New Hire Onboarding

Joining a new team and starting a new job can come with a lot of emotions. There’s excitement, “Yes! New things to learn, people to meet, and projects to work on!” But also, “Yikes! There’s so much to take in!”

Our goal was to emphasize the excitement of joining our team. We wanted new teammates to confidently feel, “Yeah, I made the right choice joining this team.” At the same time, we wanted to be pragmatic that our new teammates had everything they needed to successfully start their careers here.

I was part of a small onboarding committee who was asked to create the onboarding process. We brainstormed what information people needed and what we wanted the experience to be like. The outcomes of our the onboarding process included:

  • New hire 90-day checklist
  • Checklist to access tools, accounts, channels
  • Hiring manager and program manager checklists
  • First-day experience
  • Buddy Guide
  • Team Guide
  • Intro Email

I’ll cover some of the highlights from this effort and how some things have evolved, too.

Onboarding Experience Highlights

Much of the onboarding process is about the experiences people have – not just the new teammates, but also the people supporting their onboarding effort. We wanted everyone to have a good experience and not feel like this was a heavy lift.

Checklists

We had checklists for everything! While some were thorough, they made everything easy. No one had to think twice about what they had to do or focus on. For the new hires, we tried to make it fun (e.g., one item was to enjoy all their new desk swag). We broke tasks up by time period – first day, first week, first month, first 90-days.

Example checklist for new hire onboarding
Part of the hiring manager’s checklist

Design Team Buddy

We paired every new teammate with a buddy to show them the day-to-day. Buddies were also a great way to ask those awkward questions new hires might not want to ask their manager. We created a simple guide for buddies so they could be an awesome buddy! The buddy role was also a great leadership opportunity for our teammates.

First-Day Experience

We wanted our new teammates to be just as excited to be on our team as we were to have them. After their orientation, they’d arrive to their new desk filled with awesome team swag and a “Hello, I’m new” sign on their monitor. After a team lunch, their buddy would hang out with them, give them a tour, and make sure they were situated.

Not everyone was a fan of the “Hello, I’m new” sign; and they were always excited to remove it when they were no longer the newest on the team. In some ways, it was a rite of passage for them.

New hire's desk decorated for their first day
New hire’s desk ready for their first day!

Results

It’s been about two years since we first created our onboarding program – since then we’ve onboarding over 15 teammates. We received lots of great feedback from our new hires including several people saying this was their best onboarding experience they’ve had! While this was primarily for the Raleigh and Ft. Lauderdale based teams, we quickly scaled the onboarding program, checklists, and resources to the entire Product Design org!

Updates and Evolution

Since it’s first iteration, we’ve updated the program and evolved as the org has changed. Here are a few hightlights:

  • Maintenance – it goes without saying, but the maintenance is so much easier now! All materials are in our confluence or files in the cloud, so we can easily tweak materials without much effort.
  • Distribute teammates and going remote – We’ve hired people on our team that work out of a different office and during COVID. In lieu of the in-person events, we shifted a bit. We mail a welcome package of swag with a card or create a virtual card on Miro.
  • Team guide – While intended for new hires, our team guide also doubled as a handbook for all teammates to reference. It’s always great when we can repurpose information and get more out of it than its original intent!
  • Succession plan – We’ve been able to take these checklists and easily create a succession plan for when we have employees leave our team. This is great for security purposes, managing licenses, accounts, etc.
  • First-day letter – I started this project as an IC. Now that I’m a manager, if I were to change something, my welcome email will go beyond just welcoming them to the team. Rather, it’d welcome them to the next part of their career here and include aspirations of how to grow their career, make a difference, and how to really enjoy their time here.