How Successful Companies Onboard Entire Teams

Onboarding companies and teams is not the same as onboarding individual users. It’s harder. In fact, it’s exponentially harder — either you convince everyone in the team or lose the entire team.

Several (or all people) in a team might have the power to veto a new tool. Furthermore, according to conversion theory of minority influence, a small minority (without actual decision-making power) might change the minds of the majority when their problems get validated. Either to resist change or to introduce it. In the popular discourse, these people are usually labeled as the “vocal minority”.

What adds to that effect is having disinterested or neutral members in the majority. In the end, everyone wants to reduce conflict — so, the silent majority might as well go with the minority who at least has a few valid points.

So, how do successful companies deal with those problems and onboard entire teams?

Intercom — It’s About Knowing Whom To Ask

Intercom is a support, sales and marketing tool.

Already from the description above it’s evident that different departments inside a company might use Intercom. This is also reflected on their homepage:

Intercom — Homepage content segmented by roles

The various functions that Intercom might help a company with have dedicated persuasive content (and also special mini-products)— for sales, marketing, and support. It’s easier to talk about one specific thing at a time than to mesh three different things together and hope the visitors will filter out the right info. Not to mention SEO benefits.

Intercom has gone even so far as to create entire books dedicated to specific teams and roles:

Intercom — Books for product managers, support specialists and marketers

It’s good to keep in mind that sometimes it’s the boss who has to convince subordinates but it can also be vice versa. It can also be that colleagues have to convince other colleagues, maybe even from a different department. The dynamics can vary a lot. So, a lot of effort is sometimes needed to get everyone on board.

The welcome email reinforces that point. It doesn’t just direct you to help center or product videos — the very first thing they suggest is to continue setting up your team:

Intercom — Welcome email

If you sell your product to businesses and haven’t designed your onboarding to support groups of people, you’re likely asking people to complete tasks they’re not capable of or lack the permissions to do.

So as larger companies start using your product, instead of just asking “How many people made it from step A to step B?”, you might start asking different questions, such as:

Why would someone in a group be unable to complete this step?
Who in their company might be able to help them?
What is blocking them from asking for help?

Brendan Irvine-Broque, Intercom

So, let’s see whether Intercom walks the talk.

This is what happens when you discover a feature for which you don’t have permissions:

Intercom — Restricted feature

A similar thing happens when you are unable to complete a step that’s necessary for setup.

Intercom — Need help?

Here Intercom allows you to shortcut to user invitation. Just copy-paste the link to your colleague and they will get to sign up and then complete the problematic step for you.

When that invited user follows the link, this what he/she sees:

Intercom — Sign up for invited users

The personalized landing page tells you why you need to sign up and who invited you to where.

Compare this to interrupting your workflow, finding a place where to invite users, inviting the person (knowing the email address) and then pointing that user manually to the right step in the setup process. A lot more friction for both parties.

Furthermore, if the person invited to do the task hasn’t actually done it, the original inviter will be notified via email that the task still needs attention:

Intercom — Setup incomplete email

Monday.com — Peer Pressure That Works

Monday is a project management tool with things like boards, lists, commenting, timelines etc.

There’s a heavy emphasis on team invitation already when signing up — it’s one of the steps both for the first person who signs up and for invited users. Everyone is encouraged to add new users.

After entering the app, the “Invite Team Members” link is made readily available in the main menu as well.

Monday — Top menu with user invitation shortcut

You can even connect to your Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook accounts to make it easier to pull in contacts for user invitation:

After signing up you’ll start receiving “Your daily highlights”. These emails contain content that has been created by others but also, for example, list new team members that have joined in the meanwhile.

Monday.com — “Your daily highlights” email

It’s all designed around collaboration and peer pressure. You’ll become aware that other members of your team are using Monday — so, you better check out what they are doing in order to stay up to date.

When new users join your team, stuff like this starts appearing in your inbox:

This is not gentle peer pressure anymore — this is someone I know (my team) telling me I have to login and start working with Monday.com.

Slack — Convincing Teams Within Companies

Slack is a team collaboration tool. It’s meant as a replacement for email, message boards, Skype etc. Everyone uses email, so, in order to compete with email, Slack has to get everyone on board.

