The 6 Elements for Perfect Team Onboarding

Learn the 6 elements for perfect team onboarding to apply right now

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This article is about team onboarding. Specifically, we will talk about what it takes for a team to onboard a new member. We will not focus on general HR and companywide onboarding initiatives. Instead, we will see what the manager and the peers of a new employee can do to help the new guy hit the ground running. We will not focus on soaking in company culture or understanding how to ask for holidays. No, we will focus on how you can make new members productive and included in the team in the shortest amount of time, without burning them out.

Team Onboarding 101

Objectives of Onboarding in a Team

Whether you are the manager or a peer of the new employee, you should start to ask “what do I want to accomplish with this team onboarding?”. Your objective may vary, but I think most companies, people, and teams will want different flavors of the following:

  • Be sure the new employee knows who to reach out to depending on what he has to do
  • Ensure existing team members understand what the new member will do
  • Give access to all the tools, software, and equipment the new member needs for the job
  • Make the new member feel included, welcomed, and valued in the team
  • Make the new member feel productive, and that he is contributing to the team’s success
  • Ensure the new member is actually productive and can start to do the job

What each of these points mean will depend on your organization, team, and circumstances, and will vary slightly. Nonetheless, they are the six cornerstones of team onboarding, and you should address them all. Luckily, addressing them is easy if you plan for it.

In this team onboarding guide we will give you actionable items that you can perform to ensure you take care of all these aspects of the process. Nonetheless, before we start diving into tips, the biggest takeaway should be this: you need to plan for team onboarding. If you know what you will do and when, possibly on a scripted plan, then everything will flow much smoothly.

Now, let’s dive into the actionable items you can implement right now.

1. Define Key Stakeholders to Meet

Make a list of people the new employee should meet because he will have to work with them. Each person in the list should come with a brief description of what she does, why it is important that the new employee meets them, and how to reach out to them: mail, phone contact, internal chat app – whatever.

Team onboarding includes having the new joiner go meet key stakeholders
The new joiner should go meet key stakeholders.

You want a timeline for that, so define who you expect the new member to meet by when. Depending on your organization and how busy people are, you may even want to arrange these meetings by yourself as a manager. Nonetheless, the best advice here is to let the new member set the meetings, but create an inclusion culture where more tenured team members make themselves available for these calls or in-person meetings.

2. Welcome Email, or Welcome Meeting

Imagine you are the manager. When the new employee join, have him provide a description of himself – his experience and his passions. Then, send that to the whole team, adding a description of what the new guy will do in the team. Instruct peers and colleagues to reach out to say hi, so that they at least read the email and are aware of the new joiner.

You want to do this when the employee has just joined, and in a way that he sees it (for example, it should have access to the email and receive it=.

In some situations, you may consider a quick welcome meeting or even a simple mention in one of the team’s recurring meetings. This is how you do team onboarding right.

3. Have an Onboarding Buddy

Sometimes, having the manager give direction on how the onboarding should go can feel intimidating for the new member. A much better approach most large companies follos in team onboarding is to assign a buddy to the new employee. This is a person with similar seniority as the new employee and in a comparable role that has already some tenure in the organization and knows how to navigate it.

This buddy will become the go-to person for the new employee for all sort of questions. She can help the new member set up his laptop, know about HR policies, how to fill the timesheet or report vacation or sickness, building access areas, and much more.

In general, an onboarding buddy is the best way to ensure the employee can access what he needs soon enough. Of course, this needs to go beyond saying “hey, this is your onboarding buddy”. You need to ensure the buddy knows about the role and what it is expected from her. Ideally, you will want the buddy to have recurring meetings with the new joiner.

4. Ask for Feedback in Team Meetings, and Privately

People feel shy speaking up, and especially dissenting with others. This becomes even more pronounced if you are new to any situation, don’t fully know who you are speaking to, and you have some sort of fear that you are not seeing the full picture.

Don’t let your new joiner fall into this trap, use proper team onboarding to prevent it. More specifically, solicit feedback by the new employee regularly: “What do you thin about this?” “Do you agree on this point?” “Why don’t you give your perspective as an external person who is not fully aware of the situation?” “Is this clear enough, how can we make it clearer?”. As a manager, have the habit of do that in team meetings – and have team members do that as well. However, do that also privately, in individual 1-to-1 meetings with the employee, where he may feel more relived of social pressure and be able to share feedback.

When the new joiner provides feedback, even if it does not move the needle of the discussion, thank him for speaking up. This will build a muscle over time where the new employee feels welcome to raise his points.

5. Have Some Checklists to Tick Off

The team onboarding can take time while the new employee is not contributing to move the needle for the team. He will do training, meet with people, but will not work on any actual deliverable. This can feel frustrating, and in some people can instill some impostor syndrome where they feel they are getting paid for nothing and not worth the job.

Team onboarding helps you prevent that. As the various activities go on, have the new employee tick some checklists of the things he is completing, no matter how trivial they are (e.g., meeting stakeholder X, completing online training Y, and so on). Review that regularly, and provide feedback on the progress. If, as I suspect, the manager is fine with the initial month or so of training without productivity, remind the employee that they are on the right track and that the team is satisfied on how they are proceeding.

6. Have 1-to-1 Meetings with the Manager

No matter how good your team onboarding, the manager must have 1:1 meetings with the new employee. These meetings should happen regularly, ideally once a week. They should e short slots to allow for a quick check-in and assess the direction the employee is taking, as well as seeing if it is satisfying for the manager.

1-to-1 meetings are crucial for succesful team onboarding
The manager should meet regularly 1-to-1 with the new joiner.

Schedule them as recurring meetings, and set them every week on the same day and possibly at the same time. This is important, because it ensures time between meetings is consistent (always one week), and consequently the amount of work that builds up and things to talk about remain constant from meeting to meeting. A 30 minutes slot should work just fine.

The purpose of this meeting is to get feedback, provide feedback, and allow the manager to remove any roadblock that prevents the employee from moving forward.

Team Onboarding in Summary

Team onboarding is about ensuring the new team member is fully integrated with the team, as fast as possible, and without burning out. If you follow the tips in this article, you should be able to nail it. As a reminder, define the people he should meet, welcome him in front of the team, elect an onboarding buddy, solicit feedback (both publicly and privately), create some checklists to tick off, and have 1:1 with the manager.

Now that you are great at team onboarding, you may want to learn more about interviewing.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio


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