Being in a distributed team is not always easy, but joining one as a new member without prior experience is the hardest. To help you help your new team members settle in as quickly as possible, we suggest here some tips for on boarding a distributed team member. We understand that the strategy will vary between teams, but here are a couple guidelines to start you off when enrolling a new distributed team member:
1. Officially introduce the new member to the team – an introduction email is great, but why not also set up a team video conference? Instead of a general welcome email, why not also explain what the new member will be working on specifically?
2. Create knowledge spaces where the new member can go to for information, including technical, and procedural. If your distributed team uses a particular set of tools for communicating and collaborating (e.g. dropbox for file sharing, skype for calling, asana for project management), let the new member know up front, so he/she does not have to email the team to find out which specific tool(s) is(are) needed for which circumstances. Similarly, let the new member be aware of various procedures in accomplishing various tasks, especially when decision making is to be done by the manager of the team, and when the member can use his/her own discretion in deciding. A simple orientation like this helps the newbie settle in much more smoothly. This tip is probably also useful for all kinds of teams, distributed or not, but yet many teams don’t bother with this essential piece of information.
3. Have sync up meetings regularly. Meet once a week (+/-, depending on your team’s needs) to help with any immediate questions and give guidance on next steps. Don’t let matters drag on until they are discovered. Efficiency is something that distributed teams sometimes struggle with, due to trouble iterating quickly, so extra effort has to be put in to actively work towards optimal efficiency. Having regular meetings also helps ensure consistent motivation amongst team members.
4. Encourage new member to have one-on-one meetings with each team member. This is a great way for the new team member to get to know everyone on a personal level, as well as gain a deeper understanding of who is responsible of what tasks. Social interaction is limited in a distributed team, leading to a slower build up of team bonding and familiarity. Having one-on-one meetings with team members will help kick start the process.
5. Communicate the team’s culture. Even a distributed team has culture. But this culture is going to be more difficult to grasp for the new member, when there is minimal (or no) face time with the team. Henceforth, as the manager, you should clearly articulate the team’s culture to the new member right from day one. Be clear about expectations, how work progress is tracked, how self motivation plays a role in the team and whether feedback is an option. No detail is too detailed.
Most importantly, TRUST each other.
Any other tips you have? Share it with us!