Onboarding new joiners with Jira

 3 years ago
source link: https://engineering.thetrainline.com/onboarding-new-joiners-with-jira-c012c74f972a
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Onboarding new joiners with Jira

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Happy Team

Have you ever had a daunting new job experience? Have you ever started a job where they showed you your desk, your team, but everyone was too busy to talk to you and help you? Have you ever had your manager, on your first day, tell you “I’m sorry, I don’t have time right now”, before handing you some documents that are supposed to keep you busy for two days? I’m sorry to say that you were not the only one. All of those happened to me and it didn’t feel good.

It’s important that you stop to think if the new starters around you are going through something similar. You can fix it. Even if you’re not a manager, it is still within your power to make a difference to someone’s experience.

Whether it is your first job or your 10th job, most people will feel nervous and anxious about those first few days. It is the new team’s responsibility to mitigate these feelings and transform it into a pleasant experience. After all, it is a unique set of days, unparalleled for the remainder of your tenure.

We all seek the same basic things; we want to feel welcomed and supported, we want to feel that we belong to that place and to that team, and that everything is going to be OK. We want to feel comfortable and to be happy. We want to feel that someone is interested in us, in our work and in what we have to say. We all want to understand what’s expected of us in those first few weeks, who we will be working with and how to get things done.

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Making sure we do not overwhelm a new starter (well, ideally, we don’t overwhelm anyone) is crucial. People need to start slowly. The amount of new information they are expected to process in the first few weeks is huge and, as managers, we must be mindful of this. So, how can we get all that information to the person in a manageable way? In a way that they will feel in control, with a good view of what lies ahead, and that allows us to track their progress.

This actually sounds like a familiar problem, one that we’ve solved before. How is this any different from organising a new feature backlog? It isn’t, right? So, could we try and use Jira (or any equivalent ticketing system) to improve our new starter’s experience?

I’ve decided to do just that in my team, Routemaster.

I’ve created a Jira board, a welcoming board. The cards on it are very diverse, ranging from informational items to actual tasks in roughly 25 to 35 tickets. These are slightly adapted based on type of employee contract, role, and location. Most tickets will be assigned to the new joiner, but a few of them are reminders for the manager as well, for the tasks they need to complete for each new joiner.

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Partial view of an onboarding Jira board

These tasks should be reviewed each time a new joiner starts. This is, in fact, one of the reasons I like this process. Instead of having a generic Wiki page with a set of catch-all instructions, small adjustments can be made to the set of tasks, personalising the board to better reflect the individual.

As you create a new board (by cloning a previous one), this becomes a natural process. You will also be compelled to check if there are any comments added by the previous new joiner, if you haven’t yet, and these can be acted on accordingly. Personally, I prefer to react when the previous person adds the comment, so it does not get pushed down in my own to do list (Jira notifications are handy here) and so that the new joiner perceives the support they undoubtedly need, and realises that we are interested in what they have to say. If someone adds a good idea, I will discuss it with them and then raise a ticket for the next new joiner and share the ticket number with the person who mentioned it. Also, by reviewing the tickets each time you make sure they are still applicable, because we know things change fast. The manager should also check this board frequently (my preference is right at the start of the day) and make sure the new joiners have all the support they need to finish all the tasks (also known in other contexts as removing impediments).

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Let’s have a look at some examples of what I’ve added to our Jira board in more detail. We can group the tasks into some bigger sets.

Admin Tasks

  • DBS Check
  • Request Building Access Card
  • Setup an Avatar — Encourage people to add their photo to all the channels. We should know each other. Also, it makes it easier to approach people from other teams. How many times have you chatted to someone on Slack without having any idea what they look like? Maybe you just sat next to them at lunch time and you don’t even know. If you did you could have said hi, isn’t that right?
  • Setup workstation (What to install)
  • Setup VPN

Documentation/Useful Information

  • Fire alarm details
  • Read Engineering/Team Starter Page
  • Check People Portal
  • How to book holidays
  • How to submit timesheets
  • Try to get everyone’s name — Try to make this a fun activity. Asking some questions like a charade so that they need to talk to different people to find the right one.
  • List of training sessions to attend
  • Code Sweep day
  • Mood Survey


  • All the cool freebies you can get
  • All the benefits available


  • Check retrospective board and Jira board
  • Setup personal objectives
  • Ask a colleague for the KeePass password
  • Participate in an end to end task
  • Clone your first repository
  • On-call and support rota — Spend extra time on the tickets that refer to those least favourite activities. Provide good context and be clear on what’s expected and when. Be supportive by saying something like you won’t be on-call until you’re ready and the team will make sure you get all the training that you need.

