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Onboarding at DocuSign Focuses on the Community

If your company’s mission is to continuously improve onboarding for your clients, you really should have your own (employee) onboarding act together.  

DocuSign does.  

The San Francisco-based provider of electronic signature technology understands that network creation and assimilation are two keys to a successful onboarding process, a point made in the Institute for Corporate Productivity’s (i4cp) new Onboarding Toolkit.    

For example, DocuSign uses the onboarding process to highlight the company’s emphasis on giving back to the communities in which it does business. The organization also engages new employees in their communities from the start of their employment, with its Discovering DocuSign in-person onboarding sessions, where every new employee gives back to local non-profits as part of this monthly event.  

Participation in these sessions has long been an invaluable part of DocuSign’s onboarding practices. And, In 2015, the organization kickstarted its onboarding experience with the creation of DocuSign Impact, a corporate citizenship initiative designed around what the company describes as its three pillars of corporate philanthropy: employee volunteerism, matching employee donations (via the DocuSign Impact Foundation), and product discounts for qualifying non-profits.  

The purpose of DocuSign’s onboarding process is twofold, says Michael Erisman, vice president and general manager of human resources.  

“We’re trying to improve how quickly we get our people focusing on what we pay them to do, and not focused on paperwork and other things just to get started in their jobs,” says Erisman. “We’re also using this pivotal time to introduce them to our culture, and how they can participate in not only DocuSign’s success, but in making the world a better place.” 

The early days in a new job are indeed crucial. Research has shown that employees generally decide whether they’re in for the long haul with an organization within the first few months of employment. And if your onboarding process leaves a bad taste in the mouths of your new hires, it’s a solid bet that a good number of them will start eyeing the exits before too long.  

Remind new employees of the reasons why they joined your organization

Onboarding should entail much more than completing the obligatory paperwork and a few introductions made to key colleagues, it should offer new hires a window into the company’s culture. The goal here is to remind and reinforce to new employees at every step along the way why they joined your organization. Helping new hires connect and identify quickly with your organization is more than just a good thing to do that boosts engagement early on—it’s strategic.  

Indeed, the i4cp  report, Six Talent Practices that Boost Engagement and Market Performance , found that leveraging onboarding programs to assimilate new employees into the firm’s culture is one of six practices that drive higher engagement scores and better business performance.  

By immersing employees in the DocuSign Impact experience during their first few weeks on the job, DocuSign is helping its new hires understand the organization’s mission, and to feel part of its culture from day one.  

Encouraging growth early on

Since its beginnings as a one-office operation in Seattle in 2003, DocuSign has become a global organization. As the company has grown, philanthropy has remained part of the company’s purpose. 

With the establishment of DocuSign Impact three years ago and the encouragement of new employees to get involved in their communities by way of volunteering with the philanthropic organizations of their choice, the company backs up this commitment. DocuSign employees receive an additional three days of paid time off each year—volunteer time off, or VTO—in order to participate in volunteer work. This is far above the national average; among employers that do provide paid time off for volunteering, most generally offer just one day. 

In addition to an opportunity for DocuSign employees to contribute to a cause that’s important to them, Impact also provides a way to help new hires establish organizational networks early on in their careers with the company.

Making these connections with colleagues in different functions and at different levels throughout the organization is critical to employee growth and is equally crucial to the organization’s success. Helping a new (or returning) employee establish solid, diverse organizational networks early in their tenure has lasting impact on that worker’s engagement, productivity, and, ultimately, retention.  

Nevertheless, data from i4cp’s recent onboarding survey found just 20% of 137 respondents reporting that helping new hires establish organizational networks was a primary purpose of their onboarding programs.  

In addition to the cultural assimilation and organizational network creation benefits, new DocuSign employees also gain valuable leadership experience through the program. While technically under the auspices of the HR function, Impact is primarily an employee-run initiative, says Erisman.

“All of our Impact events are coordinated and led by employees at the local level,” says Erisman, adding that DocuSign provides technology free or at discounted rates for non-profits, and has company matching programs for employee donations.

“It’s very organic, and this is not your typical philanthropic effort. This is ‘for employees, by employees,’ and the enthusiasm we see in selecting local non-profits and getting teams of people ready to help these organizations is contagious.”

Making Impact such an employee-driven initiative has helped send participation rates among new hires into the 90% to 95% range and has been a boon to engagement scores as well, says Erisman.

Making Impact such an employee-driven initiative has been a boon to engagement scores as well.

“As part of a culture audit, we interviewed employees about what they liked about DocuSign, and most specifically referenced our IMPACT program as a source of pride. We’ve seen incredibly high participation rates,” he says. “Our Glassdoor ratings are also high, and we think we can trace these positive numbers to this sense among new employees that they’re really doing something meaningful right away. There’s a sense of affinity, and our people are immediately identifying as being part of something bigger.”