As Regional Partnerships Manager for Q, I have worked with the community’s 18 partner organisations to find people who are searching for a place to share and learn from others. The collective effort of the Q partner organisations paid off and it’s the reason we have a large and diverse community. Today we welcomed 363 new members and now are 2,152 strong. I also worked with the partner organisations on what the Q team refers to as ‘onboarding’ new members.
I want to share five lessons learned from onboarding thousands of people to the community. I think the learning may be helpful for anyone who is trying to build long term engagement with a group of people, whether it’s members of a community like Q, a network or a cohort of people joining a new programme.
Lesson 1: The joining process doesn’t end when someone’s application is successful- neglect a proper welcome at your peril
If you google onboarding, you’ll see reference to ‘a magic moment’ and if you speak to people in Organisational Development they would probably agree. This is the moment when someone joins Q and decides to stay engaged or to disengage from the community. For this reason, myself, the Q team and our partners have worked hard to make sure all new members feel positive about what they can gain from Q, from the moment they join.
During the design phase we asked our founding cohort what values, experiences and feelings are important when joining Q. Through this process, we created our onboarding design principals:
- A sense of celebration
- A sense of belonging
- Face to face time to build relationships and support
- An enthusiastic, values- driven welcome
Our partners have, and continue to, deliver welcome events that celebrate the value that staying connected and informed about different approaches to improvement can bring to providing quality patient care.
Lesson 2: When onboarding is successful it is emotional.
Over the year, I have seen new members connect emotionally to Q’s aim of shining a light on the great improvement work by providing an infrastructure that weaves together great ideas and learning. At welcome events across the country new members have reconnected with old colleagues. Whole improvement teams have joined Q and developed new connections with other teams doing similar work in a different part of the UK – showing that if you work on improvement some struggles are universal, so it a good idea to work together to solve them.
Lesson 3: A diverse community also means diversity of understanding and knowledge within Q
A particularly important goal of mine has been to make sure everyone who joins Q quickly gets up to speed with what the community can do for them and how they can support other members in return. It’s not as emotively engaging as making new friends and finding old ones, but it is important.
Therefore, the first emails sent out to new members share lots of information about the community to ensure all members have a great understanding of the community and the roles they can play in it. If you are reading this and you are feeling a little fuzzy about what’s the point, what’s the offer and what you can do, have a look here for a quick reminder.
Lesson 4: Design principles aren’t rules, use local assets and local colour to win hearts and minds
People who join Q were welcomed at local events, each with a distinct feel, and were brilliantly delivered by our partner organisations. Our partners have a great understanding of the improvement landscape in their area and use their knowledge to ensure new members hear about the improvement work happening around them. They share with members local offers, resources and networks so members can use these assets to make a local impact on improving care.
Lesson 5: Whatever you are doing, systematically build on learning to ensure continued success and iterative improvement
The Q team and our partners feel as strongly as you do about how improvement approaches can make a difference. We used various approaches throughout the year to make sure every welcome event was a success.
The consequence of people joining in regional waves across the UK meant that we could build on the lessons learned. The Q team hosted three learning events in 2017 so that every team supporting Q in our partner organisations (except for our pioneering wave one partners) could learn from the teams that went before them. It provided a safe space for people to ask challenging questions about our approach and share the failures as well as successes. Systematically building on the learning of those who had already tried, meant the next wave of partners could work smarter.
Effective onboarding is a valuable way to build long term engagement and we hope your welcome to Q has inspired you to contribute and learn from this thriving community.
If you’re not yet a Q member and would like to be the first to hear when applications reopen in Summer 2018, register your interest in joining Q here.