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June 6, 2016

Why we revamped our onboarding process at BugSnag

I joined Bugsnag as the first Office Manager in July of 2015. Over the next six months we doubled in size, opened an international office in Bath, England, and moved into a bigger HQ office in San Francisco. It was an exciting time and we were growing fast, but it reached a point where I knew we weren’t offering the best onboarding experience we could for new hires.

Hiring is crucial for any company, but even more so in a startup where bringing in talented people who are also a great team fit is essential. At Bugsnag, we already offered great perks and a fun, friendly work environment, but I knew we could do even better. I wanted us to create a thoughtful onboarding that would help our new team members ramp up through a streamlined process.

Our main goals for onboarding

First, I wanted to find a way to extend the excitement of accepting an offer through to the first day at Bugsnag. Many times you sign an offer and don’t join the new company for several weeks, and I didn’t want the excitement to die off in between. This helps us create a great first day which is really important.

Second, I wanted to centralize every step of the process in one place. We had checklists and documents, but there was definitely a way to combine it all for quick access and efficiency.

Third, as our team grew, we’d made changes to the ways we work, like weekly team planning meetings and setting up project management tools across teams. These changes are important and help our team collaborate effectively, but weren’t being addressed in the new hire experience. I wanted to make sure new hires understood our collaborative working style from the start.

Picking the right tool for the job

Finding the right tool was really important because in addition to making sure that onboarding worked well for new hires, I also needed multiple people to be involved in the process. I looked into a few different options and decided on Trello which we already used on several of our teams to manage projects. Trello has great notification and communication features which are key for tracking progress between multiple team members.

With Trello, we can move each step to a Done list when it’s been completed. Eventually all items will be moved and archived other than our General Info list. The General Info list is where we put frequently used contacts (like Slack groups and email lists), links to employee blog posts, and general office information. The new team member can also add any information they’re given during their first few days here to keep on hand for later. When you join a new company you’re often bombarded with details about the office and company, policies, etc. Trying to remember everything can be a hassle, so this way our new team member has access to all the information without feeling like they’ll forget or lose it.

Setting up Trello

So now it was time to set up my Trello board. I decided to track the process over a month with six lists (Offer, Before First Day, First Day, Week 1, Week 2, First Month).

Onboarding before day 1

Standard HR and Operations tasks are spread between the Offer all the way to the First day. The First Day is arguably the most important. Here we give the new employee time to set up their computer and new accounts, meet with them for a quick office tour, and go over building access, certain policies, and how to get set up on the perks we offer. We also schedule a chat to discuss equipment policies and security.

Weeks 1 and 2 are more relaxed and focused on team events and helping everyone get to know each other. We schedule a team lunch and coffee meetings with a few team members from different departments. The goal here is to start building relationships across the company and offering more resources as the new employee is still ramping up. It helps break down barriers so everyone knows they can speak to everyone and ask questions. An inclusive and open working environment is a really big part of who we are and so making sure we help people feel this right from the start is integral to their onboarding process.

Onboarding first month

By the end of the first month things should be running smoothly. Here we schedule a lunch or coffee with our CEO, James, which then puts the new employee into the rotation for their quarterly 1on1.

Why we track onboarding over a month

I want to make sure we’re aware of how people are adjusting for a longer period than just the first day or week. So we’ve decided to track onboarding over a month. As time goes on, there are fewer administrative tasks, but the most important things, like integrating into the company and getting to know the team, continue. This also includes HR/Operations and the Founders of the company checking in from time to time with each new employee.

In a month’s time at Bugsnag there is an opportunity to experience all aspects of our culture and work environment. We’ll have a monthly All Hands meeting for the entire company, including our UK team. We’ll have done at least one team event, like going out to the Exploratorium, Trivia night, or just playing games at the office.

Our aim is that by the end of the first month, our new team member has all the tools they need to be productive, have met and bonded with other teammates, and feel comfortable in their new role.

People are the most valuable part of any company and it’s important to us at Bugsnag that everyone is happy and successful. This new system has allowed us to stay on top of the process and address any issues before they become a problem. We’ve made a public version of this board as an example to help you gain inspiration for your organization.

So far we have used this Trello board to onboard several new employees and the benefits have definitely been noticed by our Operations department and our new team members. We think we’re on to something here and can’t wait to use it as we continue to grow.

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