Guide your new hires from Day 1, onward

my very good girl at Monument Valley

As you know, new hire onboarding starts before Day 1, but when their start date arrives, they’ll be eager to jump in. We use Basecamp 3 to help new hires stay organized, focused, and connected during their first months at Customer.io.

What my onboarding process tries to accomplish: help guide a new hire through lots of dispersed information in one centralized place, so that they can begin making an impact regardless of their timezone or location. Plus, it feels good to check off items on a to-do list!

The first thing I do is consult the Hiring Document for the role this person is filling. (At some point I’ll write a post about our Hiring Documents and how important they are to recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and career growth at Customer.io). One of the sections in the Hiring Document includes information about the 30/60/90 day goals for this position. Are the goals still accurate for this role? Depending on how much time it took you to find, interview, and hire the person in this role, things may have changed that will affect their initial goals.

Many roles share common onboarding goals like “learning the product”, but others are specific to each position. How you continue here will depend on the culture of your company and your own personal work style. I like to start with what I know first — I’ve helped people learn the product before, so I’ll list ways we do that today. Is this still an effective way to learn the product? Does it need updating? (If yes — get help from internal/external documentation, and then have someone in Product or Technical Support take a look, too).

Why does this role need to reach this goal? Adjust your onboarding accordingly. For example, at Customer.io we have all new hires complete their own Welcome Email Campaign using their test account. They’ll learn the basics of our product while introducing themselves to the rest of the company via a drip campaign. (They’re delightful and the whole team looks forward to getting them ❤ ). For non-technical roles, we will provide a script for loading the users into their account or do it for them; for technical roles, we send them over to our API documentation and have them write their own script to send user data into their test account.

Next, there will be goals that will depend more on your new hire’s manager and team. If there are some specific design-related tasks for our new Product Designer, the best people to think through and organize some initial design tasks are the folks from your hiring team. I’ll show you how I get them involved next…

The first draft

onboarding basecamp for new hire

I work off of a project template in Basecamp 3. It’s important to work off of a basic template that you can edit for each new hire. I keep the Basecamp simple; I only include two tools: the Message Board and To-dos. Add the people you want to help onboard your new coworker. At Customer.io, that usually looks like their manager, at least one person on their team, business operations (to help with travel planning & equipment purchase and set-up), and myself.

I’ll give you some examples of what I include in my onboarding basecamps, but this will look very different for you!

The Message Board

How to use this Basecamp
Not everyone has used this tool before. Give them a little context for what they’re working with. Link to Basecamp’s basic documentation. I tell them about the Message Board and To-Do list tools and how they should use them. I ask them to start with the First Day! To-Do list, and to keep feedback regarding their onboarding process, their experience with the product or anything else!

First 3 Months at Customer.io
This is an overview of what they’ll work on in their first three months. In its first iterations, these onboarding basecamps were pretty vague. As I’ve onboarded more folks and used feedback from hiring managers, this has gotten much more detailed and helpful! When you’re working on your first draft, @ mention your hiring manager and team members. Ask them for their input. Sometimes I hop on a call with them after I’ve put together my first draft so they can help me align the new hire’s onboarding goals with what we’re trying to accomplish as a company. For me, this depends on the people I’m working with and their work styles. Note, that for senior-level hires, they may be asked to contribute to their own 30/60/90 day goals by working closely with their manager. That’s still helpful for your new hire to see — make a note of it for them!

Where do I go if I have a question?
 I love this one. It’s a simple guide that points people to specific Slack channels or people by topic. Sometimes this might be really specific, so verify the topics and resources with your hiring team!

places and people to contact

Get to know your coworkers!
Joining a new company can be incredibly stressful, but working with great people makes work sooo much better. Help your new hire get to know their coworkers sooner than later by showing them ways people are already connecting with each other.

get to know your coworkers

To-dos

Pre-start Date

Even though this Onboarding Basecamp is meant for our new hire, I like to include the operations team’s tasks to get this person up and running. It helps keep everyone on the same page, and points to the responsible person for specific items that are checked off. For example, Sonja orders and ships office equipment, and John sets up a wire transfer template in our company bank account (for contractors).

pre-start date to-dolist

First Day!

Most of Day 1 is logging in to various tools we use for company-wide communication. I use the notes section of the to-do item to include information like setting up two-factor authentication and adjusting notifications. Day 1 is also for meeting their manager and a few teammates, too.

first day to-do list

First Week

During their first week, most of our new coworkers are starting a few first projects and setting up / learning about secondary tools.

first week to-do list

First Month

At month end, I remind contractors to submit their first month’s invoice (and link to instructions) and make travel plans for the next company retreat. We also set some milestones in the projects they’re working on.

first month to-do list

Goal/Project To-do lists

Although it may seem repetitive, we create to-do lists dedicated to each goal or project (usually corresponding to 30/60/90 days at the company). For each goal, you can set specific tasks that help push your new coworker closer and closer to achieving it.

project 1 to-do list

Resources for later

Not necessary, but this is my catch all for other important information. It’s not vital stuff for day 1, but I want to make sure new hires get to it at some point.

This could be more information about expense reporting, our payroll and benefits providers, etc. It’s information we’ve talked about before, but that they should review again when they have time.


Whether your team is co-located, remote-friendly, or completely distributed, getting new people connected to their individual work and how it connects to what your company is trying to accomplish is the main goal. Help them do this as effectively as possible by limiting the barriers to the knowledge they need to acquire during their first months.

Put the priority in asking them for their feedback regarding their experience with onboarding, your company, their coworkers — don’t make them ask for what they need. By putting together an onboarding process in a template like this one, you’ll be able to easily iterate on feedback you get from them, and the inevitable changes that will happen at your company.

Let’s hear from you! What does your current onboarding process look like?

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