The founder of a St. Petersburg-based startup believes onboarding employees should consist of more than just filling out paperwork and watching videos; he also recognizes the value of community.
So, Erik Silk recently launched Welcomary, a software-as-a-service platform designed to make new hires feel more comfortable and confident in their roles. The goal is to increase retention rates and boost company culture by providing critical, easily accessible information on what and who to know.
Silk said his team came together as a business around May 2022 and the official pilot program launched Jan. 3 in St. Petersburg. Company officials believe the city’s small business and startup ecosystem provided the best choice for a headquarters and introductory market.
“We wanted to be able to help that grow and help what makes our community amazing here,” said Melissa Freeman, a longtime resident and head of sales. “When I moved to St. Pete, I was really attracted to the small business space and how we don’t have these large commercial businesses on every corner.”
While he still lives in Denver “at the moment,” Silk expounded on why he chose the city as his startup’s headquarters. He believes owners and founders in St. Petersburg will recognize the need for Welcomary’s solutions, and the community atmosphere could provide new ideas to improve future offerings.
Silk noted his extensive experience working on onboarding-related internal tools but said you could never have enough perspective.
“And a place like St. Pete seems full of people who are very thoughtful about that kind of thing,” he added. “So, being able to provide this and learn from folks, and make sure there is always an open dialogue about what is onboarding and how do we improve it as time goes on – it really seems like a great spot for it.”
Freeman explained that Welcomary offers business owners and human resource professionals a “hands-free” and holistic approach to onboarding, training and knowledge management. Those resources also remain easily accessible for employees indefinitely.
The startup’s target demographic is companies employing between 30 and 500 people. Silk noted many small business owners lack experience with onboarding and often only require employees to fill out necessary forms.
While he said that aspect would never go away, Silk believes Welcomary helps establish and enhance the process. He explained that the platform organizes old spreadsheets and pertinent information and supplements it with industry-specific knowledge to provide a simple resource for new hires on their first day.
It will also log names and descriptions of coworkers and how they “fit into the bigger picture” around the office. Silk said that alleviates the need for awkward ice-breaking conversations or questions.
“There are plenty of small businesses out there that have gone fully or mostly remote, and they’re not coming back anytime soon,” he added. “So how do you help those people when you don’t have someone you can just turn to and say, ‘hey, what does this thing mean?’ You need some kind of resource there.”
Silk said Welcomary’s team would also work closely with clients to gather knowledge and tailor the product to fit individual needs. He also believes the platform will help increase retention rates by promoting connections and mitigating the feeling of being lost that often accompanies someone’s first few months on the job.
He said many corporate officials take that traditional experience for granted – that stumbling through the first few months and the associated frustrations are just part of the process. Silk said he and his team hope to change that outlook, and he used traveling to a foreign county as an example.
He noted that a mobile application could help someone translate the language, establish an itinerary and identify local hot spots. Silk believes that Welcomary can offer similar benefits to new hires.
In addition, reducing turnover will save companies money and boost their reputation, explained Silk. He said the platform would also free hiring managers to complete other tasks, further reducing costs.
While Silk hopes to one day scale Welcomary to accommodate companies with over 500 employees, he believes smaller businesses have the most need for the product.
“We wanted to kind of trim down our solution to this problem to a manageable size that is easy to understand and does not require a lot of tech expertise,” he said. “Because it’s a little ironic that you have to be onboarded onto your onboarding tool, frankly.”
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