Klaviyo’s New Hire Program Is Helping Onboard 500+ New Hires in 2021
Following a $200 million Series C in November 2020, Klaviyo planned to double its 500 person headcount by the end of this year. It could be easy for the company to breeze through new hire training, but a good onboarding experience can improve employee retention up to 82 percent, according to Glassdoor. Not to mention, a positive beginning sets the tone for a happy, motivated employee who feels like they belong.
So Natalie Higgins, Klaviyo’s new hire enablement specialist, said rather than putting employees through an onboarding speed run, her team built a two-week onboarding program meant to mirror a series of college courses. More than 60 cross-departmental volunteers across Klaviyo’s U.K. and Boston offices help groups of around 20 new hires graduate into their roles.
“Everyone’s so much better prepared when they start their full-time roles, compared to if we only did three days of training,” Higgins said.
Klaviyo broke their onboarding process into three key parts: “Basecamp” is level 101 and the introduction to Klaviyo’s customers and structures; “Product Training” is 201 and it’s a deep dive into the platform; “Klaviyo University” consists of an annual learning stipend and a few company-wide courses, which is like level 301.
Higgins said two weeks of training can seem daunting but the programs are meant to layer foundational knowledge so new hires can hit their stride sooner. And much like a college course, lectures are followed by opportunities for new employees to discuss their learnings and get hands-on training with every area of the platform, even if those areas fall outside the scope of their role.
Software Engineer Maya Nigrin — who joined three months ago — said two weeks was the perfect amount of training time based on the complexity of Klaviyo’s product. The platform uses machine learning to collect and analyze data from customer interactions, which it uses to automate personalized connections to shoppers. And with more than 70,000 paying customers using Klaviyo, Nigrin said the platform’s intersection of technical ability and customer-facing work means it’s important that new hires know how their work affects other teams and the business overall.
Basecamp and product training are useful for people like me who were less familiar with e-commerce.”
“Basecamp and product training are useful for people like me who were less familiar with e-commerce and Klaviyo’s role in it,” Nigrin said. “As an engineer, that context is important because it makes it easier to build things with the business and customers in mind.”
For Roberto Carozza, a business intelligence analyst who joined in January, the social connections that onboarding provided were just as important as the formal learning. Carozza said small cohorts encourage connection between members, which allowed him to make immediate friends across the business and know who they can direct their questions to. He said these connections and reference points made it easier for him to feel independent rather than tethered to his manager.
We spoke to Higgins, Nigrin and Carozza about the methodologies behind these onboarding programs and how they set new team members up for immediate success.
What does the onboarding process look like?
Natalie Higgins, new hire enablement specialist: A new hire’s first week is Basecamp, where they learn the base-level of knowledge that everyone needs to be successful in their roles: benefits, our values and how to live them out and other administrative details. Product training around our platform capabilities is next. It used to be done live but we made it on-demand in the last year so employees can go through it as fast as they want to or they can dive into the details. Team-specific training is next. Maya partook in our engineering onboarding bootcamp that gets engineers up to speed, and we also have one for sales and customer success.
Maya Nigrin, software engineer: The engineer-specific onboarding has checklists of tasks you need to do before you can actually start contributing. They walk you through deployment training or setting up a local environment then let you take advantage of that training immediately before moving to the next thing.
I wanted to start doing my job immediately because I was really excited. But Product Training provided all the necessary information while still being short enough to let us dive into our roles. I got awareness of every corner of the product, even ones my team doesn’t own. The extra context helped me resolve issues quicker. For instance, my team was addressing a customer issue with in an interface we barely interact with. But because of product training, I knew where to start looking for the issue and how to debug it.
I got awareness of every corner of the product, even ones my team doesn’t own.”
Roberto Carozza, business intelligence analyst: A big challenge of starting a new job is you have to figure out who to go to if you don’t know something. One of the most helpful elements that onboarding provided was referring me to people who can answer my questions. Without that, it would’ve been so difficult to have any level of independence from my immediate manager. I’d have to ask, “Where do I find that? How do I do this?” all the time. Having those reference points was critical in establishing any sort of self-sufficiency as a new employee.
Adjusting the program to remote life
How does Klaviyo’s onboarding process facilitate impactful social connections across the organization?
Carozza: Onboarding provides a lot of community building beyond our specific business functions. The small cohort groups provide more nuanced interactions. It helps create meaningful connections and there are people in my cohort that I interact with routinely, sometimes for business prompts and sometimes just to say hello.
There is a less explicit culture of trying to help people meet others and socialize across teams.”
Nigrin: Some of the things I’ve been working on since I started require cross-team consensus. Having people on different teams that I’ve already connected with makes it so much easier for me to reach out and not feel like a stranger.
I also feel like there is a less explicit culture of trying to help people meet others and socialize across teams. In one my first conversations with my manager, he asked, “How many people do you want to meet?” Then he set up around 15 meetings with people around the company. That helped me socialize and build cross-team context, which is important for someone starting out.
How have the onboarding programs evolved over time?
Higgins: Product training started in November 2018 and formalized onboarding launched in spring 2019. Originally, training was owned by a single team that was responsible for our external customer documentation. We thought that since they were educating customers, they could educate internally. It worked well for a time but eventually went beyond that team’s bandwidth.
Then we had department leaders speak to new hires about their teams. But the information wasn’t sticking because there wasn’t much interaction or context on how one team’s work spreads across the company. I took over onboarding in March 2020, and we brought in two people who came from a company with over 2,000 employees. Those new team members had already seen the growth that Klaviyo was expecting.
We wanted to integrate our values more regularly and make the entire process more hands-on.”
In updating the program, we wanted to integrate our values more regularly and make the entire process more hands-on as opposed to just being talked at, especially since everyone was at home on Zoom.
What’s next for Klaviyo’s onboarding programs?
Higgins: I think there’s room for each individual team to take ownership of their onboarding process. Ideally, everyone would do Basecamp and Product Training. Then they would do team-specific training that syncs with them stepping into their full-time role. We have some team-specific bootcamps built out right now, like the one for engineering, and they’re functioning well but I would love for that to be built out more formally.
I also want the process to be more granular for each role, for example, clarifying all the knowledge a software engineer needs to know on day one, 14, 30, and so on. This idea would better equip people to jump into their roles without missing out on relevant information. We’ll keep iterating as we move forward. I’m excited to see where the program goes and grows from here.