The process of onboarding new employees gets a lot of attention from companies. Welcome gifts, onboarding scavenger hunts or personal messages from the C-level executives all make for memorable experiences for the new hires. You can find plenty of valuable online resources for creating your company’s own employee onboarding policy. Make sure to check out this template from Trello or a guide from Workable.

There is, however, another onboarding process that’s extremely important to your business, yet it seems much less discussed. I’m talking about adding new people to a project team. Whether you’re dealing with new hires or existing employees, joining a new project requires special attention.

The task of onboarding new team members is usually the responsibility of project managers. There’s a lot at stake, starting with employee happiness. People who haven’t been properly welcomed to the group may feel left out and, eventually, leave the company. Project delivery can also be at risk: without proper onboarding, your new team members might simply be less efficient at work.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to quickly onboard new people to the project team. In this article we’ll discuss them one by one.

How do you onboard a new team member?

Before they enter the office (or the chatroom), you should already make some preparations.

The main element is that you need to be aware that someone is about to join your team (and who that person is). It’s relatively easy to do when you’re working at a startup or a smaller agency. The challenge is to keep track of scheduling decisions when your company is working on multiple projects at the same time. A resource calendar comes in handy when you want to stay on top of your team’s bookings:

Teamdeck’s resource calendar makes it easy to control who’s been assigned to your project. Group your calendar by projects to browse the bookings quickly. 

Once you’re aware that someone is joining your project team, make sure that existing team members are also informed about that. You want to avoid these awkward “you’re here to do what?” conversations. It might also be a good idea to let your client know that an additional person will be joining the team. After all, it’s in their business’ best interest as well.

When preparing to onboard new people to the project team, you should also think about their workstation. Whether you’re working in-office or remotely, make sure everyone has all necessary equipment and access to software. Not only will that make them feel more welcomed, it should also streamline the onboarding process.

Onboard new team members: necessary introductions

Your newest team member has to be familiar with the rest of the team, the client and any employees they’ll interact with regularly. At the same time, your team and the external stakeholders should be introduced to the new member of the group and their role in the project. In order to break the ice, you can organize a group lunch or play a game. Being a distributed team is not an excuse here. There are plenty of team-building activities for remote teams as well.

The introduction stage is also when you can present your team’s organizational culture and your usual workflow. If you’re working as an IT project manager, chances are you will be following one of the most popular methodologies. Even though your hire might be familiar with the basics of Scrum or Kanban, teams tend to add their individual flair to the process. This is why it’s so important that your newest team member gets to see all of the meetings and rituals in action. Shadowing other people and participating in the meetings from the get-go will be a good idea.

One more thing here: ensure that new hires know how the company works.

While explaining company policies and office tours are usually handled by the HR team, it’s in your best interest to double check that a given employee knows their way around your organization. Share some insider tips and make sure they’re comfortable at their workplace and better understand your culture and core values.

Project onboarding

When introducing new team members to the project, think about the usual things you would do during when the project starts. You have to gather all of the requirements, understand the scope of the project and details regarding its budget or schedule. The newest member of your team needs to be familiar with all of these details in order to understand the project fully.

Read more about project onboarding here. 

If you’re working with a person that’s just been employed at your company, you have to be especially clear about your expectations. The first project at a new company is very important, as it sets the tone for the future cooperation, but also helps you understand how a given person works.

Claire Lew, the CEO of Know Your Team says:

One recommendation is to design what the first month of the new hire will look like project-wise. What will they be responsible for, and what’s the ideal outcome? You want to have something to help the person get acquainted with the company, but also have the feeling of accomplishment at the same time.

In reality, the first project may as well be turn out to be a high-pressure, short-deadline assignment for a demanding client. In order to reduce the stress and avoid misunderstandings, set clear goals and regularly check in with your new hire. This way, if any challenges appear, you should be able to resolve them faster.

Another aspect of your team’s workflow that you have to cover during onboarding is all about the tools you use. Again, even if your new employee is familiar with a given software, make sure that they understand your team’s particular workflow. Many apps used by IT teams to deliver projects offer resources for new users. Slack shows people how to complete the most common tasks. Atlassian teaches people how to use their products in the context of an extensive Agile course. At Teamdeck, we’ve recently published a guide for new team members, you can check it out here. Curate the most relevant resource regarding the software your team uses and share them with new people joining the team.

Onboard new people to the project team – a checklist

  1. Get ready for a new person joining your team
    – prepare a workstation
    – inform your team and the client about a new employee
  2. Introduce the new person to the team
    – make sure they meet everyone from the team
    – present your organization’s culture and workflow
  3. Project onboarding
    – explain the project and everyone’s involvement in it
    – set clear expectations regarding the new employee’s work
    – agree on common goals
    – give access to all of the tools and explain how to use them

We hope that these tips will help you welcome new people to your projects smoothly and manage your team with more confidence. You might want to tailor them to your organization’s needs and create a formal onboarding program. Good luck!

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