Startups are notorious for being fast-moving environments. Often by the time a PM is hired it feels like they are already months too late. “There is no time to onboard, we need to throw them into this urgent project!”

Unfortunately, this mentality sacrifices the long term for the short term. The PM is such a heavily leveraged role in a product-focused tech company. More than in almost any other role, an investment in effective PM onboarding will pay dividends. So don’t skimp on onboarding your new PM!

This is why I always make a point to create and follow a deliberate onboarding plan for my new PM hires. In this 3-part series (hey - there’s a lot to cover!) I’ll outline what my typical PM onboarding process looks like.

In this 2nd part of the series, we’ll cover creating the rock-solid playbook that your PM will use to onboard to their new company and role - known as the PM onboarding plan. Let’s dive in!

What is the onboarding plan?

The onboarding plan will be a guide for your new employee to learn what they need to be effective in their new position. This article is designed for a PM who understand understands the PM role, but if you have hired a first-time PM then you will also need to spend time covering the fundamentals of the Product Management role.

The PM onboarding plan focuses on orienting the new hire with the team, the customer, the product, priorities, tools & processes, and any relevant domain knowledge they might need.

The plan is ideally in a collaborative electronic format so it can shared with to the employee for them to build upon and to serve as a checklist to track progress. This will not only help them stay on top of everything but it will also be useful for you to see how they are progressing and provide you with more focus in your first 1x1s. Remember: they will be drinking from a fire hose for the first weeks so having information organized this way will help ensure it can be referenced later.

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I suggest putting this plan in an online Doc, Wiki, or Spreadsheet, which you can walk through with the employee on their first day.

How much time should I spend?

As I mentioned already, the PM role is highly leveraged. So we want to invest in a plan that will help them be effective in the long term.

But pragmatically there will also be urgent priorities for the business, and it’s simply not energizing for a new hire to spend all their time onboarding.

So think about your situation - for the business and the new hire - and decide how much onboarding you and your new hire can afford. Then, whether you decide to invest all-out on a thorough multi-page onboarding plan or simply put a few bullet points together with a lot of voice-over, you’ll want to cover the following areas in your PM onboarding plan.

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Get to know the Team

Begin with an overview of the org structure. From the departmental-breakdown then diving deeper into the setup of the EPD (Engineering, Product Management, and Design) sprint teams. If you don’t have a documented org structure this could be the right time to create it. But you can just as easily note a placeholder here to have this be shared verbally.

Next, provide a prioritized list of the people who the new PM should meet, ideally over 1x1s. This will start with their closest teammates (e.g. their Tech Lead, Engineers, and Designer), followed by other PMs on the team and key cross-functional teammates, and the lowest priority will include the teammates they will work with less frequently. For each person, you can list their name, what they work on, and any relevant notes about what the PM should learn from them.

Referencing back to the earlier “Prep the team” topic, this is where you can help take some of the onboarding load off your shoulders as a hiring manager by delegating some of the onboarding discussions to relevant teammates (just make sure your colleagues are prepared to cover said topics).

You want the new PM to feel they have a safe space to ask questions, so emphasize that everyone around them is here to help and that many of these people are expecting to hear from them.

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