy when it doesn’t need to be.
Almost every person on earth remembers a stuffy classroom, an unengaged teacher lecturing dispassionately from the front of the class, and an otherwise boring bird landing outside the window, bringing a much-needed distraction.
It’s easy to disengage from the learning process so we do our best to be captivating while onboarding new hires. For Tatiana, this means gamifying as much of the material as possible.
“I just tried to keep it as engaging as possible,” she says. “Gamifying, I think is very important because we all learn differently. So whether you're a kinesthetic learner that learns by doing or you're an auditory learner that learns by listening … we just want to be able to cater to different learning styles.”
“Joining a company should be fun. It should be exciting. And there is usually a lot to learn. So if we can make that a fun, exciting experience to the extent that we can, why not?”
New Hire Onboarding: The Acquiboard
One of the main tools that Acquira uses while onboarding new staff is the Acquiboard, a robust organization and knowledge management tool that houses all of the company’s learning materials.
“Our Acquiboard is everything,” says Tatiana. “It's what we use to organize company concepts. It’s also this living, breathing document that has everything that they need to know, in terms of their role and expectations.”
The Whole Process
From stem to stern, the onboarding of employees takes about a month for Acquira’s Sourcing Team.
After that, there’s some “ramp time,” as Tatiana explains it. New hires don’t take on a full caseload immediately. Initially, they’re given a fake contact that is routed back to Tatiana so each employee can get to know the basic technology. After that, they’re given about five contacts per day and that number is slowly increased over time.
At Acquira, it’s the Sourcing Team’s job to reach out to prospects – small business owners who may be interested in selling their company.
The trick for our team is to find prospects that may not be listed on some of the bigger brokerage sites like bizbuysell.com. In order to do this, we built a robust online scraper that scans the internet for business listings. Those listings are sent to a few digital assistants to see if they meet Acquira’s criteria.
After that, our team does more research to make sure the companies are a good fit, and then those prospects are handed back to the Sourcing Team.
“It's actually interesting because it's not like we're selling a product,” she says. “So either someone is interested in selling or they're not. If they're not interested in selling their business, then we're not going to convince them otherwise.”
If the prospect says “no,” the Sourcing Team simply moves on. But if they are interested, a whole new process begins. The Sourcing Team will ask the owner some high-level questions to assess whether the business is a good fit. The questions are designed to rule out any companies that may not be a good match for one of our Acquisition Entrepreneurs.
After the initial assessment, the Sourcing Team sends an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) to ensure that everything is private and confidential. Then Acquira works to connect that company to one of our partners. The partner and the owner will begin talking to see if they’re interested in making a deal. After all, as Tatiana explains it, “You want to have your first date before getting married.”
The onboarding procedures of Acquira’s Sourcing Team are an integral part of our process to find ideal companies. This is the way we’re able to ensure that our Acquisition Entrepreneurs will find a good company.
In many cases, these are the first people from Acquira that a seller will meet. They need to be well-educated, confident, and friendly and proper onboarding and training help ensure that they are.
The initial days of a job are some of the most important–where bonds are built and patterns established. These days are critical in any position but for Acquira’s Sourcing Team, they are integral for creating the connections that we rely on.
Have you had a particularly bad onboarding experience in the past? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And if you found this article useful, please feel free to share it.
The Sourcing Team is just one of the many resources that Acquira provides to its Acquisition Entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in starting your own business purchase journey, please check out our Acceleration Gauntlet.
- Replacing a worker can cost a company between 100 and 300 percent of the individual’s salary.
- Roughly one in ten people has left a company thanks to a poor onboarding experience.
- The training experience takes time and dedication… and a lot of reading.
- Acquira’s Sourcing Team has developed a robust and efficient onboarding and training process to help serve our Acquisition Entrepreneurs.