I’ve been thinking a lot about the Fyre Festival lately. With two documentaries about the event released last week, I suspect many of our readers have been thinking about it, too. But in case you’re not familiar with the story, allow me to give you a brief summary:
Billed as “the cultural experience of the decade,” the Fyre Festival did make history, but not in the way anyone expected. The event was promoted via social media for months, largely through the accounts of “influencers” such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Festival attendees—some of whom paid $12,000 for VIP tickets—thought they were signing up for a luxury weekend in the Bahamas. They expected to stay at extravagant villas, party with celebrities, and enjoy gourmet food and live music. They arrived instead at an empty beach with no infrastructure or amenities other than flimsy tents, wet mattresses, and truly pitiful sandwiches. The only entertainment was a local band who played for a few hours on a distant stage.
It was a fiasco—and a stark reminder not to believe everything you see on Instagram. Entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, the Fyre Festival’s “organizers,” spent all their money and time on marketing the event rather than actually coordinating it. As a result, they currently face several lawsuits from attendees and former partners, and McFarland is serving a criminal sentence for fraud.
So, why am I thinking about the Fyre Festival? It’s not just those sandwiches. See if this excerpt from an article from the Society for Human Resource Management reminds you of anything:
“When Anne Baughman, an employment experience manager with Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Lawrence, Kan., started her new job in December, she’d already experienced the kind of chaotic, disorganized experience [onboarding consultant Amy Hirsh] Robinson calls ‘death by orientation.’
No one had told her where to park her car on her first day of work. Once inside the hospital, she was given materials that were outdated, along with a handwritten agenda that included what she called ‘irrelevant topics.’ For her, the experience was instructive because it showed her the significant changes the hospital’s onboarding process needed (which she is now implementing.)
New hires who experience such badly planned and executed initiations may conclude that the organization is poorly managed and decide that it was a mistake to take the job. Under uncertain circumstances, Robinson said, new employees are prone to jump to premature conclusions. As they make their way through the organization, those early experiences get magnified and calcified.”
Yes, every day, organizations inadvertently subject their new hires to small-scale Fyre Festivals. Following a rigorous interviewing process, a new employee thinks they’re walking into their dream job, only to be greeted by a dismal workspace, insufficient materials, gruff co-workers, and an unsympathetic manager. Like McFarland and Ja Rule, the employer focused entirely on wooing the employee and neglected to create a real, positive experience.
It’s what happens when organizations underestimate the onboarding process—which, according to SHRM, is “a prime opportunity for employers to win the hearts and minds of new employees.”
Onboarding is everything. While you probably wouldn’t face fraud charges for under-delivering on new hire expectations, your organization’s reputation and risk profile could be at stake. At the very least, onboarding impacts turnover and productivity. Check out these statistics from the SHRM article:
69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for 3 years if they experienced great onboarding.
New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after 3 years.
Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity.