Over the last week and a half the Akvo Marketing and Communications (Marcomms) team has onboarded two new team members. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in reality it means our existing team of two doubled in size. It’s a 100% increase.

Alvaro has been part of our team for three years. I myself have been with Akvo for more than five years. We both got introduced to fully function teams, who took us on board and showed us the ropes. The way Akvo does Marcomms is different than any other organisation either of us worked for, and learning from our co-workers in a well functioning team was invaluable in changing the way we approached things.

Today we find ourselves in a very different situation. Two weeks ago our team consisted of Alvaro and me but now we’ve added two new people to this micro team. We thought long and hard about how to go about the onboarding process. Of course we’re excited to have our new colleagues Georgia and Laura on board, but it does pose some questions: How do we keep the spirit in which we’ve worked the last five years going, but also leave room for this new team to create it’s own patterns? And how do we make sure we keep using our method of discoverable communications, while also creating an identity, style and way of working as a new team that we all feel ownership of? It’s important our new colleagues feel like they are part of shaping the way we work, but it’s also important to have continuity.

Alvaro started the onboarding process straight after we decided which candidates we were going to hire. He invited both Laura and Georgia to the office to sign their contract. He used that time to talk to each them, tell them what we’re working on, and how our team generally works together. Then a few days before they started in the office Alvaro sent them both an email welcoming them to team and introducing them to each other. It set the tone of how we like to work together, and judging by their prompt replies, it was well received and appreciated.

On their first day on the job, both Georgia and Laura got introduced to the team in Amsterdam. Like in most new jobs, the first couple of days are about getting set up, finding your way around, meeting people, learning who does what, and get to grips with the current things the team is working on. However, we added a little something to make them feel truly welcome to our team.

Alvaro and I put together a gift box, filled with Akvo Marcomms team essentials: business cards, an Akvo.org T-shirt, the Akvo brand book, a notebook, some stickers and some recommended reading. The reading list included some of our brochures, an overview of the 15 most important Marcomms blogs to read. We also added three books:
Top: The contents of the Akvo Marcomms welcome box. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.
Below: Laura Tufis and Alvaro de Salvo discussing the Akvo Timeline, which is part of the box. Photo by Georgia Walker.

Apart from the books, these things would’ve been part of the onboarding process anyway. We simply added a friendly welcome note and put everything together in a nice box, wrapped up in semi transparent paper, with some hexagons added to the packaging to make sure it’s all on-brand. It’s sets the scene for how we like to work as a team: we feel it’s important to be kind to each other and aim to surprise and impress when possible.

By presenting Laura and Georgia with these gift boxes, we took the first step to ‘unboxing’ our team. It’s about thinking outside the box (pun intended), about unlearning Marcomms as they may have experienced it in the past and about creating a work environment that the whole team, old and new, feels at home in.

Above: Georgia Walker unboxing her welcome gift. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo
Below: Laura Tufis unpacking her welcome box and showing off her new Akvo.org T–shirt. Photo by Georgia Walker.

You get a good impression of how Georgia and Laura felt about their welcome gift from the images in this blog. It really made a difference in the way they started out in in our team. Our choice of contents for the box reflect the way the Marcomms team thinks and works, and I can’t help but wonder what would be in a West-African, South East Asian or Dev team box. I encourage you to have a think about it and share your thoughts with your team.

Linda Leunissen is Akvo’s art director, based in London. You can follow her on Twitter (@lindadutches).SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave