Great New Employee Orientation With The Onboarding Matrix

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by Vasco Duarte

Although starting a new challenge is always great, the first couple of days at a new company often are not. New employee orientation usually is made up on the go. As a result, people can feel quite lost. As a friend of mine once told me, “You have no clue about what you should do first and you have to ask everything about everything.” The horror!

At the German company (sounds familiar? I wrote about them before here and here) they solved the problem. I asked my dear friend Robert Misch about it.

“We struggled with onboarding new employees ourselves. We used to have a Google docs checklist, but nobody really checked it. We did some experimenting, but we weren’t sure how well it worked. Some new employees liked it, some not so much. When we started working Agile, we felt the need to turn new employee orientation into a transparent process. I don’t know who came up with the idea, but we now work with our Onboarding Matrix.”

onboarding matrix
The Onboarding Matrix. A smart idea by

The Onboarding Matrix is, surprise, a matrix drawn with crayons on a school board. On the horizontal line are the names of new employees – sometimes just one, sometimes the names of a whole new team – and on the vertical line are the tasks they need to do during their first days. Those tasks are mostly tailor made to answer the employee’s needs. From ‘go around the company’ and ‘first check-in’ to ‘create a team name and team logo’ and ‘code review’. They also get a mentor to introduce them to everyone and to explain how things work at

When a new employee finishes a task, he can tick it off the board so everyone can see how well the new guys are doing.

Robert, “It’s all about visualizing. We wanted a playful approach to make people feel welcome and have a great first few days. And people really like it. They are curious. And although we didn’t focus on that, the matrix also shows progress in a gamification kind of way. You can become ‘better’ at things. Sometimes there’s a kind of friendly competition going on.”

We wanted a playful approach to make people feel welcome and have a great first few days. And people really like it. They are curious.

What I really like about the Onboarding Matrix is that on the one side, it’s really, really simple; everyone can draw one and fill it with relevant tasks.

But on the other side, it is a brilliant tool that combines a lot of smart things like gamification, employee motivation and self-organizing (there’s no priority when it comes to the tasks, you can choose to do whatever you like first). Apart from that: it turns a couple of potentially dreadful days in a great experience that makes employees happy.

So, do you think an Onboarding Matrix could work for you as well?

Photo: Erwan Hesry (Unsplash)

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