Onboarding a new colleague is not easy. It takes a lot of time, energy and preparation. Other work is ongoing so the goal is to get the new team member up to speed as efficient and quick as possible. The candidate is excited about his new adventure, perhaps nervous about all the new people and the challenges ahead and soon tired from the waterfall of information provided by his new team members. Here’s a practical guide to making onboarding process a nicer for both the company and the new team member.
1. Create an owner of the process
Onboarding is a process. Somebody needs to own it, plan it, maintain it and improve it. At Founda this is someone from HR. Depending on the size of your company this could also be a team-lead. The point is that someone needs to be responsible and accountable to see that the process is carried out correctly.
2. Prepare all hard- and software necessities
It may sound silly, but make sure all hard- and software necessities are ready to be used. Have the computer ready, make sure an email address is created and setup access to all necessary systems. If you have a nice welcome package, put it on the desk. This way new colleagues can start quicker and have a pleasant experience.
I’ve seen the other side as well. Especially in larger organisations. Communication lines are longer and things get forgotten or lost in the process. Laptops, email addresses and access is requested on the day the new colleague starts. Unfortunately the manager who has to approve all this is super busy so it can take hours if not days to get it all sorted out. Awkward situations arise and the new team member feels unwelcome. Prepare!
3. Free up a buddy
Create a buddy system. New people usually have tons of questions, but as they don’t know anyone and don’t feel save yet there is always this small reservation to ask all these questions to their busy team members. Here’s where the buddy comes into play. Assign the buddy to the new colleague and explain that he is there to help you find your way and ask any question. The buddy can help find the right person to answer the questions or answer it himself. The buddy does not necessarily have to be of the same role but can also be someone of another role. This allows for cross-department communication and a broader insight in the company. The main goal is that the new colleague should feel save and taken care of.
4. Create a planning for information exchange
Every new employee of the company needs to get to know the company, the product, the culture, HR processes and compliance to name a few. Pre-plan these meetings and try to standardize them as much as possible as every new colleague needs to receive the same basic information. The owner of the onboarding process should book meetings with all new team members and the knowledge holders of all the topics to give this information. You set expectations for the new colleague trough a clear planning and help him to get to know all the different company departments. The good thing is that this information can be given in a presentation format, so it doesn’t matter if it’s for 1, 5 or 25 new colleagues. This makes this step quite scalable. Don’t plan these meetings back-to-back, but spread them over the days or weeks. This will give the new colleague also some time to let all the new information sink in, he will receive more than enough information regardless.
5. Facilitate socialising with new colleagues
New company, new colleagues, new challenges and lots of unknowns. The perfect recipe for not feeling safe. At the same time not every new colleague is as social or extrovert as the other colleague. That’s why it’s important that we help everybody feel safe as quickly as possible so they can be at their best as quick as possible. One way to do that is to facilitate that new colleagues drink a coffee with all their new team members and have a chit-chat about both work and non-work related topics. Topics can be about backgrounds, the role someone is fulfilling and hobbies just to name a few. The goal is to get to know each other a little bit better and therefore feel safer. The owner of the process can also schedule these meetings ahead. I would say 15 minutes and one or two meetings per day is more then enough.
6. Prepare a first task
new colleagues are eager to learn and actually start contributing. However they don’t have the knowledge yet to pick up all available tasks. That’s why it’s important to keep some tasks on the side that can be picked-up by new colleagues. Think about small tasks or maintenance work. You want them to scratch the surface and go deeper everyday. Based on the new colleague and company culture you can approach new colleagues picking up tasks in two ways. One is by throwing them in the deep and let them figure it out by exploration and trial and error. It’s still important to have someone available to provide answers to questions. Two is by taking the new colleague by the hand and do some pairing. Pick whatever you think works best for your situation. The important thing is that the new colleague can start to do something meaningful within the first few days.
7. Review the process
This maybe is the most important step of all: review your onboarding process. Pick a moment in the first two weeks to reflect with the new colleague on how he felt about his first days. I would say this is a task for the owner of the process. Make sure you establish an open conversation where it’s okay to receive negative feedback. Negative feedback is great for getting actionable points to improve the process. On the other hand of course make sure that the new colleague leaves the conversation happy and full of energy. The owner of the process should communicate the feedback to all people who participated in the onboarding and make changes where needed.
This is the easiest step of all described above. Repeat! The next moment new colleagues are joining make sure you have implemented the changes based on the feedback you received and follow the process again. And again. And again.
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