Joining a new company, and sometimes even a new team, can be a daunting experience. It’s all the new things that change and that we need to accommodate for. A new routine, a new office with maybe a new commute route, all the new tools and processes that may be different. And new people to interact with.
It’s important for the new team member to have a good experience on the first days. I usually like to give them some space to adapt. But they also need things to do and to get to know the team and the processes. For that purpose I’ll present here the process I use for an onboarding template.
For each new colleague I’ll prepare a template on a wiki that has a checklist of things to do. Something similar to:
This can be Github’s wiki or issues, or Confluence for example. I’ve been using Confluence and a nice feature is that it notifies me of their progress.
The template starts with a personalised welcome message. This is usually written but the line manager and should use some information about the new team member, like mentioning the previous company and give a brief overview of the new role and what are the company’s expectations.
We will inject some motivation on that first day if we can make a bridge between the past and the future. We want to make this experience special.
It starts with and introduction of the company and the project. We aim to use this section to give the big picture of the company. It has topics like:
- Company mission and goals
- What’s the origin of the company’s name
- Who founded the company and how did it all start
- What’s the overall business strategy
- Who are our competitors
All these topics can link to other pages that have deep information on them. Usually new people don’t know all this information but they’re always curious about these things. This is a nice way to start the day and get to get a feeling of what’s the company all about.
There are always several tools a team will use to manage itself and for communication. On some companies we could have someone that automatically registers that new username on all the required apps. But on other companies we may have ask it to be done on the first day.
- Email (Check that you have access to your email)
- Messaging app (Connect to slack and go to the team’s channel)
- Code repository (Check that you have access to the code repository)
- Issue tracker
Even if the access isn’t ready yet, we can provide instructions on who to nag about it.
We can add a tech buddy (or product, or design, or …) that will be someone responsible to follow the onboarding and help on the technical issues. This will be someone that may give an overview of the architecture or processes, but mainly will be the one person that will be available for questions and troubleshooting.
- John Doe will be your tech buddy, take some time to introduce yourself
At what time does the team usually have lunch? What’s the typical working hours? Does the team do anything for fun outside work? What’s the best route to get to the office? All these small social questions can be answered by the social buddy.
This buddy may not be required, specially on small companies. It’s usually that guy or girl that is more extrovertd and easy going.
This is also optional and may not be required. This will be someone from HR that will be more close and ready to answer questions about HR stuff. Things like:
- Sign the contract
- How to schedule vacations?
- How to register expenses?
- When is the health insurance ready and what does it cover?
- What kind of perks or benefits do I have?
- At what day do we usually get our salary?
All this should be check items with documentation. But the truth is that many times there are always specific scenarios that require special attention.
If the company has a line manager role that will be responsible for 1on1s and for coaching and the grow of the new team member, we can have a special section to introduce that process. I usually have the related following tasks:
- Your line manager is “name”, take some time to talk to him/her
- Schedule a 30 min talk at the end of the first week, be ready to bring feedback about the on-boarding process
- Schedule a 30 min talk at the end of your first month. This will be the start of your 1on1s and will act as a retrospective on your first month, while checking your expectations and how’s everything going
Scheduling these tasks force them to get to use the calendar and learn how to book meetings.
Get your hands dirty
We can also have a section that is more related to the day to day of the team and that starts to introduce processes and tasks.
- What’s the development process?
- How to get the project, install it and run it?
- What’s the branching strategy?
- Pick and fix your first bug
- How to deploy to production?
Area specific sections
We may have special sections that are area related. For example we could have backend specific tasks, or tasks about the frontend.
We can also add a section with generic dependencies. For example if it’s usual for someone to get a monitor or some other tools, we could add that list to the template and then the line manager or someone from HR can update it with some estimates. If we don’t do this we may end up with the new hire asking periodically about things.
All these sections may be custom and we may end up needing to build a custom template per new hire. This is actually good because it feels more personalised.
Ask for feedback
And we can’t forget a section where we ask for feedback on the process. It’s usual to get some items of the template wrong or not working anymore. The new hire should feel free to edit and fix those things. This way we can have up to date templates and the new hires feel good by being contributing from the start.
It’s important to show that we welcome feedback and that everyone is welcome to give an opinion. And with this feedback we can iterate on the template and keep improving it until it covers the majority of issues that we need to address.
This template is a simple utility but it makes the new hire feel welcome and that someone took the time to prepare the onboarding. Some people like to be given space and be left alone while they adapt. But other people prefer to engage with their team mates from the start and get a more hands on onboarding. We should try to understand that before the first day to try to make a better experience.
Originally published at engineering-management.space on April 7, 2018.