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Onboarding meeting questions to welcome new team members

Did the new year bring you new team members? Or, maybe you’re growing and expanding your team? Starting a new job is tough, and it’s up to you as a manager to make your new team members feel welcome. The most effective way to get started is with an onboarding meeting. Learn about the benefits of an onboarding meeting, how to prepare an agenda, and what questions to ask new team members. 

What is an onboarding meeting?

An onboarding meeting is the first meeting a manager has with a new employee after they’ve been officially hired. It’s an opportunity to meet with a new employee or new employees to set expectations, introduce the organization’s values and company culture, provide them with relevant information, break the ice, and put them at ease. 

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The benefits of a first meeting with new team members

Beginning a new job or career is challenging; it feels like the first day of school when you don’t know anyone, you don’t know who to sit with at lunch, you don’t know where everything is, and you don’t know whether or not you’ll fit in. It’s nerve-wracking. And starting a new job is hard enough without a bunch of butterflies in your stomach. 🦋

A manager’s goal during an onboarding meeting is to minimize these nerves and make the new team member(s) feel welcome, comfortable, and knowledgeable about how things work in your organization. 

An onboarding meeting should: 

  • Allow managers to set the tone.
  • Build an initial understanding of the new team member’s work habits and communication preferences.
  • See how the new employee feels about their new role.
  • Answer any questions new employees may have.
  • Address any concerns a new employee may be worried about.
  • Set and discuss short- and long-term goals.
  • Begin building a warm and constructive rapport between managers and team members.

Ideally, an effective onboarding meeting will leave the new team member feeling excited about the future, engaged with the work, and like they’re genuinely a part of the team. 

Preparing a first team meeting agenda

Depending on how many people are being onboarded at once, an onboarding meeting might happen individually or as a group. Make sure to plan the meeting accordingly so that you have the right information, resources, and time for everyone involved.

You cannot enter this meeting blind. It is imperative to the success of a first team meeting that you create a solid and thorough meeting agenda. This, perhaps more than any other meeting, is the manager’s meeting to lead, as it’s irresponsible and inconsiderate to expect the new employee to know how to proceed. 

You need to provide relevant information and a comfortable environment so that you can each get to know each other. The new employee needs to know more about you, the business, their role, and how things run, and you need to learn more about the new employee’s work habits, communication preferences, goals, and potential concerns. 

A meeting agenda provides necessary structure so that you and the new employee(s) can get on the same page about what will happen during the meeting and what is expected of them. 

Establishing the meeting purpose

Every meeting needs a clear purpose. What is the goal of this meeting? What do you hope to accomplish? What will make it a success? How should you and the new team member feel when the meeting concludes? 

No meeting should be or feel perfunctory. An onboarding meeting shouldn’t be just another task to check off—for the new employee or the manager. Set clear goals so that you each understand the purpose of the meeting, what’s expected from both of you, and what a successful meeting looks like. 

Sharing the agenda and relevant materials

What will occur during the meeting? Break it down and ensure anyone who is involved or will need to speak knows in advance exactly what their involvement is. 

The agenda should be shared with everyone attending the meeting, along with any relevant materials. This could include your brand style guide, tech requirements, login information, or core brand values. 

Don’t spring everything on the new employee during the meeting; instead, share relevant materials beforehand so that the new team member has time to reflect on the information and discover their own questions. Breaking down your company’s culture and core values during the meeting and then asking the employee questions about how they feel doesn’t leave them enough time to internalize those values and reflect on what they mean to them. 

Share the meeting agenda and any relevant materials with the new attendee(s) before the onboarding meeting so that everyone knows what will be expected of them.

Leaving time for feedback and questions

A new job or a new team leads to a lot of questions. It’s important that you leave adequate time for these questions and any relevant feedback. 

Make sure the environment feels comfortable and welcoming; make it clear to the attendees that any and all questions are fair game. If you find you are running out of time, don’t shut down a question; instead, take written questions at the end of the meeting to follow up on, and let your new team members know when you prefer to be contacted on Slack or over email if they have any more questions. 

If you’re running an onboarding meeting with more than one new employee, it’s possible that one of your new team members may be too shy to ask a question in a public forum. Accepting written questions and allowing new employees to ask questions over Slack or email may alleviate some of the pressure on the introverts joining your crew. 

Staying on track

Your meeting agenda should have a clear time frame based on the purpose of the meeting and what you hope to accomplish. Keep track of time during the meeting, and do your best not to go over.

Your new team members have a lot on their minds and a lot to do to get settled in. Plus, you don’t want to have them thinking all of the organization’s meetings are disorganized and run over time. This will give them a negative impression of the company—the last thing you want a new employee to take away from an onboarding meeting. 

If a new team member has more questions, let them know when you’re available to be contacted or set a one-on-one meeting with them for another time in the near future. 

Introductory questions to ask new team members

It’s important to start off with some light questions to get to know new team members better. Don’t dive straight into what their ultimate professional goals are. Start the meeting in a warm and friendly way with some ice breaker questions. Keep things light and find ways to make sure everyone feels comfortable and included.

If the onboarding meeting is one-on-one, you can stick to more direct questions, so long as they don’t get too personal or serious. Be prepared to share your own answer to the questions as well. 

For example:

  • If you could wake up with any skill tomorrow, what would it be?
  • If you were casting yourself in a movie, who would play you?
  • What was the last book/movie/TV show you enjoyed?
  • If you could be any animal, what would it be? Why?
  • What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
  • What’s your favorite local restaurant? What do you recommend on the menu?
  • Settle the debate: Coffee or tea? Cats or dogs? Star Trek or Star Wars?

If you’re onboarding a group, try a quick game like Pancakes vs. Waffles. It’s a low-impact ice breaker game that will get new team members talking about their likes and dislikes without the awkwardness of direct personal questions, such as asking about strengths and weaknesses. 

Begin the game by asking the question: pancakes or waffles? If you had to lose one forever, which would it be? Take a vote if necessary. If pancakes wins, make the next round pancakes vs. coffee or anything else you decide. The winner of that round moves on to the next with another addition. The face-offs can be as simple or as silly as the group chooses to take the exercise.

Work-style questions

It’s also important to gather insight into how the employee prefers to work and be communicated with. No two team members are alike, and everyone has their own idiosyncrasies around how they work. Get started on the right foot by asking some relevant questions. 

For example:

  • How do they prefer to receive feedback?
  • How do they like to receive recognition?
  • What do they find motivates them best? 
  • What was something they felt worked well with their previous manager?
  • What could their previous manager have done differently?
  • What are their favorite kinds of work tasks? 

One-on-one onboarding meetings work best for getting to know one another, but as a group, you could complete a small personality or communication preferences test together. You can also collect answers to specific questions from each person.

Expectations and goals

You don’t have to delve too deeply here, as you will have ample time to get to know your new team member’s professional and personal goals as you continue to work with them and hold one-on-one meetings. Take this as an opportunity to touch the surface of where their head is at professionally. 

For example, what’s a mini-goal they have for the first week? What’s a goal they want to accomplish within the first 30 days? What do they expect some challenges to be? What can you do to help them achieve their goals? 

Remember to take notes about what the new employee expects, what their goals are, and what their work style and communication preferences are. Don’t just rely on your memory. What are some action items you can conclude the meeting with so that you can follow up next time? ‍

Shefali is a content- and engagement-focused marketer who loves talking to people and telling stories. She is an avid climber, hiker, and traveler, and thinks the Oxford comma is the most important punctuation mark

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