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How to Build an Effective Onboarding Experience When You’re a Team of One

You want to develop your business and take on new projects, yet there are only a certain amount of hours in the day. That’s a clear sign it’s time to onboard your first employee.

Research shows that great employee experiences have a positive impact on employee engagement. But when you’re a team of one, how do you produce an employee onboarding experience that engages your first hire and brings them up to speed with processes and policies you’ve never shared with anyone else?

Effective onboarding usually involves meeting other team members, sharing knowledge, and building their confidence. While being a team of one limits these opportunities, you can still set your first hire up for success. This article shares how. 

  1. Get specialist HR support
  2. Share processes, policies, and procedures
  3. Set clear boundaries and expectations
  4. Schedule regular check-ins
  5. Offer learning and development opportunities
  6. Provide opportunities for co-working

1. Get specialist HR support

New employee onboarding can be a legal minefield to navigate, especially on your own. Employers and employees have certain rights and responsibilities to follow, such as being protected from workplace discrimination, ensuring your employee has the correct equipment, or having their personal information stored safely. 

HR specialists offer a wealth of information to help you understand legal terms and what they mean for your first new hire, such as:  

  • Employment Act (EA) 
  • Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
  • Working Time Regulations (WTR)

Similarly, HR advisors can offer support if your new hire has a disability or health need, ensuring your organization is inclusive and supportive. New team members will realize you have their best interests at heart.

2. Share processes, policies, and procedures

It’s unproductive for the employer and employee to spend vast amounts of time going over the same things. Workplace stress can be detrimental to productivity, costing small businesses up to 75 percent of their employee’s annual salary.

But how do you improve productivity and ensure your first team member is clear on your processes and confident to carry them out? Here are five techniques to communicate important information throughout the onboarding process.

  • Write process documents for specific tasks. Use software like Tango to organize each process step by step, showing helpful links and any exceptions to the normal process flow. Give your new hire time to read and digest each process.
  • Involve your new team member from the start. Discuss existing processes and invite feedback. Since it’s the first time you’ll share these processes, a new pair of eyes can highlight better working methods. It’ll also make your new hire feel like their contributions are valid.
  • Make their first day as comfortable as possible. Help ease new hire anxiety with a robust job description that shows the aim of their role alongside their duties. It will help to prevent confusion or misunderstandings.
  • Encourage them to ask questions. Go through the job description, policies, and procedures. Answer questions about anything they’re unclear about.
  • Make sure processes work before your new hire starts. Although you’re a team of one, ask a trusted person from your network-like, like a contractor or mentorto test your processes beforehand.

3. Set clear boundaries and expectations

It’s easy to treat your first employee as a friend. After all, they’re taking a significant weight off your shoulders. You’re each others’ only work contact and will work closely together daily.

However, blurring professional boundaries can cause your new hire to devalue their priorities and not take work seriously. Model your working relationship by making sure you are professional and respectful every time. 

Be explicit with when and how you communicate about work, such as no phone calls on your cell and no meetings after 5 p.m. Take advantage of real-time productivity software, such as Slack, Trello, or Google Drive to communicate with your new hire. For example:

  • Google Docs for comments
  • Trello for bigger project updates
  • Slack messages for informal and non-urgent announcements
  • Emails for important conversations

Again, regularly evaluate the effectiveness of any communication platforms you’re using. Asking for your new hire’s contribution will ease your workload while making them feel valued and important. 

Communication is a two-way street. There’s more to it than just circulating your message so it’s heard. Workplace conversations should resonate with your first hire and be understood. It’ll encourage them to take the actions you want. 

4. Schedule check-ins

Dedicate time to connect with your new hire throughout the onboarding process. Performance can decline when people feel isolated and undervalued, affecting well-being, employee experience, and productivity. Some 80 percent of workers were stressed due to ineffective company communication.

Prioritize giving your first hire feedback. More than half (65 percent) of employees want more feedback from their manager, with those receiving it 3x more likely to be engaged at work.

Keep open lines of communication by:

  • Having a daily check-in with your new employee. Use affirmations to let them know you care about them as a person and not just their work. These must be genuine.
  • Arranging monthly meetings in advance. Send your new employee a brief agenda with areas for discussion and a request to expand on it. Make notes and send them to the employee. Ask them to add anything they feel is important.
  • Establishing processes for each method of communication. Make sure they know how to contact you for help and support. Some companies use Slack for informal conversation and email for important updates.

5. Offer learning and development opportunities

Learning and development opportunities are proven to engage team members. They improve business productivity and reduce workplace absence. So much so, that 87 percent of HR leaders say learning and development is a critical component of their employee retention strategy this year.

Dismissing your new hire’s knowledge and skills can demotivate them and leave them wondering whether they’ve made the right decision to work with you. 

Discuss your employees’ strengths and areas for development. Then, produce a clear onboarding plan that includes opportunities to extend their skills and knowledge either through learning and development software, coaching, or mentoring initiatives.

Review your learning environment and measure progress with regular performance reviews. Incorporate learning and development into your performance review process with WorkRamp.

6. Provide opportunities for co-working

Being a team of one limits the opportunity for your new hire to work alongside other colleagues. They cannot observe working practices and absorb knowledge from a bigger team.

Provide opportunities for your first hire to co-work with other people. It not only reduces the loneliness that comes from being on a small team but also helps employees build their own networks. This can pay dividends in the long run. 

 Options to explore include:

  • Online collaboration sessions with colleagues in your network
  • Arranging a workday with other people that have similar roles and expertise
  • Organizing social events outside of work, such as meetups

Keep in mind that coworking may present some challenges. Having external colleagues in one meeting space could lead to the loss of sensitive information, especially if your new hire is using an unsecured internet connection or other people can read the information on a computer screen. 

Put safety procedures in place to combat these problems. You’ll create a healthy co-working environment for your new hire to build their knowledge and skills. 

Onboarding as a team of one doesn’t have to be exhausting

When growing your team, you have high hopes that new employees will support your business and want to get it right. 

A solid onboarding program gives a great first impression while providing the information team members need to succeed in their new roles. Use these tips from regular check-ins to learning and development opportunities to create a positive onboarding experience.

Are you ready to build effective onboarding training for your new hires? Learn more about how WorkRamp can help you set your team up for success. Contact us to schedule a free demo.


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Elise Dopson

WorkRamp Contributor

Elise Dopson is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS companies. She’s also the co-founder of Peak Freelance and mom to an adorable Spaniel pup.

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