The onboarding process is critical to an employee's success at a new job. Learn how Fishhook is navigating these waters with its newest team members.

A New Employee’s Experience

By Kristen Raves, Account Director at Fishhook, since April 2023

I’ve had approximately six onboardings in my 20+ years of working. Some were great. Some were not. Some never even existed. While my experiences may have been all over the place, the onboarding process is one that shouldn’t be. 

Statistically, 86% of people will leave within six months if they do not have a positive onboarding experience. On the flip side, employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience a great onboarding process. Those retention rates are drastically different and can even make or break an organization. 

It’s no surprise that my onboarding experience at Fishhook has been one of the best I’ve ever had (shout out to Leah Norton, Shayla Kenworthy and the rest of the team!). So much so that I have told others this is my “long-haul” position (yay, I’m a good statistic!). Here are some reflections on my Fishhook onboarding experience and what made it so great (and different) from my past experiences.

Prior To Day 1

Before I even started at Fishhook, I received such pleasant email exchanges with Leah and Shayla both sharing their excitement for me to join the team. One of the project managers even reached out inquiring what my favorite snacks and drinks were. Leading up to my first day, I was given specific directions about when and where to be, so there were no surprises. The communication was clear, friendly and welcoming. I felt like I was part of the team before I even began. 

Weeks 1 & 2

From the moment I stepped into the office I was greeted with warm smiles, positive energy, a personalized office sign and my favorite snacks (food is very important to us!). It immediately made me feel at home in my new space.  

Over the course of the week, the team made sure I had everything I needed to get set up for success including a to-do list so I didn’t sit there awkwardly staring at my computer with nothing to do. Because the learning curve at an agency is steep with new systems, processes, clients, teammates and rhythms, it’s kind of a whirlwind. Throughout the first few weeks, I took part in meetings with all of our teams including: Account Director/Project Manager, Web/digital and Visual design. This was an integral part to my understanding of how the workflows and teams function at Fishhook. Plus it helped me connect with and get to know each team member. 

Shayla and Leah took the time to share the history of Fishhook. I believe this is so powerful because I got to see the heart behind the organization (in our case it’s a very BIG heart). As a former client, I knew some of these things but not to the extent that was shared, so it was also fun to learn how it all came about and how it got to be what it is today.

Month 1 

A big part of my first month was sitting in on client meetings with other account directors. Each of our clients are vastly different in size, ministry approach, culture, communications and leadership style, and those meetings gave me an insightful view on the best ways to connect with our churches and ministries. Listening and observing the leadership, preparation and follow up from each team member gave me a holistic perspective into the function of the team and how we move projects forward. Those have been some of the most valuable moments in my first few weeks. 

Months 2 and 3

I’m still learning and messing up (eek!), but things are beginning to come more naturally each day. And, my leaders are so gracious in those moments. They take the time to dive deeper into why things might be done a certain way or reflect on what I might do differently next time. Heading into my next few months, I have a clear direction and set goals on how to continue growing in my role and as a Fishhook employee. In short, my onboarding experience has been one of learning and growth! 

A Veteran’s Experience

By Leah Norton, Account Director/Managing Partner at Fishhook, since June 2005

I read Kristen’s sharing above, and I’m humbled. I’m so thankful for her experience as a new Fishhooker and her kind sharing. What she has outlined above is our ideal! However - I know there have been many times throughout the years at Fishhook when we didn’t have much of an onboarding process or we didn’t have the time or attention to give each new staff member (like they needed or deserved). 

To our cherished Fishhookers - both past, present and future - I’m sorry when we didn’t get it right for you. What I share below is what we are learning and aim to live out in our onboarding process. I hope this is encouraging to other teams!

  • Big picture - We want every person joining Fishhook to feel appreciated and part of the larger team and purpose at Fishhook! We couldn’t serve our churches without each of our team members. When someone decides to onboard with us, we are grateful! We want them to know he or she is being prayed for, we want them to have easy, natural ways to connect with our team, and we can’t wait for them to start engaging and working with our churches and ministries. 

  • We strive to pace things out. We’re committed that onboarding is a long play and that it will happen throughout the course of several months. No one can learn everything about our work in the first week! In fact, we feel like it really takes a good year or more to feel comfortable in an agency where there are many different clients, projects and several deadlines and details to juggle. Every day is different so we have to be strategic, adaptable and always looking for potential. For onboarding, we try to plan ahead of time so that there is a good balance for the new person at Fishhook to connect with our team, see how we live out our values, grow in understanding our processes, have the tools they need, and start to do the work to have some early wins!

  • It’s both big picture and very detailed. I feel like our Fishhook work is the epitome of both huge purpose and mission focus for our team and with our churches and also attention to very small, important details and everything in between as well! So we have to address this with each person in our onboarding. For example, we work through such significant, prayerful branding processes with our clients. And, as part of the same process, we also have small, technical details to pay attention to so that the electronic brand files that get saved are just right for a church to work with on their website, social media, with print pieces, signage and new swag!

  • We value questions and ongoing conversation. Every day we’re striving to encourage each other so that we’re ready to serve and support the amazing church leaders and pastors we get to collaborate with. A huge part of encouraging each other and caring for each other is making time to connect on a regular basis and as important issues or questions arise. With folks who are onboarding, Shayla and I are reaching out each week. We’re messaging (we use Slack) to check in, we’re jumping on Zoom or meeting in person. We’re asking: How are they doing? What questions do they have? What could be better? Ongoing, I meet with each Fishhooker once a month to check in on them personally. In these monthly meetings, we also talk about what they are learning, goals, pain points and wins in our work. 

  • We persevere. Does it always work out? No, it doesn’t. So what do we do? What we’ve shared in this article is what we hope to work through as people join our team. However, I’ll be the first to say and take responsibility that we don’t always get it right. Even just recently, we had a resignation from someone who was with us a shorter period of time. I was surprised. It was hard. And I wished that we had done some things differently during the onboarding process. So what did I/we do? We thanked this person. We appreciate this person and want the best for them. Our time working together was short, but we trust God with the timing and next steps. As we wrapped up with this team member, we held an exit interview (conversation). We are striving to take the feedback given and are making adjustments moving ahead. We are always learning. And we thank God for each person and season at Fishhook that helps us do that.

How is your onboarding process? What does it involve? We’d love to hear what is working well for your team, what you are learning or what questions you have.  We’re always praying for you and cheering you on!