How Do Scalable Companies Onboard Teams

Let me be honest. I’m surprised to see how many companies ignore the importance of new hires onboarding.

There’s a quick way for you to improve the onboarding process. In this article I will share what I found works best.

Think of this as the beginning of any other relationship. The first interactions have a big impact on the future collaboration.

Trust is essential – take time to build it

When a new team member joins your team they come into a totally unknown territory. It is normal for them to assess the risks they are taking by working with you. You may find that:

  • They are cautious about how they act and how they appear in front of others.
  • They share opinions that are most likely to be in alignment with those of the team
  • They adapt their reaction to what they believe is the acceptable
  • They withhold ideas and suggestions

This is not how a relation based on trust looks like.

Below I will describe a few simple actions to help you change this. They are easy to implement and you remote team will immediately benefit.

Provide clear and transparent explanations on the dynamics in the company

Share your company’s best practices on:

  • Interacting with others
  • Decision making
  • Management style
  • Reporting hierarcy
  • Team and individual responsibilities

Lack of clarity on communication dos and don’t can generate work related stress. More so in companies with strict hierarchy and decision making flow.

If your company is more flexible when it comes to team interaction, be transparent about it. It will make everyone’s life easier.

Over confirm your commitment to meet the new hire’s expectations

For example:

During the interview process you learned that a flexible schedule is really important for the new hire. You confirmed your company will offer that. Now it is time to over confirm it. This will eliminate new hire’s concerns.

Set clear expectations in terms of performance and deliveries.

To foster transparency, create expectation documents for all roles in the organization.

Expectation documents should list what falls under the responsibility of the teammate:

  • Specific business behavior for the role
  • Deliverables they need to produce
  • KPIs for the role

Here are some examples of what can be part of an expectation document for Account Managers:

  • Owns client calls agenda and updates it. Delivers agenda to all parties, at least 24 hours before each call.
  • Collects action items during client calls. Assigns them to relevant talent and other parties involved.
  • Replies to all client questions in less than 48 hours.

Expectation documents are living documents. They evolve continuously based on how the role, company or team changes. This is why it is best to create them in a format that makes it easy for the team to collaborate on. My suggestions:

  • Google Drive – easy to use and access by everyone
  • Confluence – ideal for technical teams looking to build their knowledge base
  • Notion – great for creating visually appealing documents

Here is how an effective onboarding process looks

Having worked with clients just like yourself I know what works. I put together a simple onboarding process. This is appropriate for any small and medium sized remote or hybrid team.

Onboarding should be one of the 20% most important processes in each company.

Think about the countless hours spent on interviews, hiring assignments, screening applications. This is a lot! Moreover, this puts a lot of pressure on smaller teams where each person is wears multiple hats.

Having this in mind, you want to create a comfortable and organized structure for new hire to step in. This is one where they do not feel lost or hopeless from day one of joining your team.

For small teams it is very important to prioritize efficiency and scalability. This means making good use of technology starting with onboarding.

The onboarding process can be setup to take the least amount of time from the team. At the same time, it will create pleasant experience for new team members.

7 steps of an onboarding process that fosters retention

1. Use a project management tool (any of Asana, Basecamp, Trello or similar does the job).

  • Create a series of template tasks.
  • Mention on each template task who should perform it. Could be either someone from your team or the new teammate.
  • Reuse these template tasks for each new onboarding.

2. Assign the new hire short 10-15 minutes calls with other team members. This is a good opportunity for the new team member to learn about responsibilities of others. Moreover inter-departmental collaboration will come up in these discussions.

3. Assign company culture deck review as one of the first tasks. Successful companies hire and fire based on company culture. You can read more about this in my article on building company culture.

4. Another priority task is learning about the tools, systems and general processes the company uses on a daily basis. Here you can include documentation on:

  • Project management tool
  • Email service
  • Video calls tool
  • Time tracker
  • Taking time off
  • Requesting approvals in various situations
  • Payroll

Knowing about all these processes creates a comfortable space and puts context around what’s coming next.

5. Set a time limits for onboarding tasks.

For example learning how to use company tools is a very broad assignment. At the same time narrowing down the scope may not be easy or clear.

Here is a quick way to solve this problem:

  • Allocate 3-4 hours for learning about the tool
  • Additional learning to be done later, on the job

6. Discuss expectations and goals during the first 2-4 weeks.

At a minimum make sure the new hire is clear on:

  • Quarterly goals and monthly milestones
  • KPIs and targets
  • Deliverables

7. Create a structure for regular and effective communication.

Even the best onboarding process can under deliver. Fail-proof yours with regular and effective communication.

Here is what works for most teams I helped:

  • Daily 1:1 communication during weeks 1-2
  • Twice weekly 1:1 calls until the end of month 1
  • Weekly 1:1 ongoing calls
  • 1:1 calls should be with the new hire’s supervisor or designated onboarding buddy

Help me design the onboarding process!

Ongoing support for the first months

When is a new team member fully onboarded and ready to handle projects from A to Z?

To be honest, this is a difficult question to answer and it depends on many aspects. Could be anywhere between 3 months to 6 months.

In my experience an onboarding process takes between 2-6 weeks to complete. In many companies team members are left to navigate on their own after this period.

On the other hand, for a new team member to become productive it takes between 3-6 months. It all depends on the complexity of the job.

So why end the support after 6 weeks? Well, you shouldn’t!

The onboarding process should be followed by several months of ongoing support. Consider taking the following actions:

  • Weekly calls between the new hire and their direct manager. Center the agenda around the company direction and specific goals.
  • Progress tracking using a scorecard. You can read more about the scorecard in my article about accountability and ownership.
  • Provide continuous feedback. Ask for the same from your new team member. This is how you ensure both parties are comfortable working together.

Hiring is expensive. I’d ask you to trust me on this, but I’d rather you decide for yourself, after you do the math.

Make sure you invest as much in retention by setting everyone on your team up to win:

  • Build a reliable onboarding process
  • Offer ongoing support and feedback

Final thoughts on remote teams onboarding

Building a strong remote and distributed team is not easy. If you’re read this far you are definitely committed to build yours.
In this article I shared a lot of details on how I help clients build a productive team. Feel free to adapt the process to your business.

Take the first step today!

I would love to get more free advice!

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