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Onboarding collaborators


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This guide walks you through the steps to onboard a new collaborator into your workspace. We're assuming you already have a structure set up and some processes that you want your collaborator to follow. If you don't, first check our guide on setting up a collaborative workspace and then continue with this one.

Diagram showing the flow for inviting collaborators

Onboarding a teammate consists in

  • Document the general structure of your workspace
  • Explaining the processes that are relevant for them
  • Providing documentation they can reference
  • Giving them a way to ask questions and suggest changes

For this guide, we'll assume you want to handle this remotely and asynchronously. While this can all be done in person, via chat or via web call - we'll show you how to do it inside the app since we don't know your particular use case. Several of these steps you'll want to do anyway even if you happen to physically work with the person you're onboarding, they take a little time upfront but save time in the long run.

Describe the purpose and structure of your workspace

The first thing we want to do is describe the purpose for our workspace. This will help new folks quickly understand what goes on in this space, and what type of information is supposed to be put into it.

We'll continue with our example of the fancy bakery that we developed in the 'setting up a collaborative workspace' guide.

Let's start by creating an item to hold all our onboarding information. It's better to keep this all under a single item instead of having it spread out. Asking a new collaborator to fish around for documentation when they're getting the hang of collaborating with you is a bad idea. We'll create an item called Support and put that at the bottom of our workspace.

Bullet list showing basic structure of tea space

The first thing we'll add to our new support section is the purpose of our workspace and a general description of the key areas.

We'll call it About this space and add a description that anyone new to our bakery could read and get an idea of what goes on in our workspace. Here's what that might look like.

Screenshot showing the 'about this' space

Now, let's add information about the different areas, so it's clear who is responsible for each one and what their purpose is. We'll put that under an item called How each section works

Screenshot showing the ''How each section works" section

Explain the basic flows

So now we have a nice description for the entire workspace and for the different main areas or sections. The next step is to explain the key processes or flows that take place in our workspace. This is what describes how different pieces of information move around and when.

It's not necessary to describe every single possible interaction, we're only trying to capture the main moving parts - especially when there are any handoffs from one area to another. Clearly defining which area is responsible for moving things around will reduce the likelihood that things will fall through the cracks.

There are many ways you can describe and show the different flows. What we'll use here is a very simple system that is easy to read and understand. You can then take it and modify it depending on your needs.

For example, let's start by showing the flows for the Orders section. We'll use the same How each section works item and just add the information about the flows under its corresponding item.

Screenshot showing the basic flows explained with text diagrams

Notice how we have a simple text description of each main action that involves moving information around. We also have a diagram that goes along with each description. Let's go over the diagram system.

Chart showing what each symbol means
  • '* *' Asterisks show items that are created
  • '[]' Brackets represent pieces of information
  • '{}' Braces represent an item that could have multiple names
  • '->' Arrows indicate where items should be moved to
  • 'C>' C arrow indicates the item should be copied
  • '>' Angle brackets show the location of nested items
  • '()' Parenthesis indicate another area is responsible for the action. Otherwise, location of the flow indicates responsibility.

Let's go over each flow to make sure the diagram system is clear.

Screenshot showing information flow when an order is received

Here we're showing how a [New order] is put in the right spot under the New orders section.

Next we have a flow with complete orders coming in.

Screenshot showing information flow when an order is complete

The parenthesis indicate that the Decoration area is responsible for putting the [Complete order] into the Ready section.

And finally we have what happens when a client has picked up their order.

Screenshot showing information flow when a client as picked up their order

We indicate that the [Complete order] is put under the Client section.

While it's taken a while to explain how the system works, notice how the system itself is compact and easy to understand. Let's go ahead and add our description of the symbols to our Support section so new collaborators can reference it and understand the flows. We'll add it under Support and put it right below About this space so it's the  second thing on our list.

Screenshot showing the ''flow symbol meanings" section

Now we would go through each of the sections and add descriptions and flow diagrams for each one. We'll skip that for this tutorial because it's pretty straightforward if you use the symbols. If you do want to see what those diagrams look like, you can see them in the template for this guide.

Create a discussion section

Up to now we should have a description of the purpose of our collaborative space, descriptions for each section, and simple flow diagrams that explain what actually happens in each section. Now we need a way to provide additional support in case someone has a question, an idea, or a petition for our workspace.

Let's add a section called Discussions and we'll put it at the very bottom of the Support section.

Screenshot showing the discussion section in the team space

And let's also add some items to make it clearer what type of discussions should put in here. This will help keep things tidy and organized.

Screenshot showing the structure of the "Discussions" section

And there we have it, now let's do some final polishing up to make sure every person we onboard knows what to do in our workspace and knows where the answers to their questions should be.

Polish documentation and invite collaborators

We want to make sure that we can point new collaborators to a single place, in this case our Support section and that there will be enough well laid out information for them to understand how the workspace functions. To make sure that's the case, we'll add some numbers to the items in that section so it's clear in what order they should be looked at.

Screenshot showing how to organize the "Support" section

Now you can point new collaborators to the Support section and ask them to go through the items in order. If you follow the steps in this guide, you can be confident that after going through the documentation, the person will have a solid grasp of:

  • What is the purpose of the workspace
  • What are its main areas
  • How do those areas work
  • Where they can ask questions, provide feedback, etc.

The final step is to invite your collaborators, in our case the cashier, the bakers and the decorator.

If you're inviting teammates then we suggest you create a team account and invite all teammates that way. It lets the team admin manage the subscription payments and team accounts from a single panel. You can learn more and signup at workflowy.com/teams.

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