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Pro Tips for Onboarding a New Teammate

Pro Tips for Onboarding a New Teammate


Last month’s blog post, Pro Tips for Joining a New Team, was from the perspective of the reader joining a team. But what if you’re a member of a team that is onboarding a new teammate? Look no further, we’ve got you covered!

Before the New Teammate Arrives

Once you know you have a new teammate on the way, it’s time to start making a plan. Get the team together and have a discussion about what a successful transition looks like. Ask yourselves how you will set up your new teammate for success. Can you prepare their workspace, making sure they have all the essentials? Can you provide a list of software they will need?

Have a team retrospective. It’s important to reflect on the dynamics of the team so everyone understands what’s working well, what teammates would like to see change, and what gaps may exist (and how those gaps get filled!). Hopefully, those things are a part of each and every retro, but if not, this is a great opportunity to discuss them.

Finally, this is a great time to review lessons learned from everyone’s collective experience with previous onboarding. What did you like or dislike about your personal onboarding experience? What did you like or dislike the last time you onboarded a teammate?

First Day

There are 3 big time periods in a new team member’s timeline: The first day, the first week, and the first month. Each of which have action items that your team should march towards.

The first day is likely to be a bit overwhelming. From getting the HR tour, to seeing many new faces, to hearing new jargon, the first day is one which moves fast and has much to take in. With this said, your team can help out by providing a mini “getting started” guide where your new teammate can come to find important information such as:

  • Where to find technical knowledge documents (company related)
  • What are all the types of communication (email, slack, etc)
    • What Slack channels to be part of
    • What RSS feeds to listen to
  • Location of scrum board
  • What time stand up is and where is it held
  • Software to install
    • IDEs
    • Languages / compilers
  • What repos to pull down
  • High-level project overview
    • What value does your team’s work deliver to the client?
    • How does your project fit into your client’s goals or strategic vision?
    • Team member names/roles
    • Client team member names/roles

First Week

After the first week, your teammate is hopefully feeling comfortable and starting to hit their stride. As the overwhelming feeling of joining a new team and project starts to subside, there’s more information you can share with your new teammate. This is a perfect opportunity to revisit your team charter, or to go through the activity if your team has never done one. Remember, even if your team is only adding one person, if you are now a team of 5, that means that one new person is 20% of your team make-up! The chartering activity not only allows the team to collectively determine how the team will deliver on its goals, but also provides an opportunity to discuss things such as:

  • Personal work styles
  • “Get to know me” topics, such as hobbies, sports, or kids
  • Pairing
  • Roles and responsibilities
    • Type of work done
    • Expectations around the quality of work
    • Ways in which you are expected to learn / pick up new things
    • Team Core hours

First Month

After the first month, it is time to start reflecting on your progress. This means checking what worked well and what needs improvement. It is important to make sure the new dynamics introduced are moving the team forward. And if not, how should the team correct these concerns? A team can use techniques such as retrospectives to help identify this information. (Need some retro ideas? Check out the Retrospective on Holiday blog post. Using whatever form of discussion you choose, be sure to cover topics such as:

  • Pairing dynamics
  • Meetings
  • Team expectations
  • Teammate expectations
  • Pressures (internal/external)
  • Onboarding experience

Be sure to capture this as lessons learned, and remember to reference it for the next time you onboard a new teammate. Continuous improvement is what we’re all about!

These are some suggestions based on our experiences, but it’s by no means an all-inclusive list. What has worked and/or not worked in your experience? We’d love to hear from you. Send us a comment on Facebook, or @ us on Twitter!