Integration of new and experienced team-members

What are important things to keep in mind, when integrating new team-members?

There are a lot of different things that motivate new authors and/or collaborators. But in our experience there are some key-features, that are really important to have and help to integrate new authors, motivate them and make sure, that they stay in a long perspective.

Keep in mind: these are just suggestions and not rules. Try to find your own way: Every community is different and every person motivated by different things and/or a mix of the points below :-)

In our experience authors and collaborators at Serlo are motivated by three main points:

  1. social environment

  2. vision

  3. topic-discussions and/or own project

So what would be important features to have in your community?

1. Social environment and teambuilding:

A good social-environment is extremely important. It makes sure, that people feel welcomed, quickly integrated and want to come back. Try to pass on our Serlo-spirit and make sure, that everyone feels warmly integrated. Important points here would be:

  • Regular meetings: Regular meetings are extremely important. In our experience such meetings with only a small amount of persons are in general better than irregular meetings with lot of persons. They give an open-space that everyone can attend and make sure that your team gets to know each other. Make sure that new persons don't feel lost when attending the meetings and assign a collaborator to talk with them and introduce them into Serlo.

  • Sprints: Also in addition to regular meetings you can organize sprints. A lot of work can be done in a sprint and they allow to intensively work together and have some success in it.

  • Social events: Social events are also really important to have a good climate in your team. Keep in mind to organize events like game- or bar-evenings, trips to … and so on. It is important to have relationships beside the work together.

  • Pauses and energizers: Work is not everything ;-) Keep in mind to make some pauses, for ex. spend time for meals together or have a chat in between. Also energizers are a great way to assure teambuilding and motivation (see here for a list of ideas) and a format regularly used at serlo-meetings is a standup where in the beginning of redactional-meetings everyone says who he/she is and what he/she is gonna work on.

  • Work in Groups: Some editorial meetings tend to develop into spaces where everyone works for him- or herself. Try to motivate group-work if some persons are interested in the same things.

  • Group-Feeling by organisational tasks: What is also a good thing and motivating is when you discuss some bigger or smaller decisions and organizational questions in redactional or other meetings. This makes clear, that you are working together on your Serlo-project and creates a team-spirit. This is especially important concerning questions of when and where organize editorial meetings/sprints.

2. Vision:

An own vision for a topic, a language-tenant or a city-team, etc. is extremely important and hugely motivates. Try to ensure that most persons have a vision (this can be the Serlo-vision or their own one for Serlo):

  • Vision-Finding Workshop with new team-members: what is extremely useful is to have vision-findings workshops with new team-members. Talk with them and ask them why are they active at serlo/interested in working there and what do they want to achieve with their work. In our experience editors that have a own Serlo-vision stay active the longest. It is a good thing to directly include this in your onboarding-process. If you don't know how to make such a workshop ask an experienced Serlo-collaborator.

  • Emphasize the Vision in the current Work: When a collaborator has a vision try to emphasize it. Make clear what you are working for, keep in the daily tasks (even in little ones) the overall goal in mind and say how your work does support this. Also it is important to emphasize that every task is important and supports the goal of education equality.

  • Achievable Goals and celebrate them: Set yourself and your team achievable goals, so that you know where you are and have steps in between your work at the moment and your vision. Try to follow the MVP-development process and also celebrate intermediate goals.

3. Autonomy in working, own projects and topic-related work:

Autonomy in work as well as possibilities for development for new and experienced collaborators are hugely important:

  • allow this work: Try not to determine everything what you are working on in a frontal way. Ask people what they are interested working on and support/motivate them with that. Nothing motivates more than having an own project to manage (let it be a part of a subject, the organization, of editorial meetings, or a whole language-version of Serlo). This allows a lot of learning for the collaborators. Such an autonomy and possibilities for development/learning hugely motivate and are extremely important. Try to support your collaborators in finding such a task/project, sit down with them in the beginning of their work at Serlo and brainstorm together what they are interested supporting or working on. Assure that they can keep their focus (always a huge danger in the beginning of a project), but don't say what they should be working on. They will find their own way. Nevertheless it is often good that they start projects on which in a wider sense you are also working on. You should still be capable to ensure a support and that you can give feedback. If your collaborators want to work in something totally different make clear where your capacities for feedback/support are (that you can't support them that much), that they will have to work independently and in aftermath also to change some things. It depends always a lot from the individual person where to find the good point between autonomy and possibilities for support, so ot is good to have a open way of communication and to talk a lot in the beginning. Ideally they would start an own project in something that you are also working on.

  • allow topic-discussions: Beside working on an individual project or the social environment what really motivates is the intensive content or project-related work (in groups). Try to allow and to motivate content-discussions about some questions, an exchange for best practices in organization and/or discussions about didactics. When people have persons to interchange with this makes sure, that they work better and don't feel alone.

  • Everybody should feel included: Especially when starting a new project, but also when there are other editors a huge danger is that collaborators can feel alone and/or overtaxed. Talk with them, ask how you can support them, what are the difficulties that they are facing, etc.? Make sure that they don't feel overstrained and lost. Mentor/Menteeee-relations (see down below) are a good way to assure that, but ideally this would be combined with possibilities for group-work. Give your collaborators Feedback so that they know their work is valued and before working always talk a little bit about other things. Everything that they do is voluntary work and make sure they feel appreciated with that.

4. Community-management and team-structures:

Also there are some things you can do in community-management to assure that new collaborators are integrated in a good way:

  • Mentor/Mentee-program: What is good to assure that no team-member feels lost is a Mentor/Mentee. Let experienced team members from your core-team support new collaborators and build a support-system. With that make sure that there is a contact-person ("Serlo Guide") for every community-member, that also makes the onboarding-process (this process is hugely important). These contact-persons can support and care about new collaborators, can help them working into Serlo and make sure, that they don't feel overtaxed. But when you have that, try to nevertheless allows group-work (not just work in 2-people-groups) and make sure nobody is ignored by accident.

  • Possibilities for taking responsibility and decision-making: Make sure that you have clear, transparent and open ways of decision-making. Give your team-members ways to co-determine where you should be going and ask them for their opinion. Also give them the possibilities to take responsibilities if they want. Try to take decisions in plenums and/or in transparent meetings, where everyone can discuss them.

  • Networking with other teams: What is really motivating is the experience that you are working not alone on Serlo/the goal for educational equality. Try to connect your team with other Serlo-teams, for example other Serlo-chapters, Serlo-Units or with the extended community. It is a huge motivator when they notice, that there is a bigger team working on Serlo and not just the local team working for itself. Also allow and motivate 1to1-connections in friendships, etc. and make contact with the extended team possible (for example in speed-dating-rounds).

  • Clear statements about yours and others capacities: Say clearly what you can do and where you have possible bottlenecks concerning your work and the work of others. Don't make promises that you can't hold and make clear when you have capacity-bottlenecks and can't manage your whole team.

We hope that this little overview could help you. If you need more help or still have questions ask your Serlo-Guide.