HomeRoles and Responsibilities5 Easy Steps To Onboard New Team Members In A Scrum Team

5 Easy Steps To Onboard New Team Members In A Scrum Team

Any new member has to feel welcomed in the team he joins. But besides that, it’s so important for him to understand how the team works and what are the processes that guide them. I’m always trying to present things on a higher level in the beginning. That is to avoid making the new teammate feeling overwhelmed with too much information. Along the way, he will have an opportunity to deepen the practices. 

As Scrum Masters, we must prepare in advance for when a new member joins the team. That’s why I always have at hand a document with all the steps the newcomer will go through in the first weeks.

1. Schedule a one-hour, one-on-one session with the new team member

Have a quick introduction where each one of you presents themselves

It is very important that before we start to work together, we get to know some things about the person with whom we are going to spend a good part of our time. As an ice-breaker exercise, I talk about my professional background. But I also bring some details from my personal life. For example, I mention some of my hobbies. 

I am the one usually starting the conversation to make the new member feel more comfortable. I consider that getting to know each other is a very important step for our future collaboration. This is how we can create a productive, professional relationship. 

I am the one usually starting the conversation to make the new member feel more comfortable. I consider that getting to know each other is a very important step for our future collaboration. This is how we can create a productive, professional relationship. 

Ask your new teammate about any previous experience with Scrum 

Another important topic that I bring up in my first interaction with the new teammate is his experience with the Scrum framework. This helps me think of what coaching plan I can apply with him. I’ve onboarded people that have worked with the Scrum framework but didn’t follow the Scrum values. But also people who were new to Scrum or others that were close to mastering the Scrum values. 

You need to take different approaches with each one of them. For example, when I work with a novice, I start with the Scrum Guide. With the ones that aren’t aware of the Scrum values, I try to emphasize them every time we apply them. The team members that are mastering the Scrum values can help a lot with the newcomers by guiding them while they work together. 

Present the Scrum process

The new team member has to adapt to the team’s procedures, not the other way around. I talk with all new members about the Scrum ceremonies and how we organized them. They must know the how the code review process looks like. Then, I also talk about the release frequency and its flow.  

Team objectives and values are also important. To adapt to all the procedures, values, and objectives, the newcomer has to know this information. 

Share high-level information about the project and the team

Even if I don’t get deep into details with the information regarding the project, I summarize what the project is about. Normally, this is something that the Product Owner should do, but some insights before are always helpful for this person to prepare some questions. 

I also talk about the team’s composition. I mention the number of developers and QAs in the team. But because there will be a meeting where they will get to know each other, I keep the information at a high level. 

2. Set up a casual meeting where the newcomer gets to know the rest of the team 

How to have a proper introduction meeting

First, to avoid any awkward silence, I’m going prepared to fill in any gaps in the conversation. Some people are more vocal than the others, but I also worked with teams where none of them were. 

Then, I’m introducing the new buddy. It might be something like “Hi everyone, meet our new team member, John. He would like to get to know us, so let’s take turns and say a couple of words about ourselves.”

When you do this, remember that you want to introduce the team to the newcomer, and not the other way around. 

Why is it important to introduce everyone to new joiners

Think about the fact that you have a formed team, with people who already know each other. Any newcomer has to integrate for the entire team to function well. 

It’s also important for the new member to know who will he work with and who can he turn to in various situations. All the new people will have a lot of questions about many things and it’s important for them to know who can help. 

It’s a way of making them feel welcomed in the team. You don’t want the new guy to be sitting in a corner without interacting with the others. No one will feel they belong to a team if everyone is ignoring them. 

What happens when you don’t introduce the team members

People will feel the rest of the team doesn’t want them to be there. Especially when the newcomer is a junior developer or junior QA, or maybe it’s their first job. I encourage the team to make sure that they make the new buddy feel comfortable in his first days at the job. 

Consider another key factor. Some people are not too sociable, and for them, it will be more difficult to integrate into the team. This can affect team collaboration because they can have a hard time communicating well with the rest of the team.

3. Invite the new member to the team’s Scrum events

When to start taking part in the Scrum events

I invite the new teammates to take part in Scrum events on their first day. When I have my initial discussion with them, I talk about how we organize our events. The sooner they get to see how it goes, the better. 

If his first day is one where we have multiple events or activities scheduled, he might not have the time to join them all. Because on the first day there are multiple administrative things going on for him to settle in. But, he will get an invitation from me on day one for all of our activities. 

