First Days

So your new team member has joined and we need to get them settled in super fast! It doesn’t matter how small or informal your team is, it is important and more effective in the long run to have a guided approach to bringing new members into your fold.

You may currently have a relaxed and informal approach to on-boarding new people and you think, for various reasons, that a more organic induction process works for you. This can however place you at risk of seeming disorganised, slightly complacent or unprofessional. It also often means that the new member ends up having to do the hard work of writing up their own induction programme and notes as they go along because you didn’t bother!

It doesn’t have to be formal, highly documented or rigidly structured to be a great on-boarding experience that shows you are professional and focused on setting up your people in a supportive way. So what do we do? Here’s a checklist that will have you set for the first few days –  legally, logistically, technically, emotionally and in terms of work culture and team.

LegallyCover the basics on the first day.

  1. How are you going to pay Newbie? Score some brownie points and also do your legal duty by sorting out their bank and payment details on day one.
  2. What will you do if they fall sick? Get that personnel form, contact details and next of kin filled in immediately so you know if they need their asthma pump, a back rub or their mother if they suddenly slump in their chair.
  3. Is the contract in place and signed? This should have been done before but if not then make sure you get this done. There are many simple free forms online that provide guidance around this.
  4. Do they know the details of the probationary period? No matter how much you think this new person is ‘the one’, make sure you clearly discuss a probationary period and that it is stated somewhere in writing, if not in their contract.

Logistically Tell them how and where work is done.

  1. Where do they work – home, office, client-site or all? We want to ensure that they have information on the critical things they need to know about their physical and virtual work space.
  2. How do you want them to communicate with and be available to the team? Clearly tell them what your expectations are when it comes to keeping in touch with the team if working virtually or when you expect to see them in the office at the start and end of the day.
  3. How and when should they tell you where they are? Be clear about explaining what you want your new recruit to do if they are not available and what ‘not available’ means (holiday, sick, client-site, head-down etc.).

Technologically – Set them up to hit the ground running.

  1. What are the different platforms they need to access from day one? No access to  technology tools, platforms, accounts and subscriptions is crippling in this day and age so get this all ready to go and in their mailbox for when they arrive.
  2. What other technologies should they be aware they may need at some point soon? By separating the supplementary technologies from the crucial ones, Newbie is able to focus more easily on first things first but be sure to let them know that others are available when needed.
  3. Who should they talk to in their first few days about access and use of technology? Be clear about who in the team they can talk to and ask questions about when it comes to the different technology pieces – whether access or knowledge development.

Emotionally – Ensure they feel the love.

  1. What should you cover in your first conversation? Welcome them, make them feel appreciated, show an interest in their personal interests and an intention to support and facilitate their success.
  2. How can you help your new person grow? People choose new jobs and employers because of what they will have the opportunity to do, so ask your new team member what their passions are and how you can help.
  3. Do they know what success looks like in their role? Share with them what you expect them to spend their time doing in the first few weeks and what they should have done by the end of the first, second and third month so they know how to perform and impress you.

Work and Team – Make them a true member of the team.

  1. What’s the plan for introducing them to the team?  Whether working virtually or physically, make sure you take a moment to send the team an email or set up a meeting/call and do the introduction rounds.
  2. How can they find out who does what in the team? It is is overwhelming trying to remember so much information and they won’t want to keep asking ‘who is that person again’ – so create a basic diagram or list of who people are and what they do.
  3. Who can they talk to about small and big things? It is not old-fashioned to set up a buddy system and it can be a hugely effective way of getting your new person up to speed. Find a person in the team that will be willing to be their new best friend.

It is important to remember that your new person wants to make an impression and also wants to feel they have made the right decision. Its win-win on all sides if these things can be achieved.

Quickly on-boarding new staff

Bringing new members into your business and team can be a challenge for many reasons. Will they settle in? What will they need? How will they get on with everyone? Will they ‘get’ us? How will they work? What will they want?

Whether you don’t have enough time, or you don’t know what to focus on and how to do it, here are some suggestions for those first few critical weeks.

Start by describing current work not company history – this is not a new client so they don’t need your pitch. You probably covered off the background, history, philosophy etc. of your business, sufficiently enough during the interview process. You also have a website and online presence or profile which you have spent time carefully cultivating. So it’s fair to say Newbie doesn’t need any warm up. You’ve got them, it’s their first day. What will be invaluable to them and will get them asking the right questions from the start, is if you jump straight into telling them about current work in play, upcoming deliverables and what client work is keeping the team up at night. The process of talking through this in detail will give Newbie an important deep dive into the nub of what you are all doing on a daily basis and you will naturally have to provide some background context anyway.

Get other team members to settle Newbie in – you don’t have to do it all. Yes yes I know it’s your company, you built it from scratch, your team are sensitive or perhaps tyrants and no one knows your business better than you do. You have to start getting used to relinquishing your status as ‘all powerful and all knowing’ and share the responsibility of settling new people in with those who probably know quite a lot of what you know and a lot more of what you don’t hear. Make a list of the things you want Newbie to pick up in the first week or so and ask people in your team to cover them off. Add a couple of pointers (that’s 2!!) for some guidance but no more than that. The whole experience will serve as a refresher for everyone, a chance for Newbie to integrate, less pressure on you and an effective way to get some informal team building going on.

Give Newbie a project immediately – it doesn’t matter that it’s their first day or they don’t know where the coffee machine is. The best way to get people to learn so they don’t forget is to get them working immediately. It means they will pick up knowledge and understanding in a holistic way. A piece of work will require navigating your technology, talking to people to ask for help, understanding how your systems work, testing their assumptions, getting to grips with your processes, sensing values and work-place culture, getting things wrong and right and importantly, producing something. It doesn’t have to be a large or risky piece of work but it shouldn’t be pointless either. Make sure your team are on-board with your plan so they can be ready to help.

Put them in charge of their own induction schedule – let them tell you what they need to know next and what they’ve already covered. Everyone learns differently and by giving Newbie a say in how they get to grips with the business and their role, they can focus on getting answers to the most pressing things in their mind rather than having to follow a prescribed schedule that may or may not work for them. Newbie is more likely to ‘get it’ quickly. You create the list and leave some room for them to add any items they think of. That will ensure you cover the topics that are non-negotiable but also leave room for them to design their experience. Ask them to select their top three interests from the list, cover those topics and then ask them to list the next three. That will increase the likelihood of them choosing topics in their preferred order, as they change, rather than the order they think they need or worse – they think you want them to choose.

Make sure you cover the legal bits – just because you are a small business and might be lacking structure and formality (purposefully or not), it doesn’t mean you should be casual about some important aspects of on-boarding and inducting a new employee. Contracts of employment, benefits, personal and emergency contact information, policies on discrimination, health and safety and where Newbie can go to get confidential personnel advice are all very important for you to cover in as official a way as possible. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a fancy-pants human resource management system – print off these documents, stick them in a folder and present them to Newbie on day one. It will ensure they understand that these is a professional outfit, give them confidence in the business and will be important in making sure you have thought of these things yourself.

Ultimately, you want your new team member walking away from work at the end of their day thinking, ‘I’m exhausted but wow!’.

For a quick free chat on any of the above and your business needs – drop an email to