I’m no stranger to remote work. I’ve been onboarded remotely and have onboarded remote employees before. But I have to say I’ve never been a part of onboarding someone fully remote, with my onboarding partners-in-crime also being remote, in the midst of a pandemic. As we are adapting our processes and strategy at LaunchDarkly, it’s moments like these that you truly see the team come together. This post explores the process we’ve adopted for remote onboarding and how it has evolved. It also shares some lessons we’ve learned that we think will help other companies and leaders facing similar challenges.
It takes a village
Internally, our onboarding process starts immediately after the offer is signed. Our People (HR) team creates a Clubhouse ticket (project management software) that assigns tasks and due dates for everything ranging from granting the employee system access with IT to giving them branded swag to booking all their core meetings. Our Ops team does the lion’s share of the work in areas that, in other companies, are often left to the hiring manager. Part of the process is assigning a buddy from another team to help be a resource for the new hire once they are here. So, by day one, they have three key people to talk to: Ops, a buddy, and their manager.
This is all our normal process. Traditionally, we do our first week “on-site” in our Oakland headquarters, which allows the new hire to feel out the culture of the company, meet colleagues, have water cooler chats, and my personal favorite, enjoy 1:1 walks along Lake Merritt.
So, how do we recreate this experience virtually? It starts with logistics, lots of meetings, and a little bit of extra care.
What you can do for logistics
You know how people always say thank your IT person? Be sure to thank your Ops person too. Both these departments are doing a lot of extra work to ensure our remote work situations are solid. At LaunchDarkly, our IT and Ops teams have clearly documented in Confluence (a program we use like a well-oiled machine) the process changes they’ve been making in response to the all-remote work paradigm. Here are a few things you can add to your process:
- Detail out your office supply policy (including links to specific supplies on Amazon.com) and build a process around it. E.g., does the employee order these supplies, or does the Ops person? Make it clear!
- Double-check that swag order—where is the new hire based, what is their clothing size, can you ship it to them, etc.?
- Ensure you pair new hires with buddies who have enough bandwidth to spend time with the new hires; especially right now while people are juggling caring for kids, new work environments, and other stressors.
What you can do as a colleague
Take extra care to welcome your new colleagues! Reach out via Slack and invite them to those virtual happy hours, coffee chats, and brown bag lunches. Slack can be intimidating with all its channels and leave you feeling a lot like the new kid walking into a cafeteria, not knowing where to sit or what to say. Make it as welcoming as you can, remembering it was your first day/week at one point as well.
What you can do as a manager
Our role as managers is even more critical right now as we need to ensure our team is feeling safe, supported, and ultimately set up for success in their role. Wrapping your new hire in a blanket of support is huge. Starting a new job is intimidating. Starting a new job in this pandemic while isolated can be even more so. It’s your job to make sure that’s not the case. Here are some things you can do that are “extra” but will help your employee feel more connected.
- Send out a welcome email introducing your new hire, a fun fact, and where they are based.
- Pass around a card to be signed (for our upcoming hire, we started a card in one city, and shipped it around until it was all signed). These things require prep work, but they are worth the time and effort put in.
- Prep teams about your new hire and what they will be doing (share their 30-60-90 day plan!)
- Ask individuals to touch base with them the first week.
- Help with introductions throughout the week via Slack channels, DMs, and video calls (like you would if they were at a desk and someone was walking by!).
This may feel like overkill, but it’s better than not doing enough. Double down on your 30-60-90 plans, be sure to include a small project on week one to give that employee a win. Make sure this is a visible win to others outside of your team. At our core, we all want to do a good job, let’s make sure we are helping our new hires do the same.
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” From all of this, we’ve learned a lot about how we can improve our internal systems. We are not perfect, and certainly don’t claim to be. However, we are nimble, hardworking, and determined to create a great user experience for our employees.
We are taking this opportunity to grow and see how we can do better as a company to make sure our employees feel truly included, regardless of where they are located. Have any tips to share? I'd love to discuss here or on Twitter! Thanks for reading, and we will make it through this, one day at a time.