Onboarding New Hires with Trello

New Hires Rejoice — A First Day Without Bumps

This onboarding process is one of the least frequent things that you will do, because it happens right at the end of the recruiting funnel. However, it may actually be one of the most important steps because it sets the new hire on the right trajectory from day one and gives them a great first impression of the company. Nobody wants to spend the first day of their exciting new job sitting at an empty desk, twiddling their thumbs, because someone forgot to order their computer or compile their new hire paperwork packet.

At Fog Creek we had an ad-hoc process that slowly grew over time as we hired more people. Eventually, adding remote employees into the mix forced us to do some self -reflection. We realized that our very important onboarding process had some serious flaws that needed attention.

The process was stuck in our heads.

Unfortunately, because this was an organic process that happened over several years, the answers to the question, “A new person is starting, what do we do?” were stuck inside the brilliant heads of our sysadmins, finance manager, chief of staff, receptionist and myself. We knew this wasn’t ideal. What if one of these people went on vacation? We’d end up missing some key part of the onboading process, making their day that much bumpier than it needed to be. So, we attempted to document the process across wiki articles, spreadsheets, checklists, and word documents. This also wasn’t ideal. We needed a single place where, if needed, anyone could insert themselves into the process and take over from someone else at any time.

New remote employees had no idea who anyone was.

To give them a nice introduction to the company, remote employees spend their first week in our NYC office. From then on, they’ll interact with their coworkers using email, chat, Hangouts, FogBugz, Trello, code reviews and singing telegrams, but they won’t get the extended hallway chats or participate in lunchtime conversations in the office kitchen. New people working remotely weren’t getting to know the rest of the company as fast as new people who worked in our office. They didn’t know who to talk to regarding their 401k, which equipment they should purchase, or about our conference policy. They didn’t know who else was a recent hire or had been here for eight years. More importantly, they didn’t know who else had adorable cat pictures to share.

New employees didn’t know *why*.

Why did we film our 2005 internship program? If you’ve been at the company for awhile, you know it’s because Joel wanted to go head-to-head with The Apprentice. You were there when it happened. Heck, you’re the one that laughed uncontrollably when shushed! But, a new person won’t have any idea what you are talking about when you reference it in a chat. We want them to know our company history. We want people on day one, for example, to know why we will never play another game of “Gotcha!” in the office ever again. Never. Again.

Our solution — a Trello onboarding board.

I wanted something that was easy to use; could include checklists, attachments, photos, date and time notifications; and show real-time changes to our whole organization. We dogfood all of our products here at Fog Creek but Trello would’ve just made sense anyway.

Here’s a section of our real life onboarding board.

Additional lists include “Who’s Who in New York”, “Who’s Who Working Remotely”, and “Things We’ll Never Do Again”

The first two lists are things to do.

The “Before First Day” list contains items such as: email our new hires email address, have the team lead reach out, have a sysadmin order all necessary equipment, book travel if necessary, prepare their paperwork.

Now, if I’m out of the office, anyone can take over reaching out to the new hire to tell her which ID to bring.

Then there are the “On First Day” to do items like: join our chat system, read our employee manual, get a Metrocard. To the right of those is our “Done” list. When any to do item is complete it gets moved over to “Done”.

To the right of our “Done” list is company information like: Can I Have? Who Do I Talk To About? History Behind… It helps answers questions like, “Can I bring a bike into the office?”


Who do I talk to about the lunch menu?

Our receptionist.

What’s the history behind those World Tours I heard Chester mention the other day?

Then come our Who’s Who lists separated out by location, “Who’s Who in New York” and “Who’s Who Working Remotely”. I asked each employee to answer a few simple checklist questions and to attach a picture of themselves. Let’s help match those names with the faces!

I’m located in the New York Office.

While Don works remotely and is way cooler than me.

After this new system went into action the chat rooms lit up with, “I didn’t know Sarah was once an intern here!” and other fun things of the sort. Old-timers even learned a thing or two, “OMG I didn’t know John juggled fire?!”

Every time we hire a new employee we have to run through the whole process again so we use this board as a template for personalizing boards for each new hire. After creating your own company’s main Onboarding board copy it.

Create a new specific board for your new hire with her name and start date and keep the whole board intact, keeping the cards.

Add just the people you need for that “Before First Day” actionable list. I typically add the new hire’s manager or team lead, our finance manager, our chief of staff, our sysadmin team lead, myself, and our receptionist. Adding each person to a card indicates that that person is responsible for getting that task done before the new hire’s first day.

On the new employee’s first day you add them to their own board.

She can work through the “On First Day” list at her own pace. Notice it includes adding her own “Who’s Who” card within the main onboarding board. Now, when I go to copy the board for the next new hire she’ll already be on there.

Once all “On First Day” items have been moved to “Done” I can close this board and just the main Onboarding board remains for the next time we hire somebody.

Now our new hires get bucket loads of important information that they can read at their own pace, and I can easily see how their onboarding process is going.

I heart Trello.

I’ve created a public onboarding Trello board that you can use as a template to help you get started. Just copy it and make it your own!

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VP of People @Trello http://behindthescenesrecruiter.com/