Awkward is how a lot of us feel on our first day of a new job. Simple things like, do people go out to lunch, or brown bag it, can make a new person feel flummoxed. And then there's imposter syndrome--surely everyone else in the new company is smarter, better, and went to a fancier school than the newcomer. Parklet aims to solve this problem by letting new employees--and old ones--learn about their coworkers.

CEO Dane Hurtubise explains the idea behind Parklet stemmed from their research showing that it isn't uncommon to hear people say they feel lost in the organization. That's not just feeling personally lost, but they also didn't know how their own goals fit into the organization's goals. They hope that this internal social media app can help people see how they fit in.

How Parklet Works

Everyone has an employee file that not only has job titles, but information on education and previous jobs. Sometimes, when a new employee is hired, the manager sends out an email saying, "We'd like to welcome Jane. She comes to us from X company and has a degree in Y from Z University!" And that's it. Parklet takes that information and opens it up to everyone.

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means you can find people with whom you have something in common. Hurtubise does clarify that if you don't want information about you posted, you don't have to. But, you can also add other details--like if you prefer to have a brown bag lunch.

Why this is helpful

People often have a cynical view of corporations, Hurtubise says, but while all companies want to make money, the "vast majority are mission driven. There's something they are trying to change about the world." The problem is, the communication between the company and the employee breaks down.

Parklet looked at how people interacted--or didn't interact. They found that in order to have a good relationship, they needed to have a good foundation. Foundations take time to build, but their goal is to have Parklet cut down that "getting to know you phase."

Hurtubise shared a story about when he was contacted by an employee at an early Parklet adopted. This employee complained that his tasks weren't in the system, and wondered if it was a Parklet error. Turns out, his tasks weren't in because he hadn't actually started work--yet, there he was finding out about his coworkers, the mission of the company and what was happening in the day to day. Can you imagine how fast this guy was able to get up to speed when he did start? He'd already jumped over a lot of the new hire hurdles.

Onboarding made easier

Hurtubise and Parklet broke the onboarding process into three different layers. The first is the basic paperwork layer, and unfortunately, the federal government determines what happens here. Even though filling out I9s is intensely boring, it's got to be done. That's step 1.

Step 2 is the workflow and task management piece. While this doesn't seem like an "onboarding" issues as much as a "management issue" most companies don't have a good solution for bringing HR, IT, and the individual hiring manager all together. Far too many of us have shown up for work the first day only to be told that "your laptop was just ordered yesterday, and the guy who creates the passwords for the proprietary system is on vacation, so why don't you read this manual?" By having all those departments linked together through Parklet, the hiring manager or recruiter doesn't have to remember to call IT to order the computer. Parklet can create templates according to employee types, which makes remembering to do this or that much easier.

Step 3 is the cultural integration. Culture is extremely important in companies--and defining that culture has been a key piece in start-up culture. Bringing someone into that culture is important for success.

The CEO of Parklet client, Twitch, had an "oh my goodness" moment when he returned from vacation and realized there were new faces he didn't recognize. At that point, he realized he'd reached the point where he didn't know everyone and he didn't like it. So, they decided to automate the "welcome" emails, that were sometimes getting neglected. Now, when someone starts, Parklet sends out a "welcome" email that tells everyone a bit about the new hire. This allows people to make connections quickly and easily, and no one is left in the dark.

Keep your employees connected

"People leave when they don't have friends at the office" Hurtubise says. The last thing you want is for someone to feel alone and that no one understands them or where they came from. With Parklet, that person can do a search and find out if anyone else went to the same college, or comes from the same town, or shares an interest in origami. Those connections can cut across departments and levels, which means it's even possible to increase your mentoring without lifting a finger.

Published on: Mar 3, 2015