todd clark

How to onboard a new team member in 90 minutes

So you have a new team member you need to weave into the fabric of your organization, but your organization is moving at warp speed, and you really don’t have time at this time to onboard this person properly.

Onboarding is a critical component of strong organizations. A good understanding of who we are, our culture and connection with supervisors right from the start will increase the chances of your new team member actually still being on the team one year later!

Here is a 90 minute method I have used to effectively begin to onboard new team members for the past 3-4 years.

Find a day where you can carve out 90 minutes. The best way I have found to do this is over lunch. You are already going to spend 60 minutes eating lunch on many occasions. Why not just add another half hour and overlap lunch with on boarding?  Talk about being productive!

Here is a three segment outline for your 90 minute “lunch” session.


This is roughly 30 minutes where your new team member shares his or her life from basically birth to today. During this half hour I rarely interrupt, but I always makes notes on these three things:

– Things to celebrate. I write down things I want to encourage and celebrate in the person.  Often these are achievements, skills or gifts that will add value to the team.

– Things to clarify. I write down things I want to ask follow up questions about. Often these have to do with family or past employment. These are just things that I would like to understand better and how these things have affected this person’s life.

– Things we have in common.  I write down areas where our lives have overlapped. Often these are where we were born or where we went to college. It can be that we have worked in the same cities or have common friendships of which we were unaware.


This is a second 30 minutes where I share my story AND comment on the things above that I wrote down. I usually do not share as much as the new team member, but I share 5-7 highlights from my life and family. I always lead my story up to today, and this flows easily and effortlessly into the last section.


This is where I talk about where “Your Story” and “My Story” converge today! We are now writing “Our Story.”  It is no surprise to God that we are working and collaborating together today. We have been placed here together on purpose! I use this time to talk about the mission, vision and values of the organization and our team specifically.

If you are leading Millennials specifically, check out this great article in Outreach Magazine from Brad Lomenick about  “Leading 20 Somethings.”

This 90 minute session will fly by quickly, and when it is done you will have given proactive effort to assimilating your new team member. Of course there are more things that must happen to set them up for success in your organization, but the fact that your team member has been given 90 minutes of their supervisor’s time is good start.


*** Another very cool thing to do with this content would be to make team members’ “stories” available to other members of the team. Have each team member write out his or her story in just 500-800 words or less. That way as your team grows everyone can continue to understand how our stories and lives are intertwined. Other team members can also recognize commonalities and create stronger relationships on the team.
Three additional questions I have found team members need answered right as they come onboard that reach beyond this 90 minute session.

1. How do I win?  Team members must understand exactly what a “win” looks like at the end of the day. Team members need to know what they are doing matters and the part they are playing is advancing the cause of the organization. People love to win. And they will often stay at organizations, even if unhappy with their salary, if they feel like they are winning!

2. What do I need to know about our culture? Your culture is the unspoken, intangible feeling people experience when working at your organization. Every organization has a culture whether it is defined or not.  If a new team member can have a seasoned team member come alongside them, that will greatly benefit the new person when it comes to navigating the organization’s unspoken but always present culture.

A contagious culture will be your greatest asset in recruiting and retaining great staff.

[Tweet “Our culture is our currency.”]

3. Who can I ask my questions? In order to be productive from day one, new team members must know where they can go to learn about the organization and get answers to their questions.  A culture of openness and honesty where new team members can be free to ask even the tough questions will increase the person’s tenure and ultimately strengthen the organization. 

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todd clark


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