how to onboard your new folks

One of the most critical thing you can do as a manager is introducing a new team member. This sets the tone for your folks in terms of knowing what to expect from the position, you as a manager, and the company itself.

Hopefully, your company has an official onboarding already set up. If not, 😬 - go get that set up now!

As their manager, it’s your responsibility to guide your new human being through their onboarding, and make sure that any questions or speed bumps are addressed. You also need to guide them into the team, and start building a relationship with them. All within about 9 weeks.

We've all had bad onboarding experiences. At a previous role, I came into a role where the management duties were shared between two managers: one technical, and another non-technical. The role wasn’t well defined, there was no corporate onboarding, and - oh hey - both managers were on vacation for the first two weeks I was there. I showed up for work and literally had no idea what to do for the first few days. Thankfully, I'm smart and just started looking for things to do. But it didn't give me great first impressions of the place I was working.

So, what does a good onboarding experience look like? Again, let's assume that there's a corporate onboarding program that takes your new hire through learning about the company and, in general, the role they're in. What can you do as their manager to onboard them into your team?

Start off with a user manual. Here's mine, which is based off of Michael Lopp's How to Rands. The user manual is critical; it gives your new human a concise guide to how you work, what you expect from them, and – critically – what they can expect from you. Give this to them ahead of their start date if you can; otherwise, make it part of the welcome. Here's an example of how I've used it:

Hey Human! 👋🏻 Welcome to the team!

I wanted to give you a quick overview of what to expect for the next few weeks as you come onboard.

[Here's a couple of paragraphs about Developer Support onboarding at hypergrowth, inc, along with a timeline and some links to more detailed docs. It also details their onboarding mentor, and an entreaty to make use of their time to learn as much as they can]

The last thing I'll send your way is a How to Darren doc. It's an overview of how I work, my guiding principles, etc, and has a section on what our average week together looks like.

Once again, welcome!

My hope is that this sets a good tone for the person joining the team, and that it helps to break the getting-to-know-you ice that's always so awkward when starting a new role. It's also designed to help set expectations for what those first few weeks look like, so that they can pace themselves and really take the time to learn about their new role.

My first 1:1 with a new human is also critical. Generally, 1:1s are completely driven by the folks who report to me. This is their time to use as they see fit. But, for the first, one, I let them know that I'd like to use it to ask some "managery" questions. What I want to do during this time is get some better insight into how their mind works, what their working style is like, and what they want/need from me as their manager. I recognize that one management style doesn't fit everyone that you might have the privilege to manage. You often have to adapt to a style that helps serve and motivate them best.

So I ask questions meant to dive into that. Some are pretty obvious, like "So, what kind of a manager do you like to have? What kind of a manager do you actually need?" and "How do you like to receive feedback?". Some are a little more subtle, like this gem from Lara Hogan: "What makes you grumpy?" I'm trying to get to know them a bit better, and hopefully avoid any triggers they might have.

Finally, make sure you check in with your new human, at least once a week (likely more). Arrange for the other folks on your team to let them shadow their work and encourage a lot of discussion amongst themselves. Usually, there's nothing you actually need to do to encourage it - a strong team will take that work on themselves!

This article is my 2nd oldest. It is 774 words long

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