In IT, it is very common to have new team members. And yet, welcoming them is hardly something we’re good at.
Before they even come
There is a checklist I like to have before the new person will come. Simple points that make sure they feel good.
- make sure their desk and chair is there and is clean (yes, I have cleaned a desk for someone, nothing wrong with it);
- make sure their hardware is there, is working and set up properly;
- make sure your team mates know that they are coming;
- make sure all the accounts and accesses are granted (if this is impossible due to some restrictions, make them know beforehand);
- make sure the access card is ready (this is important, it’s like you’re having a new family member but „you don’t get the keys yet”);
- designate a buddy (more on that later);
- prepare an issue (also, more on that later).
When I know that someone will come, let’s say, on Monday, I make sure to have this day clean of all meetings that are unnecessary.
Do a tour, thorough one
New environment is always stressful. For almost everyone. So make sure you make a tour across the office.
Don’t run across the entire floor asking to shake hands. Come on, how many pairs of name/face can you store in your head in one minute? Try doing it in batches, first meet the closest team mates, then spin away with other departments. Maybe even split this into more days, 30 minutes each, if your company is big.
Don’t show kitchen, toilets etc. when returning from somewhere. Go from your room, it will be easier to memorize the route this way.
Show where are cups and mugs are and how to use coffee machine. This is also a good moment to take a breather and drink something and have some small-talk.
Show where are office supplies. Something as trivial as getting a pen without the necessity to ask people about it will really boost your new team mate adoption.
Don’t let them go alone
Sitting people in front of their desks and walking away on the first day is the worst thing you can do. I got this treatment more than once, „here’s your seat and desk, settle in” and he walks away. What the fuck I am supposed to do? Where is… anything?
Instead, sit with them. Ask, do they need some time to set up their computer, or would they like you to tell them, what they’ll be needing.
If they’ll say they need some time alone, no problem, but don’t forget about them. Be back in an hour or two, just see how it’s going. Don’t hover, don’t be a helicopter. Just pop in, „you okay there, need anything” and that’s it.
Spend time with them
After the workstation is set up, there is time to set up the actual project. Don’t send the wiki link and be off. Such documents are often
- too long;
- too technical;
- assuming that whoever reads them have some domain knowledge.
This is something I call a dick move. But what if I don’t remember the process, you may ask. Well, that’s okay, open that goddamn Confluence and go through it together. Or even better, get someone who might know, and work together. This will also help the new one meet other members. Just make sure you don’t call in someone who’s harsh.
After that, make sure that someone will sit next to that person. Maybe you, maybe someone you designate to do this. Make sure this is a knowledgeable, communicative person. No point in sitting a guy with headphones from 9 to 5. This is often called a buddy system.
How to prep a buddy
Asking „who want’s to be a buddy for Anon here” is a bad move. There won’t be „me, me!” people yelling. There will be silence, and someone with a sense of responsibility will come forward only to regret it afterwards.
Instead, pick someone you know in your team early. This doesn’t have to be the best developer. It has to be the most communicative, friendly person. A few days before the new person arrives, get that someone on a one-on-one and ask, „could you be a buddy for Anon?” If you are a good lead, they won’t be afraid to say „no”, if they can justify it. If they’ll refuse, try the next person. Don’t push it. Forcing people into such interactions never goes well.
But let’s assume they are fine with it. So, what does a buddy do? Buddy simply is there for this person. Buddy is a go-to, when something breaks, something is not clear, something needs clarification.
And, once again, you can be that buddy, if you decide so.
Don’t let their questions go unanswered (or answered vaguely)
New people in the organization will have questions. They can be like a kid, asking all the time. And this is totally fine. It’s a sign they really are interested in this place. Make sure you answer them, and answer thoroughly. Sure, there’s no need to dive deep in the technical aspects on the first day, because they’ll won’t digest it all. But don’t answer with „we’ll get to that later” or „you don’t need this right now”. Even if they really don’t need it, there’s no harm in telling it.
Get them to lunch
„Hey, what time do you eat?” is a great question to ask during the day. „You want to grab something?” On the first day, there is so much going on, people may either forget, or be too shy to walk away from their station for lunch. Make sure that this is not the case. You can go together or in larger group, but make sure you don’t scare the new person. You can feel if this is someone comfortable with a crowd or not. Don’t try to „break their comfort zone”, you’re not a dickheaded coach.
Treat them as part of the team from day one
Great things may happen, if you treat new people like the old ones. Like they have always been here. Let’s say you team goes for lunch every day at the same time. Take them with you. You have a problem with your code, ask them, maybe they’ll help. Even if not, they will feel validated and needed. Look for such opportunities. Even the slightest gesture may prove beneficial.
Try having day-one commit
Nothing says „we need you, mate” more than allowing them to work right off the bat. After they set up, have coffee and lunch, give them a small task. Nothing fancy, nothing groundbreaking, just something small to stretch their legs. A small „atom” component, or a tiny test that was missing for a long time.
A lot of people will get something serious to do weeks after the first day. And this is horrible, both business-wise and company-wise. The former – you are paying this person. The latter – you will look like lazy slobs.
Caring for new people on board is often neglected. This is wrong and causes detachment. If you don’t care for me, why should I care for you, Company Name?