The qualitative, effective, and efficient onboarding of new hires is very important for most companies – even though, for many, it, unfortunately, remains an unsolved puzzle in the long term. There are, of course, people who have a special talent for things like this and who are good at looking after newcomers and showing them great kindness and commitment. 

My colleague Torsten, who works for us as a developer, is often called Papa Smurf by the others in the company because he’s done more than anyone else during his tenure at the company to familiarize newcomers with what he does. He’s the motivation behind our “” non-profit program for introducing kids and young people to the basics of programming. He takes trainees from all areas of the company aside to practice coding with them. He’s a developer who in another life should have been a teacher. People like this are priceless for any company. Unfortunately, however, this talent can neither be systematically produced nor can it be scaled. And Torsten is sometimes on vacation, sick, and/or too busy with his project work. 

It may be a good idea, because of this, to have a couple of thoughts about how you can use the intranet to emulate Papa Smurf and perhaps map some of the aspects of his support work in digital form. 

Orientation aids for newcomers are something our intranet is quite good at offering. The many different special systems we have in place are comprised of three aids: 

  • A launchpad: this refers to a section that serves as a departure point for our most frequently used and important systems. Tools that belong to the user’s role appear here in personalized form. 
  • The navigation: navigation menus help users to find their way around the content. They can also be used to provide tool overviews. 
  • A diagram: contextually, this is the best way for users to get a feel for the whole. Diagrams, for example, are especially good at representing overlapping functions and providing a feel for them. 

At our company, we have what we call an “Intergalactic Flight Plan” for every newcomer. Take a look: 

Example of a flight plan for my colleague Björn’s onboarding process. Source file: 

In reality, this “Intergalactic Onboarding Flight Plan” is not much more than a simple checklist on the intranet that we’ve spiced up a bit graphically. 

This checklist is divided up into the following sections and tasks. 

Our Onboarding Checklists 

Week 1: 

  • Bake us a “nice to meet you” cake. 
  • Fight your way through the basic coordinates. 
  • Read the Password Policy, devise a secure password for yourself, and watch the 1Password video. Never let IT catch you entering 123456 or Secret 0815 anywhere. 
  • Perhaps it’s best if you take a look at the IT Support Basics – just to be safe! 
  • Write your first logbook entry as a blog post and link it to your logbook entry under “Find Out More About Me.” 
  • Create and maintain your profile in our wiki. This is what it could look like (example). 
  • Take a look through the “Encyclopaedia Galactica Seibert Media.” 
  • Create your own avatar for your team board and send it to the Pony Farm – or have somehow show you how to! 
  • Safety first – arrange a date for a security audit with the IT team. You can arrange a date directly here. 
  • Booking your working hours – read through what should, shouldn’t, and can be booked and where. Talk to your team about this and, in case of doubt feel free to contact your PO/SO with any questions. 
  • Are you new to Wiesbaden? Then check out our tips for newcomers. 

A certain number of stars is assigned to each task, depending on how much effort is involved or how important the task is in the onboarding process. Many of the elements have links to other pages that contain information and registration options and contacts on the intranet. 

The following also fundamentally applies here: everyone can make changes and additions. As an enterprising newcomer, however, you should be prepared for the fact that quite a few colleagues monitor the template and know that any changes you make will have direct relevance for future hires. You can’t simply write down some nonsense without expecting to get a broadside of criticism in return. Lots of companies are afraid of making a key template like this accessible to all of their intranet users for editing. The employees themselves are even more afraid, however: they only ever make changes if they’re really well-founded. The problem is not the permission to make changes, but being confident enough that the change you make has enough substance. 

We’ve been working on this template for several years now, and it’s gone through hundreds of small iterations. Even if the details of this flight plan go a little too far for your intranet project, you may be able to use it as inspiration at one point or another. Here are the other task lists:

Organizational affairs:

  • Have a photo taken of yourself. Just create a ticket here (link) and Magdalena will be informed. She always takes the photos after the Agile Org breakfast. 
  • Enter your birthday in our //SEIBERT/MEDIA Birthday Calendar so we don’t forget when to bring some homemade cake. 
  • Read the procedure for company pension plans under //S/M and then organize a time to meet Timo or Oli to discuss the benefits of a company pension plan with them personally. 
  • Have coffee with Timo or Silke to talk about attendance and absences (flexible working hours, flextime account, overtime, vacations, leisure time compensation, sickness, etc.). 
  • Take a look at the Who-is-What board with a colleague and order something. 
  • Find out whether you can come to the office on Sundays. 
  • Find out about the salary checks procedure and go to the next informational event. 
  • Talk to Jan about our values (if you want to “suck up,” memorize them beforehand). 
  • Will you be traveling on our behalf? If so, then please talk to Micha about the procedure before taking your first trip. 

