Lever knows that the work has just begun after a candidate signs. Onboarding new employees is a time where a company can deliver on its employer brand promise. Lever’s thoughtful and substantive onboarding program further educates individuals about the culture and values of their new company and helps prepare them to succeed.
We spoke with Jennifer Kim, Head of Employee Experience & Development at Lever, and Fond customer.
Q: To start, can you briefly tell us about your role at Lever?
A: I’m Head of Employee Experience & Development here at Lever. I can talk about my job pretty much indefinitely, so it’s great to have this opportunity to share what we’re doing here at Lever and our culture.
In terms of my role at Lever, it’s a jumble of things, which naturally occurs at startups. I oversee a whole host of areas including – HR and People Operations, IT, and Operations and Facilities, in addition to talent, culture, and diversity initiatives.
I interface with pretty much every member of the company to continually get feedback on ideas on how to make Lever a great place to work. I collaborate with execs and founders on everything people-related, since people are so core to our business and one of most important things we’re focused on as a team. I also work with all our managers to make sure they have the right tools and training to do their jobs, ensuring every single “Leveroo” has the tools, support, and environment to do their best work. And, my team runs a two-week onboarding program for new hires.
Q: Tell me more about your onboarding program and how it helps new employees learn about and assimilate into Lever’s company culture?
A: Every single Leveroo goes through Ramp Camp, and it’s critical for ensuring their success. Ramp Camp was originally designed to give new hires context about who we are and what we do. We build ATS/HR software, but most employees don’t have previous experience in recruiting, beyond being recruited themselves.
We believe every engineer, salesperson, and even operations person will be more high-performing and motivated when they experience a thorough onboarding program where they get to learn the “why” behind the product we’re building and the type of complex problems we’re trying to solve as a company. For example, most people have no idea how hard recruiting is and how much opportunity there is for software like Lever to help! Developing empathy for our users and customers is one of the core tenets of Ramp Camp.
We’ve found Leveroos who get ramped up this way feel empowered, proud, and really bought into the company’s mission. Also, because hiring and onboarding happens in batches, there’s an additional benefit in that we’re strengthening cross-functional ties. Each new Ramp Camp cohort gets to form relationships and bonds that will help them do their jobs better long after onboarding is over.
Each day of Lever’s onboarding program covers a particular theme.
On the first day, Launch Day, we go over the administrative HR stuff, set aside time for people to get settled into their desks, setting up everyone’s laptops – pretty standard first day activities! Another part of Day 1 is that new hires get welcomed during the weekly all-hands – Meeting Monday.
At Meeting Monday, we share company updates, celebrate wins, and hear from various leaders on what’s coming up. One fun tradition that new hires love seeing is the Panda Exchange, which has been going on for two years now. The Panda, Lever’s resident gigantic stuffed animal, represents our tradition of showing appreciation and reinforcing our core values.
The panda gets handed off from person to person. It’s a real honor to have the panda. When you hand the panda to someone you need to tell a story highlighting one of our values and how the person embodied them. So you would say, for example, “Shira is a perfect example of ‘Don’t Trust Comfortable’ because how she behaved doing XYZ.” It’s a great reminder of what our collective values and the importance of spreading appreciation throughout the company.
Day 2 is all about deeply understanding our customers. You get to shadow a sales rep, learn about our sales process, product implementation, account management, and what our metrics are, all to gain a holistic understanding of the business and how we are growing.
Next, we enter Product Day to ensure new employees gain an understanding of the Lever product and how it gets developed. New hires from the “business” side love getting to learn about how product goes from an idea to life, how design and engineering collaborate together, how bugs get prioritized and fixed, and so on. The opposite is true too – engineering Leveroos are always fascinated by learning about the business side, saying “No one’s ever explained to me how sales works before!”
Perhaps the most popular day is Company/Culture Day, which includes going over our origins story as told by our CEO, Sarah, how we do our own hiring at Lever, a session on Diversity & Inclusion, a communication personality style assessment called Colors, and some games. Our games really help reinforce our culture to new employees.
There’s one game called Lever Lore. The idea is that every company has inside jokes and acronyms, which take a lot of time to get familiar with. We want our new hires to feel welcome by jump-starting their assimilation into the Lever culture, so Lever Lore has them doing a scavenger hunt for Lever-specific clues all around the office.
For Lever Lore, the Ramp Camp class is given a worksheet with definitions of inside jokes, terms, and various important things to know. The catch is that the actual words and names aren’t provided, because they’re hidden all around the office! Their job is to go find them and match them up to the correct definitions.
People are the core and one of the most important things we’re focused on as a team.
The Ramp Camp class is divided into teams and it gets quite competitive. Every month when Lever Lore happens, existing employees get really nostalgic. They’ll say, “Oh, I remember this game. I miss going through Ramp Camp – it was great.” It’s always really cool to see how everyone else gets so excited for the new hires as they scramble around the office trying to find these words.
We liken getting started at a fast-growing startup like Lever to jumping on board a moving train. It can be intimidating, but every new hire is there because we believe in them – and Ramp Camp is the on-ramp that provides the support to become as quickly as possible. It’s a crash course on everything related to our business, culture, and how they can forge their own path for success. And it also gets them brought up to speed on all the fun elements of culture and inside jokes of course – so that they can take part in and help invent the next ones and shape our continually evolving culture!
Lever’s Talent Acquisition Suite is revolutionizing the Applicant Tracking System, providing HR software that the whole company loves to use. With over 1,000 customers including Netflix, Lyft, and Eventbrite, the 95-person Lever team is based in San Francisco, California.