Manager’s tasks:

  • Set 1–2–1 weekly meeting
  • Forward invite to relevant meetings
  • Add user to mailing lists
  • Setup timesheets
  • Add user to team’s GitHub
  • Setup Corp Account
  • Book team lunch — This item refers to booking a special team lunch to welcome the new joiner, but every day lunches are also important. It sounds so basic but I don’t find it to be so obvious to everyone, unfortunately. Some people are now thinking, seriously, I’m not five. It doesn’t really matter if you’re 5 or 50, bringing the new joiners along for lunch can make a huge difference, the little things show how good of a team you have. Most people will say that what matters is that we have an amazing product backed by some incredible tech inside of a big company with great benefits. That’s the kind of thing that makes someone join a company, but that’s not what will make them stay. Companies pay thousands of pounds to recruiting agencies for a candidate and then can ruin it so easily.
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Team Lunch

There is also one ticket for “What’s missing from this list?”. This gives the new joiner the chance to add anything that they felt was missing while helping us to make it better for the next. As I mentioned earlier, it is important to act on this feedback. It will possibly be the first opportunity for them to have an impact and participate in improving something. I usually amend the tickets or just add new ones based on the feedback and share it with them. They can also do it themselves directly.

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What’s missing from this list?

A couple weeks after starting at our team, a new joiner told me: “When I joined Trainline I made sure they would let me work from home one day a week. I fought a lot to get that in my previous company and really needed that. But actually, now that I’m here, I don’t really feel that need, I obviously still enjoy WFH occasionally, but everyone is so happy here that I don’t really feel the need to WFH.” This makes everything worth it.

Please see below Stuart and Chris experiences, on their own words:

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Chris Foster

“Often when joining a company you can feel like you’re in a bit of a limbo for the first few days, even weeks. Sara and the Routemaster team were beyond welcoming and allowed me to settle in much more quickly than I expected. Unfortunately, Sara was on holiday when I joined (not so unfortunate for her), however that made the use of a Jira board so much more valuable in my onboarding.

The Jira board gave me a strong focus of what to do when I first joined and guided me to ask the right questions to the right people. One of the most important parts of using this system was the feeling of progression that can often be absent during the first few weeks in an entirely new environment.

I was the first to use this system and many things that are on it now were not at the time, for me this shows just how powerful the continuous improvement model can be, even in places you would not expect. Sara always listened to everything I had to say, not just about the Jira board, but every aspect of my experience at Trainline. Routemaster is consistently one of the happiest teams in the mood survey and that can be strongly attributed to Sara’s enthusiasm, caring and love of team building events (stuffing us full of food is always going to help 😊).”

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Stuart Robinson-Vyas

“I started at Trainline having worked with the same team for 11 years so I was terrified about learning a whole new way of doing things and not knowing people. The structure of the Jira board meant I could have a sense of what to do without constantly asking for people’s time and a feel of how I was progressing through my induction.The team was really welcoming and I was pairing with people in the first few days, however I start a bit earlier in the morning than much of the team so there was time in most days where I would have been looking for tasks, here I turned to the board for tasks to keep me busy and further my working knowledge.The board contained a diverse set of tasks from setup based actions to more loose knowledge transfer tasks that pointed me in the direction of documentation for me to consume. With this tool I was able to have a grasp on actual processes such as release and operations when I actually came to interact with them.”

Future improvements

There is always room for improvement, especially as this process was only set up four months ago and used by only four new joiners, but I would love to see it being adopted by my colleagues or anyone else, so please leave a comment if you trial this out.

One of the improvements we need is related to the cloning of the tickets. Jira does not have a deep clone functionality for epics, and even the stories with sub-tasks one isn’t great. We could get a plugin or implement some code to do it quicker but overall cloning manually takes me 20 minutes and I personally like to review all tasks and make them better each time.

Closing Thoughts

If you read this far is because you really care, so if you are a manager I have a request for you. If you think you might not have the time for this, please try to find time. Your people are your main concern and your most valuable asset. Without them you cannot do your job and your manager cannot do theirs. If for some reason you’re unable to set this up, please delegate, but make sure someone has the time to spend with this new person and to review these tickets. Being interested in them and caring for them is key to their success and yours. People are always on the top of my agenda, as I truly believe that a motivated and coherent team is key for success, particularly in a software development environment where passion and dedication play a central role.

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