Mentoring program: 

Organize your feedback interview with your controller up until the end of your trial period: 

  • Feedback Interview 1
  • Feedback Interview 2
  • Feedback Interview 3
  • Feedback Interview 4
  • Further training – ask your controller to explain how further training works at //SEIBERT/MEDIA and find at least two things that would interest you. 
  • Talk to Jan about mentoring at //SEIBERT/MEDIA. 
  • Talk to Silke or Anna about your trial period and feedback forms. 
  • At the end of your trial period, put together your mentoring team. 

Social affairs: 

  • Take part in a sporting activity: Soccer? Jogging? Running stairs? Swimming? Or maybe you have other ideas and suggestions. Just ask Torsten how to get involved. 
  • Team rules? 
  • Take a selfie with another team and tag it with #dashpic on the microblog
  • Go to a movie night. 
  • Organize a lunch with the shareholders or the management. 
  • Download the //SEIBERT/MEDIA app. 
  • Organize at least one Friday beer meet. 
  • Like to sing? How about joining a choir? 

Training and events: 

  • Take a look at the current schedule to make sure you’re in the picture about internal events and which courses you’re invited to, etc. 
  • CoP stands for Community of Practice – take part in one. 
  • Take part in as many reviews as possible at least once: 
    • Linchpin
    • Brogrammers
    • Attend a JIRA training course.
    • Attend a Confluence training course. 
    • Attend a Google Workspace training course. 
    • Go to the next Licence101 with Toni. 
    • Explanation of our services and products for newcomers. Be there. 
  • We love feedback! But then, why wouldn’t we? Go find out! 
  • Name three things that you’ve noticed or would do differently that you would give to newcomers to help them on their way. 

Agile Org:

  • Talk to Sven or Clemens about Agile Org. 
  • Attend an entry-level agile course for beginners. 
  • Take part in the next hackathon. 
  • What is the pull principle? Ask Sven!
  • What does a peach and //SEIBERT/MEDIA have to do with one another? Ask Paul or Clemens.
  • Flat hierarchies? Who’s actually in charge here? Ask Jo.
  • We do marketing and sales totally differently! Okaaaay!? Martin will explain what this means and what you can do to help. 
  • Get at least three teams to explain your board to you. 
  • Talk to Oli about our salary process. 

From a purely technical point of view, it would be simple to provide a flight plan like this in personalized form in which additional areas can be added depending on the department or role. We’ve already discussed this internally, but are only now slowly reaching a company size that would make it worthwhile. This has already been discussed for some of our customers, and to my knowledge, it’s been implemented. In any case, it’s certainly feasible.

Why Onboarding Checklists Make Sense 

To our customers, the advantage of checklists like these is that you can see them directly on the intranet. The transparency provided about who has gotten how far with their onboarding motivates other newcomers to check off the items on their list as well. Individual progress is also coordinated with the controller assigned during the trial period. Checking off the items on the list is voluntary, however. We don’t tell anyone what to do. 

Something that’s not optional on the other hand, is not working through the checklist at all. If you don’t work through the list at all, it will initially be pointed out to you in a friendly manner. However, there are no individual items that are mandatory and no minimum required amount. It’s more a matter of the controller checking to make sure the employee is progressing well with their onboarding. And that can take place apart from the checklist, of course. 

A big advantage of the checklist is that it’s easy to complete and can be worked through independently. Instead of the HR department dealing with these kinds of administrative tasks, the work is shifted completely onto the employee. And that works very well for us. The stars give the newcomers an impression of how far they’ve progressed, and the overview contains a snapshot of the current situation showing how they’re faring in comparison to other newcomers. This doesn’t mean we’re deliberately building any rankings, however. It’s not about how many stars an individual employee collects. It’s intended to act as a kind of benchmarking. For example, the colleague who started on the same day as me: how many stars do they have at the moment? How do I compare to my other colleagues? 

The advantage of the “Intergalactic Flight Plan” for me as a partner is that nearly all of our newcomers contact me personally to talk about marketing and sales. This presents me with a good opportunity to tell them something about our culture and to get to know them better. 

From the point of view of our organization, the whole thing is so wonderfully simple. We simply copy the template for each new employee and personalize the intranet page with their name. Then the pressure of delivering transparency is transferred to them. How do I want to approach my onboarding process? How quickly? How much time should I invest? The newcomer organizes all of this themself and we don’t have to check on their progress or have anyone coordinate it centrally. Also, the administrative work involved is not very bothersome, because the area involved is actually very small.

