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Listener Question: Matt Gale Asks About Onboarding New Team Memebers

Published 3/30/2016

In today's episode, I talk about bringing new team members up to speed (this is a question from listener Matt Gale).

Mentioned or relevant to today's episode:

Today's episode is sponsored by Hired.com! If you are looking for a job as a developer or a designer and don't know where to start, head over to Hired now! If you get a job through this special link, you'll receive a $2,000 bonus - that's twice the normal bonus provided by Hired. Thanks again to Hired for sponsoring the show!

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I'm going to be talking about bringing new team members up to speed during the onboarding process. Today's episode is sponsored by Hired. On Hired software engineers, project managers, data scientists and designers can get five or more interview requests in a given week. We'll talk more about what Hired has to offer to you, even if you already have a job, even if you aren't looking for a job, Hired has something to offer to you. We'll talk about it later on in today's episode. But first, I want to jump straight into this content. You know, we hear the term onboarding all the time in application development, specifically with reference to customer or user onboarding. There's even an entire website dedicated to the subject user onboard.com and it's dedicated to this onboarding process that has been developed by different services for users. But a receipt to request from Matt Gale in the specs lack community regarding this specific process, but with relation to employee onboarding. So not customers, but employees. Matt's question was simply, what is the best way to bring new members up to speed and onboard them with a company? And then he provided a little more context. He said, I'm a senior web developer whose team is expanding. I started off as a sole member, but as new starters joined the company, I've become the team lead. I've now got two other developers working with me with another developer starting next week. So it would be nice to hear how you go about introducing the many projects, tools and code styles to new team members without overloading them. So Matt, it sounds like you work in a company that is primarily doing agency style work. And for those of you who aren't familiar with the term agency style work, most technology firms or startups are either primarily product focused or their agencies. Product focused companies typically have a single project with many areas of that particular project. But in agency work, there are usually many external businesses that have come to the agency for consultation. There are a lot of differences between the two styles of work. We'll probably talk about it in a different episode. But today's discussion can really apply to both types of companies. So Matt, your question, how best to onboard new team members? It really has a lot of variables at play. For example, you have the existing team and structure and its history and all the tools and processes that they use. And you have the new team member and their previous work history, their experience, the tools they're used to using. And now you have a brand new environment and a relatively uncertain future for that new team member. Now before we jump into how to do this onboarding process, let's back up a little bit. If you have performed a well structured hiring process, where your team members have been introduced to the new potential hire and you were able to test out how that person would work on the team, then the initial shock of change will be lessened very much so. So a kind of bonus tip here before we get into the few key things that I want you to take away from this episode is to be very intentional about the hiring process. Of course, we've done a few episodes regarding the hiring process. And it's very important that you don't take that part lightly. Now assuming that the hiring process was all handled very well, your team is prepped and ready for the new hire to join and the new hire is comfortable, energized about starting. There's a few more things to remember to make sure everything goes smoothly. I'm going to share four of those things, Matt. And I think these will be tremendously helpful in the employee onboarding process right after a quick sponsor break. And we'll talk about those four things. Today's episode is sponsored by Hired. On Hired software engineers, project managers, data scientists and designers can get five or more interview requests in a given week. And each offer has salary and equity at front. They have full time and contract opportunities. When you as the user, you can view the interview request and accept or reject that interview request before you ever talk to any company. So it avoids a lot of awkward conversations. Now Hired works with over 3,000 companies from startups to large public companies and the best part for you is that it's totally free. Now if privacy is a concern, when you're searching for a job on Hired, your profile can be hidden from your current employer and anyone else you want it to be hidden from. Now the best part for you is that if you get a job through Hired, not only is it free to use, but they'll give you a $1,000 thank you bonus. But if you use the special link in the show notes, which you can find at spec.fm, that bonus doubles to $2,000 when you accept a job. Now you may remember at the beginning of the show that I have something for people who already have a job hired as offering you something as well. If you know someone who is looking for a job, you can refer them to Hired and if they get a job through Hired, you will get a $1,337 bonus when they accept that job. So go and check it out Hired.com. Of course, the special link to double that bonus can be found in the show notes at spec.fm. Thanks again to Hired for sponsoring Developer Tea. So we've got a lot of ground to cover now with Matt's question. I want to get straight into the four key takeaways for today's episode. Specifically, what can you do to help onboarding new hires? Number one, key takeaway. Always start with the paperwork. Always start with the paperwork. This may seem not intuitive because you don't want to load down the new hire with a bunch of paperwork. But how is it a good idea to load someone down with all that on their first day at work? Well, the paperwork marks the sign up process. If you're used to using an app, you have a sign up process. You enter your email, you enter a password. This gives the new hire the important sense of official ownership in their job. And it's as simple as that. It marks the beginning of their job, the official start. Of course, it also takes care of all of that stuff. So it doesn't drag on throughout the first couple of weeks of their employment. They can focus on actually doing the work that you hired them to do. But you want to go ahead and get all that paperwork