Over the last couple of weeks we have been discussing how to find the right person for your team and how to determine they are the right person. The best interview skills in the world will only get you so far. The best candidate in the world can still fail, or at least struggle and be a wasted resource for longer than they should, if they aren’t brought into the team in an effective manner. In light of that, I would like to revisit a post I wrote on the subject well over a year ago.
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. Since we don’t have a desk or access to our network for you, go to orientation (where you learn exactly nothing).” I bet right now you are laughing 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 and become productive.
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 I suggested you ask the interviewee (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. There are always 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 (new or not) wants answered:
1. 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, when 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.
It is a simple fact that the faster you can bring someone up to speed the better it is for the team. Don’t waste your new resource by making them figure it out for themselves.
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!
Dr. Robyn Odegaard is the CEO/Owner of the speaking/consulting company Champion Performance Development, the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the book ‘Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams’. She specializes in showing individuals and teams how to be powerful and achieve the most from their potential. You can invite her to give one of her funny, influential, insightful presentations and inquire about her consulting services at www.ChampPerformance.com and order her book from www.StopTheDramaNow.com