People Management

Checklist for successfully onboarding people, not resources

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Successful onboarding of new team members is key to making them feel welcomed and part of the team, while also increasing their productivity and consequently profit. Please note that I did not make any reference to the timeline needed or how fast things should go, as it is specific to each activity. Choose the items that apply to you or adapt them to your context.

Prior to start date:

–       pre-arrange for devices (ex: laptop, phone, external display, HID card reader, token). It reduces frustration, especially in IT companies or departments, where a ready to run laptop is of the essence.

–       assign physical space (desk with functional internet +/- phone connections). Nobody wants to feel like a nomad seating wherever there’s a free chair.

–       request access to systems (ex: corporate id, email, documents repository, ALM tool, VPN, code repository)

–       grant physical access to project area (building / floor / room). The alternative is for the new persons to require each time a companion just to open doors. If that would really happen at least they would get to know new people, but it’s usually a case of: “here, have my card, give it back when you’re done”. The thing that makes security staff grind their teeth.

–       invite the newcomers to communication channels (ex: Slack, Skype). It makes them feel part of the conversation even if they don’t understand everything at first.

–       grant access to capacity planning tools (to record future vacations, public holidays)

–       obtain individual software licenses in advance, if possible. Going through procurement is always a nuisance and can take weeks.

–       make pre-arrangements for travel if needed. Going on business travel right after you just landed on a project (or even new company) can leave you a bit disoriented. I’ve been in the position to go on business travel on my third day at a new employer. I had literally no idea of the procedures in place, expense policy, I had to rely on my common sense and travel companions.

 On arrival day:

– send a meaningful Welcome email. We’re all aware it’s barely personalised and pretty standard, but normally this email contains also useful links to help pages, key contacts and instructions. Plus it feels nice.

– meet and greet on the first day; introduce the team. It sounds like the normal and human thing to do, but it doesn’t always happen. I’ve been several times in the position to look for my new team and introduce myself.

– invite the newcomers to meetings. Learning is always faster when you immerse yourself in the subject.

– introduce the new colleagues to team’s way of working (literally team specific), even if they can choose a different way of doing things. Ex: “we usually start at 10”, “we estimate user stories in t-shirt sizes”, “we start a new sprint on a Wednesday”, “Jimmy usually deals with IT support”, “never talk to Laura before she’s had her coffee”, “we attend on-call support by rotation”, “Friday is work-from-home day”. It’s the “norm” of the team. Doesn’t mean it’s good, doesn’t mean it’s bad, but they should know it.

– schedule functional presentations: project scope, functionalities, UI etc. Put them in the calendar if you want them to happen. They don’t have to be formal or over prepared. Letting them be ad-hoc events will lead to postponing, plus idle time for the newcomers.

– schedule technical presentations: tools, architecture, env setup etc. Again, put them in the calendar if you want them to happen. Don’t pick top aces as presenters – they are busy anyway. It will be a lot of new information, most of it will not be thoroughly understood at first. In fact, this is a good occasion to test future team leads or promising staff, by seeing how they interact with newcomers.

– grant time to install required software and setup personal space. Encourage them to bring personal items. Like it or not, in corporate jobs, we spend a lot of our time in the office so it should feel good.

Did you always feel welcome on a new project?