Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

How to onboard a new team member effectively

We all know the feeling of starting a new job and feeling like we are wading in water. Trying to get to grips with new processes, people and usually jumping into a new project. While a swag bag and a cool office can be amazing, having some certainty in your first week can be the difference to feel like you are sinking or swimming.

Recently a junior designer joined our agency. With everyone still working from home, I wanted to make the transition into our team as smooth as virtually possible (excuse the pun!). I created a short info pack, summarising the key information he would need in his first week.

Who are we and how we work

A new employee will hopefully know the organisation they are starting to work for. However, a simple summary of the values, design process practiced and any other key information about the organisation can help give context to their role and what they are going to be doing.

Schedule for the first week

This seems a bit of overkill, however, having a rough schedule for what will be happening each day for the first week and including a point of contact for each can make a new joiner feel more comfortable and confident on where they are meant to be and when. I can remember that awkward feeling when everyone gets up from their seat and walks into a meeting room. Should you join them? Should you wait until they ask? Now with working from home, this can be even harder without any physical cues.

Example of a daily schedule

Project overview

It is common that a new member joins your team and has to immediately dive into the middle of a live project. Before inundating them with links to Dropbox folders, create a summary of who the client is and what the team are working on. This will help your new team member gain a quick snapshot of what they will be working on. It can also help you sense check the team’s approach. New team members fresh eyes can be invaluable to a project.

Project resources

Are there key documents or artefacts that would help your new team member get up to speed? As mentioned before, do not inundate them with a Dropbox folder brimming with information. Prioritise the information.

Skill resources

Depending on the experience level of the new designer, highlight the key skills they will need for the project. For example, the junior designer who joined our team was going to be taking part in the user interviews. I included links to a previous interview that had been conducted, along with the user research plan the team was using. This was used to get a sense of the style of interview and what we were hoping to achieve from them.

Skills & technology used

What are the main tasks they will be doing in those first few days? Creating a list of the key design skills will help them prepare or refresh any skills they feel they need. This can be done for the different digital platforms used. During the pandemic, the number of different programmes in the workplace has skyrocketed. Creating a list of the key tools (with links) is a great repository for a new team member and will reduce the discomfort of asking how to get to different tools multiple times.

Their goals

It is important to ensure a new team member feels like they are important and are joining an inclusive team. The last section of the information pack included a section focused on what they were looking for from the organisation. Some of the questions I asked were:

  • What areas of work are you most comfortable in?
  • This can help decide what part of the project they should begin on.
  • What skills are you looking to improve?
  • Aiming to promote personal progression
  • What would you like feedback on?

You can review these with the designer at the start of the week and then when the week is done you can discuss how the week went and any areas of improvement.

The final area that I believe can help when onboarding a new team member is the internal checklist for the team lead. This can include:

  • Introduction to the client
  • Creation of email
  • Access to all digital tools
  • Forwarding all future meetings

These are only small gestures, but each makes a massive difference to the experience of joining a new team. Creating a welcoming and secure environment can help a new joiner feel at ease and excited to contribute to a new organisation.

I am an Experience Designer that enjoys diving into new problems to create human centred experiences