There’s another advantage as well. Employees have to learn a great deal in professional terms and gain experience, especially in demanding roles that are extremely complex. It often takes a couple of months before they can start working on tasks completely on their own. This means that, at the beginning, they’re not really capable of supporting their team very productively. The “Intergalactic Flight Plan,” however, helps them occupy themselves sensibly at any moment when the team is unable to invest time and resources in their onboarding. And let’s not kid ourselves: that happens every now and then. Our new employees are then kept busy. And this is good for the company. Many of our customers love this idea and adapt it to themselves. That’s why we’ve made the implementation code available to the public on request. 

Autonomous Early Onboarding – Getting Started Earlier 

At our partner company, Atlassian, in 2014, all new employees were given 14 days’ vacation before even starting their jobs. The company called the program “Start Fresh.” I was really impressed! Starting a new job is much better when you’re rested and have a clear head, right? 

I don’t know if Atlassian is still doing things like that today, but we didn’t adopt the practice. Many of our ideas for internal organization are borrowed from Atlassian. But not this one. In fact, we do almost the opposite. And, of course, it’s not obligatory, like everything else with us. And we make every effort to ensure that our employees really understand that autonomous early onboarding is an offer for anyone who is interested and not a group-dynamic compulsion or an expectation. 

We refer to autonomous early onboarding as the opportunity for newcomers to familiarize themselves with the company in their own time and spend at least one day at our organization on a virtual basis. In specific terms, this means that newcomers who are interested in taking us up on the offer, once they’ve signed an employment contract, receive access to our online systems, a notebook, and (in some cases) a smartphone before their first real day of work. 

These tools then allow them to familiarize themselves on their own and at an early stage. No support is provided by our HR department during this phase, however. Autonomous early onboarding requires the approval and support of the team in which the newcomer will start at all times because someone has to answer questions and make the colleague feel welcome and take their responses. 

The concept is only a few months old so I can’t make any reliable statements about it yet. What I do see however is that people are paying close attention to it. Around 60 percent of our new employees take us up on the offer. Currently, we’re observing very closely whether they feel that they’re implicitly forced to familiarize themselves before they start working. However, the interviews I‘ve taken part in to date do not support this assumption. Quite the opposite in fact: there seems to be an enormous need to be able to rummage around on the intranet, read news, and read about activities and discussions in the group chats in advance. 

Newcomers who have taken up the offer in the past have always been very reserved and often remained more or less invisible to others. They don’t take part in the usual discussions in the digital spaces, nor do they post anything themselves. They don’t process their “Digital Flight Plan” in advance, for example. More of an observing, feeling, and experiencing of our culture prevails. The feedback on this approach has been overwhelmingly positive so far, and I’m often surprised to see how much knowledge people absorb before they start working for us. 

Of course, I can understand your concerns. It is, admittedly, a very special concept that’s probably not so easy to implement in large corporations. We spent a long time talking to our tax advisor and legal counsel to make sure that this was all legally safe and not subject to taxes. In a large company with all its compliance requirements, the hurdles are likely to be significantly higher, however. 

Whatever the case: I find the topic extremely interesting for our discussion here, because the option that favors autonomous early onboarding arises because we have a modern intranet in place that enjoys heavy traffic. The level of digital collaboration needs to be high to experience how team collaboration works with just access credentials, a computer, and a smartphone.

Only when transparency is actually practiced and employees are open to new things is it possible to integrate strangers into a team at least digitally at this point and make the process of onboarding much faster and more effective from their first real day of work.

All of this, of course, leads to the risk that newcomers will dive into the water totally unsupervised and find the job or role completely pointless before they’ve really started. Caution is probably advised with instruments like these, especially when your corporate culture is not so rigid. 

The knowledge that it works well for us makes me a little proud. Check it out for yourself if you think I’m bragging. I’m not interested in showcasing how great our company culture is. The digital basics and their advantages, which manifest themselves here, are all that count for me. 

Even if autonomous early onboarding is not a concept for your company – the advantages of a modern and popular intranet will definitely be felt in your organization.

Link to this page:

The Social Intranet

Foster collaboration and strengthen communication. Be effective with enterprise intranets mobile and in the cloud.

Virtual Collaboration in Companies: Social Intranets as a Digital Home 

Never before has the business world been so overrun by cloud software and specialized vendors as it is now. There is so much software out there that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of things. It is all the more important for the future of work to have a place for digital meeting - a reliable home port meaningfully networked with numerous other systems that makes it quick and easy to navigate. This will increase transparency in the company and make collaboration more effective. Based on many years of experience, this book tells you how it already works in today's digitalized world and which trends you probably should rather than shouldn't follow.

About the author

Martin Seibert was 17 when he founded the software company Seibert Media. Twenty-four years later, it has nearly 200 employees and generates 35 million euros in annual sales. He has been sharing his enthusiasm for technology in YouTube videos for many years - and now also in his new book about social intranets.

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This content was last updated on 03/31/2021.

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