Putting People First: Metrics-Based Onboarding
It’s a truism that you get what you measure, and recruiting is no different. At PagerDuty, we take people very seriously in the product with our Operations Health Management Service and our focus on making on-call better with noise reduction. But what is less known is how to apply a metrics-driven approach to put people first. Great people are always hard to find, and if you’re growing quickly (like we are—join our team!), you need every edge you can get.
As the definitive source for tracking time-to-acknowledgement and time-to-resolution, here are some of the metrics that we track for our new employees:
- Time to first referral. Just like a quality SaaS product should have net negative churn, your employees should be one of your best sources of new referrals.
- Time to first all-hands presentation. When I bring somebody new on board, I want them to be better than me—and their first all-hands (or all-team) presentation is an important milestone as it’s the first time someone is a net provider of information. The presentations vary, but by the time a new employee is sharing new information, they’ve been functionally integrated into your team. Other teams with less visibility in the organization can track the time until someone is recognized as a subject matter expert that the rest of the team goes to.
- Employee Net Promoter Score (NPS). We do a company-wide formal survey each year to identify the most fruitful areas we can improve on and follow it up with monthly internal NPS surveys to identify the (largely positive!) trends and segment it by how long employees have been with the company.
- Diversity metrics. Getting the best employees means identifying and eliminating any unintentional blind spots in your hiring process. We’re lucky to have a host of employee resource groups representing different aspects of the human condition, and we’re always on the lookout for groups that might be underrepresented in our hiring pipeline.
- Number of questions asked during onboarding. I’m a little hesitant to admit that I track this in case I change how many people wind up asking questions, but when I do my section of new-hire onboarding I keep a mental tally of how many people ask questions because it’s a proxy for how comfortable people feel when they are new. It’s hard enough to speak up in front of a group, but the people who asked me a question this month obviously feel PagerDuty is a safe place for communication.
For engineers, we track a few additional metrics:
- Time to first deploy. Everyone joins because they want to build better things for our customers. To do that, you need to get your code into production and yet some companies spend weeks (or even months!) before the first code from a new employee sees the light of day. This is a very hard metric to cheat as it forces you to clearly document and optimize your toolchain (which pays for itself if you’re hiring as quickly as we are). To help with this, I try to maintain a backlog of easy, low-urgency tickets in a couple of projects for engineering managers to assign to new employees to get them contributing quickly.
- Time to first on-call shift. How long it takes you to get a new engineer on-call as the primary for a service is a good proxy for how complicated your infrastructure is.
- On-call pain. We actually track this for all employees, but our engineers are typically bearing more of this burden than the marketing team is [editor’s note: according to the metrics, Hayes is paged even less than we are]. Again, we all came here to build things, not put out fires. If the on-call load gets too high, we take a hard look at what we can do to fire-proof that service. That might be urgent work, but more often it’s something that can be scheduled in the next sprint.
Naturally, we’ve implemented processes that have moved these metrics:
- We give new employees mentors so that they have someone besides their manager that they can go to should they have a question, which they inevitably will. (And of course, we track mean time to being an onboarding mentor, too.)
- Our onboarding schedule is laid out by week so we can manage a new employee’s progress because it’s easy to forget steps otherwise.
Finding good people is hard, and getting them on board and firing on all cylinders is too important to leave to chance. You get what you measure, so to be successful, it makes sense to measure your success on employee onboarding.