Demystifying onboarding

Introduction to Onboarding Importance

I think we all know how important onboarding is. There’s been enough discussion about it over the last few years that it seems to be relatively top of mind for most businesses.

Beyond Basic Onboarding

I have a couple of schools of thought about this.

  1. Comprehensive Onboarding Approach

    • Onboarding needs to be about more than the first couple of weeks, swag, photos of swag, and social media. In an ideal world, it sets expectations around what work they will do, how they are expected to do it, where they go to find answers when they need them, what they do when they hit a roadblock, and so on. Oftentimes, this isn’t documented; it’s kind of learned by osmosis, and institutional knowledge is notoriously hard to disseminate effectively.

    • Try developing a buddy system, where you assign a buddy who helps with this kind of thing. They need to be the right person and want to do it of course but there will be people who’ll enjoy doing it. This HBR article describes it really well. Every New Employee Needs an Onboarding “Buddy”

    • Hiring managers should ideally be checking in at 30, 60, 120 days in a formal capacity. New hires should also be aware of the expectations in terms of knowledge transfer for each of those stages.

Detailed 30-Day Onboarding Plan

  • First 30 Days Focus: Clarify general and role-related expectations, establish regular check-in discussions with your manager, and be prepared to discuss progress.

  • Understanding Company Culture: Identify aspects facilitating or challenging your work, consider ways to improve collaboration, and reflect on the manifestation of company values in tasks.

  • Comprehending Your Role: Consult role descriptions, competencies, and growth profiles, discuss with manager and team to grasp core skills, role scope, and team contributions to company goals.

  • Access to Tools and Knowledge: Verify access to required tools and knowledge, identify tools for better understanding and seek support for challenges.

  • Reflection on Challenges: Reflect on initial challenges in the first 30 days and discuss challenges with manager during check-ins, framing them as opportunities for support.

  • Understanding Team Goals: Participate in defining team stories and their alignment with the team’s roadmap.

  • Tech Stack Familiarisation: Utilise available guides and formulate a study plan, aiming for an overview, not proficiency, at this stage.

  • Proactive Approach to Check-ins: Consistently identify challenges and seek support, emphasise discussions as opportunities for growth and collaboration.

Onboarding Across Three Key Contexts

  1. Three Contexts of Onboarding

    • Team Level: How work gets prioritised, workflows, processes, unwritten rules, feature roadmap, backlog, cadence of rituals, interaction with other teams, communication preferences, making connections, and so on.

    • Business Level: Main stakeholders for the team, cross-functional relationships, company history for content, etc.

    • Values/Culture Level: Discussion on values, examples, connections, and bringing examples to check-in sessions.

Enhancing Your Onboarding Process

So maybe think about how your current onboarding process covers these three components. Having the 30/60/120 plans templated, reviewed, and validated by department heads is probably a good idea to ensure some overall consistency in approach but with the detail and nuance that each team probably requires.

Conclusion and Offer for Assistance

Shout out if you’d like a sense check on what you’re currently doing.

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