Design Managers: set your new hire up for success
So you just hired a new designer. Congratulations!
As a manager, your mission is to help your teammate be successful as quickly as possible. Don’t just throw them on the most burning problem and see what happens. Take the time to set them up for success: help them gain knowledge, build relationships, and deliver on their first project.
Here’s how we onboard new designers at PlanGrid:
1. Gain knowledge
Designers need lots of information and context to be successful. What are your business goals? What is the strategic role of design? Who are your users and what makes them tick? Where does your product succeed or fall short?
These are complex questions that can’t be answered in a day. Focus on providing the right introduction, scaffolding, and resources so your employee can learn and grow at their own pace.
PlanGrid offers a week-long training for all new hires that covers everything from getting your computer and software set up, to selecting your health insurance, to learning more about our customers and products. It also provides an overview of the business and various departments. Since there’s often “information overload,” we also share training decks and points of contact so employees can follow up later.
For each new designer, I create a personalized “Welcome Guide” and email it to them on their first day. I also print a copy for us to review together at our first meeting. It includes some suggested tasks for their first month, a list of people they may want to meet with, and links to useful tools and resources. You are welcome to adapt this sample for your own use.
I book an hour with them on their first day to provide some basic team training. We cover topics like:
- Our team vision and strategy, and where they fit in
- How we’re organized, and who’s working on what
- Common processes and tools
- Expectations for their first 90 days
I also make sure to schedule weekly one-on-one meetings from that point forward to continue the conversation and encourage them to reach out proactively when they have questions. I reiterate that during their first month I’m not expecting them to deliver a bunch of work; rather, I’m expecting them to build a strong foundation for future success.
2. Build relationships
It’s tough being the new person— you don’t yet feel part of the community, you’re unaware of the company’s unique social norms, and it’s not always clear where to go for help.
Here are a few tactics to help your teammate build strong working relationships right from the beginning:
Give them a buddy
At PlanGrid, new employees get a “buddy” — a peer that helps them get up to speed, shows them around the office and answers their questions. We rotate this responsibility around the team whenever someone new joins.
Introduce them around
We want to make sure everyone knows our new teammate is joining and is as excited as we are to have them here. Before the new hire’s first day, I email them asking for a photo and short bio. On their first day, I email this out to the broader organization with a few words introducing them and what they’ll be working on. I also try to introduce them to people around the office to help “break the ice.”
Too often new hires are accidentally left out of standing team meetings or offsites that were planned months ago. Now when someone new joins, I make sure to add them to all the right calendar invites and chat channels so they never feel excluded.
Set up one-on-ones
One of the most important relationships an employee will have is with their manager — that means you. Get your relationship off on the right foot by setting up recurring one-on-one meetings. I typically start with 60 minutes once a week, then reduce to 30 minutes once they’re up to speed.
Your new hire will thank you for helping them get connected more quickly. You’ll also be thanking yourself: when your new hire has a bigger network to help answer questions, your job becomes easier.
3. Deliver on their first project
New hires want to show what they can do and make a big impact right away. Take the time to define the right first project: one where they can deliver positive outcomes quickly.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Is the project well matched to their expertise?
- Can you pair them with someone to help them learn?
- Is success dependent upon deep user or product knowledge? If so, does the timeline account for this?
- If things don’t go well, do you have a backup plan?
I typically give someone a “starter” project that is smaller or less complex than the type of work they’ll be doing longer term. That’s because I know they’ll need to spend time learning more about the users, product, and their team.
I also work with them to create a New Hire Blueprint. This tool helps them plan their first three months and stay focused on the most important things.
Throughout their first project, I make sure to check in regularly. This can take a couple forms:
- Weekly one-on-one meetings
- Casual hallway conversations
- Team design critiques
I make a point to ask lots of questions, provide constructive feedback, and recommend other people or projects that might be relevant to their work.
At the end of their first project I ask what went well about the project and what they’d do differently next time. This can lead into future conversations about growth and development.
We’ve seen great results with this approach to bringing new hires aboard. The knowledge they gain is invaluable, and getting an early win helps them quickly build trust with their team. Your new hire will appreciate the work you’ve done to set them up for success.
Do you have other suggestions for welcoming in your new hires?
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