Whether it be a new college grad, an intermediate experienced fellow, or a senior member, transitioning employees onto an existing project takes cooperation from current team members to ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Onboarding a new member to the team is something to take seriously. The onboarding process has the potential to have the following risks:
- Project may be delayed due to onboarding process
- New members may require an extensive amount of time from existing members in order to be brought up to speed after a project is launched
- New members may not have access to all the tools they could be using
- New members may not understand the requirements of the project, which complicates their ability to fully contribute to the team and project as a whole
What is Onboarding?
The onboarding process is similar whether you are conducting it for a company or project. However, there are some distinct differences. Onboarding a new employee to your company should be more than just on the job training, introducing them to important personnel, reviewing policies and procedures, or “social outings” a.k.a. happy hour. It is imperative that you establish a rapport and create a good first impression one that shows the new employee that you want them to be a part of this company and you want them to succeed in their role.
The goal of project onboarding is to ensure that every member on the team understands the business objectives and requirements, as well as knowing their personal roles and what is expected of them individually for the project to succeed.
Steps for project onboarding
1. Welcome Packet – No not the HR packet
First, work with the current team members to create a document with all necessary information about the project that the new member may find helpful. Think of things that were helpful to you when you were onboarded to a new project. What were the things that you wish you would have had on day one?
Some items may include:
- Project schedule
- A deliverable list
- Samples of work
This document helps new project members understand the projects goals, available resources, project dependencies, budget, timeline, and where the project is in accordance with the schedule.
2. Introductions – Make it memorable
This step can be fun depending on the approach you take. For example, if you can meet in-person, bowling is a great way to meet other members. If the meeting is remote think about hosting a virtual get to know lunch with a planned icebreaker. Try to identify ways to introduce the new team member in a unique way and provide a space for the new employee to learn what their role is within the team. Introductions are important because new project members will benefit from an informal opportunity to officially meet the entire team, both internal and external members. As the project lead, taking the time to ensure that this step happens is crucial. It is a great way for the new member to understand what the project resources are, and it also creates a better understanding of the key roles and responsibilities each person holds and the various teams they will be working with.
3. Tool Access
The most frustrating thing for any person that joins a new project is not having the application(s) or tool(s) access that is required for them to effectively fulfill their role. During onboarding, take the time to ensure all of this is set up. Remember that tools they need may not be limited to a single application or tool.
Consider the following:
- Communications tools
- Collaboration tools
- Email Access
- VPN setup
4. Project Mentor
Onboarding a member to an existing project will always have some challenges. Learning and understanding how to manage these challenges comes from having a go-to person or project buddy. During the first several weeks plan to stay in touch with the new member and let them know how they can reach out to you. Schedule set check-in times with the new employee and provide space for the member to ask questions, request clarification, or even raise concerns. Whether the team is small or large it is helpful to have a project buddy from the existing team that they will be working closely with for their first several months on the job or longer. This system holds the entire team accountable, as it is a great way to ensure everyone on the team is responsible for supporting one another.
Lastly, if you want the new project member to be successful it starts with you setting them up for success. If they fail, we all fail. If they succeed, we all succeed – thus leading to a successful project.