When it comes to selecting a team-collaboration tool, every member has a veto–multiplying the product’s risk of rejection. “If one engineer at a startup tries Slack and says, ‘I hate it. I am not going to use this,’ that’s it for us. We won’t get evaluated.”

Given this pattern, much of Slack’s beta period was spent minimizing that risk. “We created materials to explain Slack to individuals–what it was for, how it worked, what you’re supposed to do–but we also built resources for team administrators. We wanted to give them ammunition to help convince the team,” Butterfield says.

Slack makes it already clear on the homepage that various teams of the company can use it, thus, removing the uncertainty whether adopting Slack in, say, marketing would result in marketing using one tool and IT having to use another one.

The special landing pages for Sales, Marketing, IT etc do a good job of showing how various teams can work with Slack.

Slack — convincing IT teams

Slack’s marketing strategy has been to keep Slack free up to the point where using it becomes a habit.

Slack —The free plan

The more you use it, the more it becomes the source of truth for the entire team. When that point is reached, users will be upsold.

The magic limit for Slack is 10,000 messages (it used to be 2,000) — e.g. if you want to search and browser older messages than the recent 10,000 you will have to start paying. It takes time to get paying customers but from what I can see it’s very effective.

Slack — Upselling (Source: slarck.com)

So, Slack is removing one big possible blocker for teams — it lets the entire team try out the product essentially without any risk of having to commit. This means that Slack is less likely to get early rejections from someone with the decision power. It’s the magic of freemium.

The first time you sign up, Slack will try to make sure that you are not creating a duplicate company (quite common in companies with hundreds or thousands of workers).

Slack — Join existing workspace or create new

The same theme continues when continuing with the signup flow — Slack lets verified company email addresses join the newly created workplace automatically:

Slack — Invite your team as part of signup

There’s also another clever little alternative if you look closely at the screenshot — you can send invites by copy-pasting a special link. This removes the friction of having to remember or look up email addresses.

By the way — all invited users are encouraged to invite new team members as well as they join and go through setting up the username etc. The Slackbot even seems to detect that an invited user is going through the signup flow where they might invite someone and lets the original workspace creator know that these settings can be changed:

Slack — Invitation permissions

When you get to the app you’ll see a 3-step simple tutorial. Note that the third step talks about uploading documents.

Slack — Walkthrough tutorial

This creates a nice engagement loop — in order to see the document, other team members will have to log in to Slack.

Two channels are created automatically— general and random. I guess it’s both to show off how channels work but also to distinguish between random chats and more useful ones.

Slack — The first screen

The invitation link is very prominent and opens in a popover:

Slack — Importing contacts and upselling

Notice that as with Monday.com, Slack also lets you connect to Google Contacts for easier access to contacts (especially important for big companies).

It also lets you know that invited users are not the only role — you can also invite guests if you go for a paid plan.

Invited users have a slightly different onboarding. When they join they are forced to interact with the Slackbot before they can even see a list of channels (unless they explicitly skip the tutorial):

Slack — Say “hi” to bots first

Interacting with the Slackbot probably gets users into the right mode. The next interactions will be easier to make after the successful first one.

The first screen also reiterates what Slack is. After all — invited users might have no idea where their teammates invited them.

Key Lessons

The key lessons for onboarding entire teams:

  • Segment and convince each function in the company separately — create supporting materials for different roles and parts of the company (salesman vs CEO, marketing vs sales etc.) — these can be general (how they can improve their day-to-day job) or specific (how your tool helps them)
  • Remove friction from user invitation — make user invitation part of the signup flow, use special links for invitation to avoid breaking workflows, personalize landing pages for invited users, detect the right company account automatically via email domain to avoid multiple accounts for the same company, provide contact import options such as Google Contact or Microsoft Outlook etc.
  • Exercise peer pressure — encourage sharing and notify users when something has been created, modified or assigned

Wait, there’s more…

Here’s what gyms do wrong when onboarding new members and how to hack your way into regularly going to the gym:

Head of Growth @ Planyard.com. Ex-Pipedrive and ex-Amazon. Will occasionally comment on growth, product, marketing, and tech. @teemast on Twitter.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store