Reinventing Remote PM Onboarding
When you can’t rely on informal conversations in the office, it’s time to adapt.
Onboarding new team members is always hard. What can make it even harder: a rapidly growing team or company and a hybrid or distributed work model.
At Postlight, we’ve been feeling this pain. Our growth has led us to hire 10 Product Managers in the first eight months of 2021. (And we’re still hiring!) At this hiring pace — and in a hybrid working model that will outlast the COVID-19 pandemic — we learned quickly that our old ways of onboarding new team members were creating new challenges for the PM team. Gone were the days of informal, conversational onboarding, when new team members could simply walk up to someone and ask a question or get an insight.
We needed to find a way to standardize and scale that natural process into a tool that empowered every new PM to do great work. Our goals became clear:
- Find a way to create a resource containing all the information a Product Manager needs to succeed. Distill that information into bite-size chunks and order by priority. For example, some information is critical on day one, whereas other information is less helpful early on, and new hires can retain it more quickly after they have some baseline knowledge.
- Ensure that our onboarding supported the Product Manager’s adjustment to life at Postlight in a way that reduced confusion and allowed for a quicker ramp-up.
- Operationalize this experience so the hiring manager had a clear roadmap for onboarding and each new hire shared a similar experience.
Here are a few things we wanted our new guide to include:
- The history of Postlight, the structure of the team, and how we work with our clients
- A collaborative space to gain deep organizational context and ask questions
- Baseline expectations to establish the priority for tasks and documentation
- A documented guide that ensures every new PM would experience a consistent entry into Postlight
The Lead PM group began to put artifacts into a Coda workbook. The structure began to take shape, and within about a week, we had our MVP.
We organized the onboarding guide to be welcoming and unambiguous. One-time true background information about Postlight, the product team, and the org chart is front and center, as those are grounding details and easy to consume. Next, the guide moves into sections that are broken out by where the new hire is in their journey: Day One, Day Two, Week One, and one section on 30-, 60-, and 90-Day Goals.
Day One: Activities are focused on Postlight’s history, departments, and culture, and some important meetings and tools you should familiarize yourself with.
Day Two: This is a very structured day with clear outcomes. Activities are focused on what it means to be a Product Manager at Postlight and how we run projects. A checklist of items allows the new hire to work at an expected pace through the new-job basics: HR paperwork, computer setup, and meeting new team members.
Week One: Week One allows for some unstructured time and self-direction. Activities focus on exploring Postlight’s digital archives to get a better sense of how our teams work together, typical processes and suggestions for deeper learning, and continued exploration.
30/60/90-Day Goals: The roadmap to a successful onboarding process includes expectations and continued learning support structured into monthly views for a three-month plan.
After going through our revamped onboarding process, any PM should understand Postlight’s history, organizational structure, culture, and values. They should be able to speak to the kind of work we do at Postlight, be aware of what we expect from PMs, and understand the PM growth path. The PM would also have begun building relationships with other PMs and their project teams. Ultimately, they should feel confident they made the right choice to join Postlight and are excited about their future.
When you thoroughly document your onboarding, you take new-hire stress out of learning a new job. Clear expectations allow new hires to focus on the work while more easily adjusting to their new team and the challenges that come with a change in employment.
Our onboarding will continue to grow and evolve just as our team will. However, we now have a solid baseline where PMs can start with clear goals and expectations. Want to experience our onboarding first hand? We’re hiring!
Nathan Henry (he/him) is Associate Director of Product Management at Postlight. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.
Story published on Sep 8, 2021.