A Warm Welcome: Successful Strategies for Onboarding New Team Members

A note paper sticker with a welcoming new team members.

April 03, 2023

In the past, I've built teams in different contexts.

  • A couple of decades ago I built a team to paint and remodel houses.
  • In the mid to late 2000s, I built a team to help me build niche websites.
  • Another team I built was to help manage a membership.
  • In 2017 I built a U.S. based web design and development team over a few years while working for another company.

Today I'm the proud owner of Unified Web Design, LLC. Over the past couple of years, I've had the pleasure to build and work with a diverse team of international talent, with members hailing from the Philippines and India.

From my past experiences and as my current team continues to grow, I've come to understand the importance of effectively onboarding new team members.

In this article, I'll be sharing my experiences with onboarding and providing some best practices that can help ensure a smooth transition for new members joining your agency.

Begin with a Warm Welcome

One of the most crucial aspects of onboarding is making new team members feel welcome and valued from day one. Yes, even contractors! In my agency, we have a mix of employees and contractors and I do my best to try to make them feel at home and as part of the same family.

Take the time to introduce them to the team, share a bit about the company culture, and encourage open communication. We've found that fostering a friendly environment goes a long way in helping newcomers feel comfortable and motivated.

Pair them with a Buddy or Mentor

If you can, try pairing a new team member with a more experienced colleague. This can significantly ease the onboarding process. This buddy or mentor can answer questions, offer guidance, and serve as a go-to resource, making the transition smoother and more efficient.

This may be more difficult at first based on the size and roles in your team. But recently as an example, I brought someone new onboard to help with marketing. I paired them with someone that's been helping me in that department for a few years.

But note, that doesn't mean I'm hands off! I am still guiding them (especially in the beginning) and provide an onboarding experience to guide them into their role.

Provide Clear Expectations and Goals

It's essential to set clear expectations and goals for new team members early on. Outline their responsibilities, define their roles within the team, and establish performance benchmarks. By doing so, you'll help them understand what's expected of them and how their work contributes to the overall success of the agency.

I rarely hire someone without a way to measure how they are doing over the first few months. That could be just seeing how well they are doing with projects or maybe some goal tied to revenue. This gives them something to work towards and it ensures they start adding value to the team earlier rather than later.

Offer Comprehensive Training and Resources

Investing in the professional growth of your team members is crucial for their success and the agency. Provide comprehensive training sessions and offer access to relevant resources, such as articles, tutorials, or webinars.

At my agency, we ensure that our new hires have a solid understanding of the tools we use, like Atlassian, Freshbooks, and Zendesk, to set them up for success from the start.

I also periodically throughout the year ask if there are courses they'd like to take. Or if I see them delving into some new area, I look for things that might help them in their work.

It's become part of our culture as an agency and it's something I want to instill in my team early on.

Encourage Open Communication and Feedback

Creating an environment that promotes open communication and feedback is essential for a smooth onboarding process. Encourage new team members to ask questions, share concerns, and offer suggestions. This not only helps them feel more comfortable but also allows you to identify any areas where they may need additional support or guidance.

Not all employees will take you up on this. You might have to encourage them along the way to open up. As a leader or manager, it's important to remember that some team members might be shy or hesitant to provide feedback or critique, so it's important to create an environment where they feel comfortable doing so.

Schedule Regular Check-ins

During the onboarding process, it's important to schedule regular check-ins with new team members. This allows you to monitor their progress, address any challenges they may be facing, and provide ongoing feedback. We find that these touch-points are invaluable in ensuring new hires feel supported and connected to the team.

And this extends past the onboarding process, of course. Never take your employees or contractors for granted or assume everything is going well all the time. Regular check-ins provide opportunities to see how everyone is doing in general, and can bring to the surface things you didn't know about and that you can help with.

Celebrate their Achievements

Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of new team members is a great way to boost morale and encourage continued growth. Whether it's a shout-out during a team meeting or a small token of appreciation, acknowledging their hard work and successes helps build a positive and supportive work environment.

Saying “Great Job!” goes a long way and shows you appreciate the effort your team members are putting in and their contributions to your company.

By implementing these best practices, you can create an effective onboarding process that sets new team members up for success and fosters a positive and collaborative work culture. We've seen firsthand how a smooth onboarding experience can lead to higher job satisfaction, increased productivity, and greater employee retention.

Matt Levenhagen


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