Last week we talked about interviewing for fit so you can reduce the risk of bringing in the ‘perfect talent’ and three months later it not working out. But what if you did interview for fit and you thought the person was close enough or flexible enough to work in your team culture and things are still going south? Maybe the person wasn’t brought into the team from the beginning. This process is often called onboarding and it is very regularly a forgotten component in the team process.
The purpose of onboarding is to help a new team member become acclimated to the team culture and become productive as quickly as possible. On most teams it looks something like this:
“This is the team. Everybody, introduce yourselves.” Fifteen or more people rattle off their names. “Great, now that you’ve met everyone let’s get you to orientation.” I bet right now you are laughing to yourself because you know it’s true. That is pretty much exactly what happens. And then we wonder why new members take so long to figure things out.
In order to onboard someone successfully you need to understand the important aspects of your culture. You should ask yourself and your team the same questions we asked the interviewee last week (go here for a refresher). In addition, what are the nuances about the environment? Maybe the five on the locker room code pad sticks. Maybe there is an unwritten rule that the first person in makes coffee and the last person out rinses out the pot, regardless of whether or not they drink coffee. Figure out what the norms are for your team and your organization. It won’t be as easy as it sounds. I bet there are lots of them nobody even thinks about. They just are. If your team is like most the only way to learn them is by breaking them and being chided by the rest of the team. Not a very welcoming way to learn.
In addition to sharing the unspoken cultural norms there are a few standard questions that everyone on the team is going to want answered.
1. As the new person, what strengths do I have that this team can use right away? How do I standout in a positive way?
2. Who on the team has strengths that offset places where I am not as strong? How do I find them and how open are they to helping me learn?
3. Who on the team is going to help me fix a mistake and who is going to kick me while I’m down?
Once you have a good handle on your team culture and how the new piece fits into the existing puzzle you are ready to walk someone through the integration process. Listen if they have questions or concerns. And at the end, provide them with someone on the team they can go to if something comes up they don’t understand. It is always more comfortable to know there is someone in your corner who will help you when you feel lost.
Do you have a story of being welcomed by being tossed right into the fire? How long did you walk around feeling like the newbie who didn’t know what was going on? We would love to hear your stories!
Check back next week when we talk about how to avoid wasting time on rework.
If you are interested in know how to learn if someone is going to fit with your team during the interview process, check out last week’s post here.