filled out up front. This idea of making things official has huge psychological implications about how that employee is going to feel. Imagine if you're getting married, the marriage certificate, how important that is to hold in your hands. That is the substantiation of that new agreement in the same way. When you have, for example, let's say a contract, maybe you have decided to create a contract for that new employee, give them that contract on the first day. They start their job. This solidifies the relationship. And it shows that you're serious as an employer. So number one, once again, always start with the paperwork. Number two, refine your onboarding process to a checklist that works like clockwork. Don't misunderstand this one. This doesn't mean create a system that goes on autopilot. That you don't have to pay attention. And you can just kind of run everyone through the same process. Everyone's job is different. But every hire at your company has a few things in common. And by creating a checklist process out of your onboarding, you're doing a few things for that hire and you're doing a few things for yourself. Number one, every hire will have a shared experience then that they can relate to with each other. This immediately creates a bond. However small, between that new hire and their teammates. For example, every developer who joins whiteboard's team, they have to go through the process of setting up PHP and DNS mask and PHP my admin and my sequel on their computer. And typically people who come to whiteboard, they have max. This has become a shared experience because every person has had the experience of struggling through that process. It's not a huge barrier to entry, but it's big enough for very young Developer That it's a little bit frustrating. Everybody remembers that experience. So this has become a shared experience. Every person on the team has struggled at some point or another to effectively get the experience. And they're to effectively solve that problem. Now by creating a checklist, you're also ensuring that you as the employer don't forget any critical pieces along the way. Being prepared when the employee walks in the door will once again reiterate the official nature of their employment and will also unify the onboarding process so that nothing falls through the cracks. So in the same way that you have a launch checklist or at least you should have a launch checklist, something that you do every single time that you launch a site or you launch a feature or you launch something into the wild. You should have a checklist for the hiring process, the onboarding process. So refine your onboarding process to a checklist that works like clockwork. Number three, involve multiple team members. Have multiple people responsible for different parts of the onboarding process with one person responsible for facilitating and guiding the new hire through that process. This is critical. Having more than one person be involved in the onboarding process is critical for many reasons. It allows the new hire to get acquainted with many people early on. It ensures that multiple perspectives and points of reference are used as the person moves into their position. It avoids a feeling of monotony and it allows individuals who have deep appreciation for their own areas of expertise to operate in those areas during the onboarding. So to boil all that down, basically what we're saying is it keeps it from being boring and it also is a shortcut to introducing that person to the other people on the team. Rather than them just seeing their faces when they walk in in the morning, they actually have to talk to that person. There's actually some interaction that occurs. It also allows the different people on your team who have different areas of expertise to operate and show their expertise in that area. For example, you would probably want somebody on the client relationship side of the business to introduce the different projects to the developer. But you likely want a developer to explain the various tools, the development team uses. So having a guide for the new hire allows the hire to have a point person to ask questions and that person acts as the advocate for the new hire in the first few days of their employment. But you can't just have one person you need to have the whole team actually performing that onboarding process or key members of each different department in the team perform that onboarding process. So let's do a quick review. Number one, always start with the paperwork. Number two, refine your onboarding process to a checklist that works like clockwork. Number three, involve multiple team members in the onboarding process. And number four, and this one's probably the most unexpected. Number four is celebrate. Celebrate that new hire coming onto your team. It's important to celebrate a new team member because typically with a new job, there's a huge rush of emotion and excitement that is far too often only recognized by the hire and not recognized by the employer. Now, this is definitely my personal opinion weighing in here rather than best practice. But I believe that a good employer celebrates when individuals on their team win. Let me say that again, a good employer celebrates when individuals on their team win and getting a brand new job at an awesome new company that certainly cause for celebration. So don't just make the employee feel like they have to fall in line with everyone else and don't allow the day to feel like just another day. Celebrate the new hire. Take them out to lunch. Make a big deal out of the company's excitement that they are joining the team. Talk about it on Slack. Tweet about it. Celebration is an under recognized, under appreciated, an incredibly powerful part of any culture. And a new hire is something to celebrate. Matt, I hope that you've enjoyed the answer to your question here. And I hope that it is helpful as you bring on new team members. I hope that your company explodes with growth if that's what you want. Of course, and I hope that you learn to celebrate that growth with those new team members. Thank you so much for asking the question, Matt. And I encourage anyone else who is interested in asking a question, join the Slack community by going to spec.fm slash Slack. And you can join for free. It will always be free for listeners of Developer Tea and any other show on spec. So thank you again to Matt for asking that question. Thank you to hired for sponsoring today's episode. Our sponsors make Developer Teapossible. If you're looking for a job and your designer, a developer, a project manager, data scientist, there are jobs available for you on hired. You can go and join for free. And of course, everything remains private, on hired. And you get a bonus of $2,000 if you use a special link in the show notes at spec.fm. Thank you again to hired for sponsoring Developer Tea. And thank you for listening to Developer Tea. Until next time, enjoy your tea.