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You’ve hired for a critical role on your team—congratulations! You’ve spent weeks reviewing resumes, doing phone screens, and running interviews, all to get the right candidate. But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet, you still have one critical stage to pass through: onboarding.

While many managers delegate this part of the process to the HR and IT departments and assume they’ll just hit the ground running with their new all-star on day one, I’ve learned that planning that way isn’t enough.

Because what usually happens is that your new employee sits down with you, gets the few first steps, and then comes back time and time again with, “OK, I did XYZ, now what?” Or, even worse, the newbie will sit around twiddling his or her thumbs waiting for you to assign the next task. Meanwhile, you’re not only trying to train this person, but also do your job (which might include managing others) at the same time.

This exact situation is why I decided it was time to come up with a better plan that made the process work better for everyone involved.

Step one in designing this “better way” was outlining my goals:

  1. The new employee knows exactly what my goals are for him or her
  2. He or she doesn’t waste any time waiting for a next step
  3. To make the time I spend with him or her be as useful and impactful as possible
  4. For the person to start making his or her own decisions within a controlled environment, so he or she develops autonomy and self-starterness early

Once I had those in place, it became easy to develop part two—The Self-Onboarding Tool. It’s a Google doc with two main sections: the Month One Goals and Deliverables and the Month One Detailed Plan.




I’ve used this over and over again now and it hits those four goals I listed above every single time. In fact, I’m so impressed by it that I created a version for you (yes, you!).

You can download it here.

Now, before you get started working with The Self-Onboarding Tool, there are a few tips and tricks you should read through.

  1. Be as thorough as possible before the new hire starts. Add in anything and everything that might be helpful: documents to read, people he or she should meet, tools he or she should learn, and so on. There is no such thing as too granular here.
  2. Reserve the first week for a lot of reading and meeting people, as well as getting access to any those tools that’ll be needed. The second and third week should include more meetings across the organization to learn about other teams’ goals, as well as some initial tasks your new hire can start to tackle.
  3. Get as detailed as possible when it comes to assignments. Don’t just say, “Read Q4 Diagnostics”—write “Read Q4 Diagnostics in the engineering folder that’s in the public drive” and link to the file. In addition, make sure to include the names of anyone you want him or her to meet (whether it’s to get tools or to learn about the process), rather than just saying, “Meet with marketing team to discuss goals.”

While this is a game changer, you should know that you’ll still need to meet with your new hire before just sending over this doc. I recommend blocking 30 to 40 minutes their first morning to walk through the document with him or her so you can answer any questions he or she might have. After that, employees will feel empowered to get started and be off to the races. But again, you’re still the manager! Make sure to schedule 30 minutes of follow-up time throughout the first two weeks so any questions can be answered.


Trust me: With The Self-Onboarding Tool, you’ll increase how fast your new all-star gets up to speed, and set clear expectations from the get go. And, as a bonus, I’ve found that it really lets people shine since I learn a lot about their existing knowledge and workstyle from the questions they ask. Plus—I know, it keeps getting better—once you set this up once, it’s much easier to customize for future hires.

Let me know how it works for you on Twitter @acav.