One of the things that can easily trip up a new team member is not knowing ‘how things get done round here’. And why should they know? More often than not, the team’s ground rules are unwritten and unspoken. They are somehow understood by those already in the team – and often that understanding was gained through trial and (painful) error. So what to do?
Have newbies spend time with the team in advance of joining. OK, not always possible if your new team is thousands of miles away, but even then there’s much that can be done. Video calls, online chats, regular conference calls. Ideally this happens face to face and is social, such as a lunch, supper or team outing.
Tell team stories. You can learn a lot about how a team does things by the stories they tell. Facilitate the story telling at welcome lunches, and at on-going meetings. For example, a quick ‘my top story of this week’ can be a feature of regular team catch-ups.
Document the wise words of other team members. Everyone was new in the team once upon a time. And they now have wise words to share with other newbies who join after them. How about capturing this on a blog, wiki or video diary? It can then be shared with the new joiner before they arrive, and built up over time.
Assign a buddy. Doesn’t matter if the new joiner is top brass or straight from school: assign them a buddy. Someone who can show the newbie some really basic stuff: how to access the shared drive, where everyone buys lunch, the names of the people on reception/security.
Restate the ground rules. What are they? It’s a good idea to get these out in the open. If ‘be on time’ is a ground rule round here (I mention this because it evidently isn’t in so many organisations), then be explicit about that. Have team ground rules written down/up where they can be seen.
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