7 Essential Steps to Power Up Your Project Professional Onboarding Process

The very nature of projects is fast. So it’s no surprise, that when we decide we need to bring on new staff, we really needed them 5 minutes ago. And this means we can have a tendency to ignore the formalities that will help us to successfully onboard that new person into the project and team.

This mentality is particularly unhelpful to attract the right people, create a smooth transition so that new project team members can succeed, or create supportive connections with the existing team so that newbies feel welcomed, confident and ready to contribute.

No matter how urgently you need to onboard, my 7-step checklist will power up your onboarding process. Whether you’re onboarding project management graduates or seasoned project professionals to any role within your project team, these steps will help you make better and longer-lasting recruitment choices.

How the 7-Steps for Onboarding Project Professionals Work

These 7-steps will help you set the wheels in motion, so you can onboard experienced project professionals and graduates into your project team with success.

The simplest way to work through the onboarding steps is to consider what should happen before, once you onboard and after the dust settles. And this is how I approach the 7-steps when in the process of bringing on a new project team member.

Before Onboarding

Step 1: Be clear on why you need the role

This may seem obvious, but challenges around bringing on a new team member often come down to a difference in perspective on the “Why?”.

The best way to ensure everyone is on the same page is by asking “What problem does the role need to solve?”

Be transparent with your team about the role and responsibilities of the new hire and how their work will contribute to the overall success of the project. It’s important to involve your team in this discussion particularly if they will be expected to work with and support the new person.

Your answers might start off sounding like a wish list, but this can easily be refined through prioritisation and with guidance from Human Resources or a Recruitment support.

Step 2: Be clear on what’s needed before the new person starts

Slowing down the process of onboarding can very quickly have a negative impact on project timelines.

A lot of what’s needed for a new team member to succeed are repeatable parts of the onboarding process and should be prepared ahead of the new hire commencing.

This step should include answers to things like:

  • How will they learn more about the project?
  • Who will introduce them to most important stakeholders?
  • What are they expected to complete or produce or contribute to, and how regularly?
  • Where are the most useful documents and other information kept and how will we explain this?
  • What accesses will they require to technology, systems and spaces?
  • What will they need before they are even able to start working i.e. laptop, logins, IDs, induction checklists, etc.
  • What are the standard working expectations of the team?

As soon as you onboard

Step 3: Set expectations of the role and equip your new hire to succeed

When the new person starts, it’s important to let them know what problem they are helping to solve on the project. 

Spend time with them to explain the expectations of their role both from their leader and the team’s perspective (as raised in Step 1), the boundaries of their role, and where they go if they have a problem.

Equally important is to know what the new starter is expecting of their role. This clarity ensures that they understand what’s expected of them from the start, and it sets the tone for their future work.

It’s also important to establish clear goals and objectives so that new hires understand what they’re working towards and how their work will be evaluated.

You should also take the time to find out what your new project team member will need to succeed in their role, and who they can seek help from if they require additional information, access or equipment.

Step 4: Make introductions, build relationships and establish support

Introducing new hires to the existing team is a crucial aspect of onboarding. It helps them feel welcomed and a part of the team from the start.

Consider organising a team lunch or fun online session to give new starters a chance to meet their colleagues in a more informal setting. Building strong relationships with co-workers can lead to better collaboration, improved communication, and a more positive work environment.

Another useful way to build relationships with and enhance the confidence of new starters is by providing them with a peer support. Assigning a team member to guide a new team member can help them quickly understand the company’s culture, values, processes, anomalies, acronyms, and the team language. This support can also help new starters feel more comfortable asking questions and seeking feedback, which can be critical to their success.

Step 5: Encourage Feedback

Encouraging feedback is a critical aspect of onboarding because it helps new starters feel heard and valued, and can lead to valuable insights for your team and company.

Encourage feedback on the onboarding experience as well as on their perspectives of the project delivery process as they get to learn it. This feedback can help you identify areas for improvement from fresh eyes and without the assumptions that are made when you know the process too intimately.

After the dust has settled

Step 6: Foster a culture of continuous learning

A culture of continuous learning can help new hires feel motivated and engaged in their work.

Set regular 1:1 or small group meetings to provide the new starter a platform to share their wins and help overcome any challenges. Remember that overcoming the challenges of one person overcomes them for the entire team.

Encourage your team to offer each other peer mentoring, or establish peer review systems to help build relationships and nurture growth and learning. These small daily improvements can be the difference between meeting your project commitments and… not.

Step 7: Celebrate milestones and successes

Celebrating milestones and successes can help new hires feel recognised and appreciated.

Consider acknowledging significant milestones, like making it through the first month on the project, or the completion of a task which has helped the overall project, no matter how big or small, or recognise the achievement of a significant goal.

Celebrating these milestones can help new hires feel like they’re part of a team that values hard work and recognises accomplishments and it also helps the team to remember the contribution the new hire provides.

Successful onboarding makes for a stronger project team

The way in which you onboard new project professionals of any experience into your project team is crucial for the success of your projects and strategy.

Establishing clear expectations and goals, providing mentorship and support, building relationships, and recognising the successes they contribute to are all critical aspects of an effective onboarding process.

By making the onboarding process a priority, you can set the wheels in motion for a smooth transition into the existing project team and culture. This will ensure that new hires are consistently adding value to the business, and ultimately, want to stay.

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