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Young professional sitting at a meeting table.

A major event that occurred in our office recently was the onboarding of new colleagues – 2 full-time staff and 13 student workers – within 2 weeks. The process was…complicated, but it was important for us to be fully prepared before the new employees started their first day. The transition period for new workers not only sets the tone of their experience but directly connects to their success early on. As team leaders, it’s important that we recognize that onboarding, whether it’s a part-time intern or a full-time colleague, can take a few days and should be planned out.

Lay of the Land

No amount of external research can truly prepare a new employee for the ins and outs of your institution. To truly understand the office, employees need materials and insights from an internal perspective. Introduce them to the organization by giving them:

  • Relevant internal reference materials (strategic plans, budgets, minutes of meetings, etc.) that outline the company’s history, goals, and outcomes.
  • A list of written policies and expectations (dress code, forms of communication, use of spaces, etc.)
  • A rundown of the informal company culture (birthday celebrations, dress down Fridays, bringing in food, etc.)
  • A tour of the physical space, including local eateries
  • Time to ask follow-up questions

Colleague Connections

Provide a space for new and current employees to connect, engage, and learn about one another. Incorporating formal and causal interaction will help strengthen connections from the very start. To build this out:

  • Provide a list of all staff, including roles, responsibilities, contact information, and fun facts
  • Create an event to introduce the new employee (preferably OUTSIDE of a department meeting)
  • Have the new employee meet all relevant staff over lunch/coffee to learn more about them
  • Have coworkers invite the new employee to shadow meetings, conversations, or training
  • Pair them up with a buddy or mentor – someone they can turn to should they have questions

Scavenger Hunt

Everyone learns in different ways, but one of the best teachers is experience. Create a list of detailed tasks to encourage a new employee to navigate materials, procedures, and software. For instance, you could request that they:

  • Find/create something in a specific software (calendars, shared drives, customer management software, etc.)
  • Deliver/utilize a piece of equipment around the physical space (supplies, mail, printer, etc.)
  • Answer questions that are commonly asked by customers or stakeholders
  • Complete an internal request (logging hours, viewing vacation time, booking a space)
  • Search for a specific product, form, or information on your website

Have a Back-Up Plan!

After all of this preparation, sometimes a wrench is thrown into the works. If this should happen, it’s good to have a backup plan so the employee can still be active and have a good experience. Some challenges you could address are:

  • What do they do if they don’t have access to a computer?
  • What happens if they need to work the first day virtually?
  • What work can be done if their login information to items (i.e., their email) does not work?
  • Who can they go to if their assigned buddy/trainer/supervisor is out sick during their first few days?

At the end of the day, this all boils down to the structure and needs of your specific institution and individual. But, a good question to ask yourself is: what would YOU need to be successful when transitioning into a new role?


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