Last week’s article covered the importance of preparing your team members to tackle a new project.
But what happens when a new team member joins in the middle of the project?
Onboarding is the complete set of activities which get performed when someone joins a company – providing their system access, finding them somewhere to sit, introducing them to their co-workers and so on. But onboarding is also crucial when an existing employee joins a new project – without this they are likely to feel disconnected from the rest of the team, and may not commit themselves fully to the project’s success.
Is this really necessary? After all, the new team member has likely worked for the company for a while, already has an assigned workstation, knows his or her co-workers and will probably understand what’s expected of them.
That may all be true, but a specific project’s team culture can be quite different from the culture of the department or organization as a whole. While the new team member may have worked on projects before, the specific practices which your team is using may be different from what they were used to before. They may not know all the other team members, especially if it is a cross-departmental project.
So what are some steps to properly onboard a new team member?
Prepare for their arrival. Just as you would want to ensure that a new employee’s workstation, computer, phone and e-mail access and even business cards are ready before their first day, make the new team member feel that their joining was not a surprise by informing the rest of the team of the new arrival in advance, finding a spot for them to work and confirming their access to project documentation and other applications.
Introduce them to your sponsor and all of the team. This seems like a small thing, but if they have never worked on a project for your sponsor before, establishing that connection will likely make the new team member feel that their contribution is valued. While they may not work directly with the full team, they will be equal custodians for the team’s ownership of its practices and work products so it is important for them to know and be known by all.
Hold a mini-kickoff meeting welcoming them to the project. While the primary audience will be your new team member, you should use it as an opportunity to do some team building, to reinforce key messages about the project’s vision and remind the whole team how important everyone’s work is to achieving that vision. Have your existing team members share some of the key rituals which are part of the team’s culture.
Find them a project buddy. Whether it’s one of the existing team members they will be working closely with, or someone leading a different work stream, identify a willing “go to” person who will help support them in their first couple of weeks. This is a great way to make the whole team responsible for supporting one another, and will reduce the draws on your time.
You’ll never get a second chance to make a good first impression, so onboard new team members with the same thoughtfulness as you’d show to a new employee!