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Welcome Aboard

Follow this checklist for onboarding a new team member

Back Article Dec 21, 2017 By Katie Miller

I would imagine that we have all experienced being the new person in a workplace, hoping to be welcomed and included from day one. But joining an already engaged and unified team can be really difficult.

Most of us walk into this situation unsure of what to expect, uncomfortable with asking questions and fearing some level of judgment from our new co-workers or boss. So we tread lightly from the start.

Most of us walk into this situation unsure of what to expect, uncomfortable with asking questions and fearing some level of judgment from our new coworkers or boss. So we tread lightly from the start. That’s why it’s incumbent upon the existing team to ensure a successful onboarding by taking some very specific actions early in the process.

Study after study has proven that healthy, cohesive teams are more productive, efficient and creative, which typically leads to greater profitability, staff retention and higher levels of morale. Even having one member not performing cohesively with the rest of the group can hinder a team’s performance tremendously.

Convinced? Good.

Now, follow this checklist for onboarding a new team member.

Identify a main point of contact. Navigating a new team structure, working styles, performance expectations, processes, procedures and distribution of work are just a few examples of what new team members must learn. The new teammate should have one person on the team to coordinate with on these issues.

Related: Without a clear onboarding process, you risk losing new business

Having one go-to person will ensure the questions get asked, and that the new employee is not given contradicting advice and direction. Varied responses to questions or approaches can cause confusion and lead the new person to hesitate asking additional questions. Streamline the effort and minimize confusion by identifying one point of contact who will regularly check in with the new person and ensure things are working smoothly day-to-day.

Get to know the newbie. Ask questions about her background, hobbies, interests and career aspirations. Take her to lunch and have a conversation. The intent is not to seem overly inquisitive, but genuinely interested in getting to know who this new person is, what she enjoys, and where you might share commonalities or similar interests. A cohesive team can be very intimidating for the newbie — by engaging with this person you show that they matter to the team.

Engage in a team personality assessment. Seek out an assessment like the DiSC Personality Assessment or StrengthsFinder that invites discussion about working and thinking styles. The more you understand the entire team’s strengths, conflict-triggers and styles of communication, the better for all. Each time a new member is added, the team should re-explore team dynamics. Trust me, the dynamic always changes when someone is added or removed.

Provide ample training time. We tend to not give enough thought to the training process and how long it can take for someone to learn the ropes. Create a plan for training and set regular check-ins to assess ongoing learning. Provide clear expectations for performance and then share regular feedback to help the person grow and improve — rather than just critique what she isn’t doing well. Set a regular schedule to go over questions, review work and provide examples. Communicate the why, what and how for work products, including both the bigger picture and finer details. The more connected we are to why something is important or done a certain way, the more effective we become at execution.

Emphasize a team culture of trust. As a group, talk about what trust means to each person on the team. Overall, trust is built when everyone is able to remain consistent and reliable, hold themselves accountable, own their mistakes, operate transparently, keep promises and communicate. Discuss how these exist within your team and whether there are areas for improvement.

Now that you’ve successfully onboarded your new member, here’s how the team can continue to operate effectively.

Set team goals. These should include specific actions needed to reach the goals, who is responsible for completion and how you will measure success. Establishing tangible goals provides everyone on the team with a clear vision and sense of purpose. Accomplishing meaningful work together creates camaraderie and enables everyone to share in celebrating successes.

Over-communicate. That goes for goals, expectations, performance metrics and deadlines. Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t over-communicate?” Well, it’s true. What you can do is under-communicate. We think that if we say something once it will be heard, remembered and understood. Communication, unfortunately, doesn’t work that way. We need to hear things several times before they sink in. So your safest bet is to communicate regularly, and create a structure that provides tracking mechanisms for goals and metrics that everyone can access and actively provide updates on. Solid communication is the pinnacle of successful team operations.  

Onboarding a new team member takes time, patience and intention. Follow the steps above, and the new team member will likely add to a productive, high-performing team filled with engaged members who work well together.

Want to know more? Read Comstock’s leadership column every other month.