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How to on-board the cohort postdocs 

On this page we share a list of things to consider when on-boarding your cohort of postdocs, including the practical implications. We provide information on how we did it and include useful template documents you may wish to adapt to your needs. We also round up with the main recommendations, so you can avoid pitfalls and smoothly get your cohort off to a good start. 

On-boarding considerations

Making a good start

  • If you require cohort members to complete an initial evaluation survey and/or a participant agreement, ensure these are completed before on-boarding each participant  
  • Give them information on how the cohort will run, take care to not overwhelm them 
  • Set up their coaching groups/assign them to a coach (if you’re having coaches)  
  • Inform participants they can request to move coach if for any reason they don’t gel or have a conflict of interests 
  • Set up a private workspace or channel for the cohort postdocs on your instant messaging platform of choice. Add/grant participants access to the virtual group or instant messaging platform you’re using to communicate with the cohort 
  • Encourage cohort forming from the start – this could be something as simple as prompting virtual introductions on the instant messaging platform  
  • Will you run a buddy scheme? If so, when will you start it? Will it be open to all your postdocs or only cohort members? Will you run one for cohort members and one for all other postdocs? See how to run a buddy scheme for more details.  
  • Consider holding some welcome events or activities, such as an informal drop-in to answer any participant queries and/or a welcome induction event (in-person ideally) to uncover any shared concerns and begin to engender a sense of cohort community 

Logistical considerations

  • Create a mailing list of cohort members (needs to be easy to update if you have any participants leave before the end) 
  • How will you track which cohort members have completed/not-completed any compulsory elements, such as completion of a survey and/or participant agreement, if you have any? 
  • How do you want to keep a record of which cohort members are assigned to which coach if you’re offering career coaching? 
  • Do you want to track cohort member attendance if you’re offering career coaching? If so, how? 
  • Do you want to track cohort members attendance at delivered sessions? If so, how? 
  • How will you moderate the instant messaging workspace? Will you have a code of conduct?  
  • Ensure any personal data you’re storing complies with UK GDPR and local data retention best practises. Folders should include the date in their name so you can easily keep track of when they need to be deleted. 

How we on-boarded our cohorts

We checked that each postdoc had signed the participant agreement, and completed the initial benchmark evaluation survey before they were welcomed onto cohort (granted access to cohort area of portal, dedicated SharePoint and instant messaging platform). 

Postdocs were assigned to one of five external career coaches. Postdocs were mixed to ensure coaching groups contained a mix of discipline, gender and ethnicity. All postdocs were given coaching guidelines, for them as coachees. The postdoc assignments were emailed to the respective coach, each coach then arranged times/dates for their coaching sessions. For information about coaching see our page on how to organise career coaching for Prosper.

PI agreement for postdoc participation was sought and secured by each individual postdoc. 

We encouraged cohort members to virtually introduce themselves on Mural. Download are example Mural here.

Cohort members were emailed a comprehensive welcome pack and the same information was made available on the cohort-only area of the portal for their easy reference.  An FAQs page on the cohort-only area of the portal was also provided. In addition, we held a number of live, virtual welcome drop-in sessions to answer any cohort queries. We created several videos welcoming the cohort and outlining the different aspects of the cohort. 

We held a virtual induction session to get the cohort together and to uncover any shared concerns. The session participants were asked ‘how do you feel about career transition?’ and ‘What concerns you about taking part in Prosper?’ which they answered individually before moving into groups to share and discuss. Each group was asked to collectively agree just two responses to feedback. These responses were collected and all participants were asked to anonymously vote for which was the most significant for them at the moment. The concerns raised were addressed during the session. See the video below for an overview of the session. 

We ran a buddy scheme from the start of cohort 2, initially running it as compulsory and then switched to opt-out. See the how to run a buddy scheme page for more details.

Associated resources

Our approach to onboarding logistics 

  • We created a mailing list of cohort members to make communicating with them streamlined. 
  • We used Smartsheet (essentially a fancy spreadsheet) to track which cohort members had completed/not-completed their initial survey and signed their participant agreement. We didn’t send out their welcome email (grant access to prototype Prosper website, SharePoint and instant messaging platform) until these were done. 
  • We used the same Smartsheet to record which career coach each participant was assigned to. 
  • We moderated the instant messaging workspace between ourselves in the team. We didn’t find this time consuming as the number of messages wasn’t high. We had no problems that required our intervention during either of our two pilot cohorts. 
  • We gave each of our career coaches a spreadsheet with the names and email addresses of the participants assigned to them. These were saved on our SharePoint site and only accessible by the specific coach and ourselves. The coaches used these to record the attendance of each participant. This was also useful for us to confirm the number of hours delivered when the career coaches submitted their quarterly invoices. 
  • We recorded cohort members attendance at live delivered sessions and recorded this in a spreadsheet so we could see if any participants weren’t engaging. We used this as a prompt to check-in with them. 



  • Do consider offering a live session/s to answer any cohort questions in a group setting to get them off to a good start 
  • Do consider starting the cohort with a face-to-face session to further encourage networking and cohesion 


  • Don’t expect the cohort to retain all the information in one go 
  • Don’t let cohort members start on the cohort until they’ve completed any compulsory things (like surveys) you’ve specified 
  • Don’t expect the cohort to spontaneously post comments or form sub-groups on the instant messaging platform. They are likely to need direct encouragement to take advantage of these functionalities/opportunity 

All resources

How we on-boarded our cohort

Onboarding logistics

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