Deliberate On-Boarding for Early Success

On-boarding programmes, also known as induction programmes, are the set of activities designed to get a new hire up and running in the organisation as soon as possible. I discussed a few types of induction programmes last week. I will share my own experiences with on-boarding below, including the elements that go into making an effective plan.

My first job was with an American multi-national manufacturer. They used a buddy system. All new hires are paired with a buddy on the team who is responsible for showing the new person the “ropes”. This includes where the break room is, how to use the intranet to apply for annual leave, and other such small matters. I was a buddy once and no formal agenda was provided, so it was a case of sharing first-hand knowledge. It was deliberate on-boarding, but not necessarily well-planned.

My next job had an on-boarding plan but I don’t think it achieved its goal of preparing me well. I can’t remember every detail but I recall spending a week just pairing with a senior developer. This pairing was more of watching him code and him explaining why he did certain things, rather than getting to code myself. It was quite tough for the first couple of months until I got a better grasp of the codebase.

A new software development manager came in halfway through my time at this company. He instituted a more formal on-boarding programme that I think ticked all the right boxes. Those boxes are:

  • Sessions with individual team members to give them some time with the new employee. This also helps spread the on-boarding responsibility around.
  • Spending several days, up to a week, with other teams. In this case, the new developer would spend time with the testing and customer support teams. This gives them exposure to how other parts of the business operate.
  • Planned sessions with product owners or business analysts to get a comprehensive tour of the software applications. This helps them understand the product they will be working on from the user’s perspective.
  • Regular one-on-ones with the manager to ensure the on-boarding plan is working for them.
  • Time and space to do their own reading of company resources.

A plan like the one below is drawn up for each new starter:

When What Who
28 Nov    
9am Company premises tour Frank
11am Software architecture and layout Beth
  Rest of the day: Self-explore the knowledge base  
29 Nov    
Morning Source control practices Jerome
10am Intro to company applications Mike
2pm Software release management practices Sun
  Rest of the day: Self-explore the knowledge base  
  (a few more days’ plans)  
5 Dec – 6 Dec Spend a few hours each day with Customer Support Kamil
  First simple task is assigned  
7 Dec – 9 Dec Work with the testing team Gretchen
  One-on-one to review the first 2 weeks  

The main advantage of the on-boarding plan is how deliberate everything is. The expectations are set up-front for both the incoming team member and the wider company that they each have a part to play. This is highly crucial because the effectiveness of a team stems from how well they work together. A deliberate on-boarding plan such as the one above maximises the contact surface for the new team member. I truly believe this helps generate early wins for everyone.

I’ve been thinking about induction programmes because I have recently started a new job that did not have the clearest of plans. Consequently, I had to take matters into my own hand and approach team members and other departments directly. I sometimes felt like I was being intrusive because other people did not have an obligation to brief me and they may be caught unawares.

It is to my new co-workers’ credit that they were very welcoming and obliging to my requests. It has been almost 4 weeks since I started and I feel quite prepared and integrated into the team. But that is also thanks to my previous exposure to effective on-boarding programmes and my Strategic Management course. I realised that the best way to assimilate is to talk to people and leverage their strengths.

However, that may not be the case for other new starters, especially if they have just graduated or come from a very different organisation. Hence, having a deliberate on-boarding plan can accelerate their transition from resource consumer to value creator. What is YOUR company doing now to on-board new hires? How can that be improved?

Photo credit: Spongehoe via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

780 Words

2016-11-26 22:03 +0000