What are the benefits when you involve the new members early in the Scrum events

He will feel welcomed into the team. Leaving the newcomers aside, only because they won’t be actively taking part is not an excellent choice. I’m trying to make them feel like they are there from the beginning, without emphasizing too much on the fact they are new to the team. 

Another benefit is that they can see how the team’s activities take place. This way, he will understand better the team’s dynamics and how they organize themselves. Also, the sooner he sees how the meetings go, the sooner he can actively take part. With each event he’ll be in, he will have more courage to get involved in the discussions. 

4. Make sure the newcomer has access to the tools you use in the project

When should you start setting things up

This depends on company to company, but it should happen as soon as possible. For example, I’ve had two types of experiences.

  • I worked in a SaaS environment for a couple of years. Here, you don’t depend on someone outside the company to grant access to new team members. One day before the new employee started, he had a company email address created and access to every tool that he needed;
  • For product delivery companies (known as outsourcing companies) things are different. It can often store the code in the client’s environment. Here, the clients will be the ones who can grant access to the entire team. I remember that for one of my projects, we waited for one long week to get all the needed access for the new member. 

As Scrum Masters, we have to make sure that the team has all the tools they need to be productive. 

First tools to get access to

The new member needs a communication channel with the rest of the team. It is very important for new people to stay in touch with others, especially in remote teams. At this point, when they just joined the team, they have to feel connected with everyone else.

Then, newcomers should get access to some technical materials related to the project. Such as instructions about how to configure the project locally, or any architecture designs that are available. Once he has a high-level picture of the tech stack and architecture, he can start looking into the code-base and database configurations. 

For product delivery companies, where we work with different clients, the project may require tools or licenses that we must purchase on a project base. Most companies have a person or department responsible for hardware and software purchases. I, as a Scrum Master, take care of this type of need for the team. And to be sure that I know what to request, I ask them to give me as many details as possible about the tools’ versions and why they need them. 

5. New members need time to accommodate with the code and story sizing 

Assign a person that can help newcomers catch up

A member who’s new to the team has to catch up on much information and practices. I always ask the rest of the team, who wants to be the newcomer’s buddy. I never assign myself a person to help him out. 

The new team member can stay at the same desk with his buddy, or in case of remote teams, they will be together on the same call. While working on his tasks, the buddy will explain everything he does from the moment he takes a PBI, to the moment of its completion. For example, he will see how development is done, what’s the code review process or how does he deploy the code to different branches.

It’s so important to assign such a person for newcomers, otherwise, they will feel lost trying to understand the various processes with which the team is already used.

When should the new team member get involved in the estimation process 

Newcomers to a team should not be forced to estimate until they feel comfortable doing so. However, this does not mean that we will wait 6 months until this person estimates.

New team members could start estimating after about three or four sprints. During this time, they have the opportunity to become familiar with the code and how it works. Moreover, in four sprints, there will certainly be certain problems that the team will face. These impediments are also an opportunity for newcomers to understand certain ins and outs of the code.

In fact, during these sprints, he will have the opportunity to work on his own PBIs too. I want this to happen in a maximum of 3 to 4 sprints so that we can consider the work of this new person in calculating the team’s capacity.

As Scrum Masters, we can also help by presenting them with various techniques. The one I use is to look back at the PBIs that the person worked on. We try to identify a minor task and a medium one. For the small one, we will put a size of 2, and for the average one of 5. Then, by comparison, we will put sizes for the new tasks as well. This is a technique I use not only when a new member joins the team but also with the entire team when it is newly formed.

How soon can new members work on their own tasks

Here things differ from estimates. The new member should start working on his own tasks as soon as possible. But of course, he will get a lot of help from his colleagues. It’s recommended to start sooner than later, because the sooner you start doing something, the sooner you understand how to do it.

In the second sprint since he joined the team, the new member can start with a very simple task. Thus, he will have had enough time before to sit next to the others and see how they work. To estimate, it’s important for newcomers to have the chance to work on several tasks. That’s because that’s the only way we can look retrospectively at tasks and size them.

Final thoughts

We should prepare in advance for welcoming new team members. The way we receive new people into the team affects how they’ll integrate and perform into that team. I always think about how I would like things to happen for me when I work with new people and I make sure that I do the same with people that I onboard. 

What do you do differently? Would you add any other steps? You can leave a comment below. 

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