Working in a start-up is fast-paced; and we must often juggle many tasks at once. When moving to shelter-in-place, I thought my office responsibilities would reduce. As the office manager, I found them actually increased! Many facility management tasks were replaced with supporting roles for every department. Marketing and Sales events were now part of my logistics role. I had to learn new skills. On top of all that, I became heavily involved in IT functions. As we scaled up the virtual events, we were also scaling up in terms of the headcount.
Time management can be a challenge
My role now involved hopping between team meetings and figuring out how to support the various teams. My biggest challenge was time management, as I found myself working more hours and being pulled between many important responsibilities. One of my biggest concerns wasn’t getting everything done, but how do I ensure the team still feels invigorated while I am performing my duties. Culture from the very first day is essential. With everyone working from home, I also had to figure out how to onboard remote workers and make them feel welcomed.
While remote onboarding has become normalized in the past year, it's still lacking the in-person touch. Maybe we think, "These new hires must feel grateful they are employed during the pandemic,” or maybe we think we have been home for so long, what’s the difference now? But we must think deeper.
There’s a difference between an ‘OK’ and a ‘great’ experience
We are lucky enough to have a rapid growth spurt during these challenging times. Managing the onboarding of the many new hires while juggling requests and regular duties felt like a rush of adrenaline.
Before anything else, we must remember a couple of things. First, remote onboarding is not the same as onboarding remote employees. While some employees may be permanently remote, not everyone is, or will be, all the time. Many people are familiar with working in an office with colleagues, and this new paradigm can be cold and distant. People Ops must make people feel comfortable and welcome even if through a zoom screen.
Second, we are all working WITH home not just from home. This can mean different things to different people—interruptions, kids, roommates, neighbors, partners, pets, and so on. While a new hire might feel excited about the new job, we shouldn’t rush the onboarding process. ‘Hire Slow’ means more than taking your time to select the right candidate. Pushing your team too fast to bring too many people on has a snowball effect.
Imagine if the host of a restaurant seats 15 tables at once and there are only three servers. Each of those tables will have to wait for the server to get to them. It puts a rush on every other point in the restaurant—the bar to the dish station. Everyone is excited at the same time for a drink, a bite, and they will mostly all want their checks at the same time. Having someone wait five minutes (or a week in our case) may be the difference between an ‘OK’ and a ‘great’ experience.
Tips to make remote onboarding more personable
Here are some tips to make remote onboarding of new employees more personable and a great experience:
- Slow down. Making sure you aren’t rushing is the key to everything else. Take the time to create a plan that is workable.
- Get to know your new hires. Ask them about their interests, preferences, and take the time to zoom with them before their first day.
- Welcome them to the team. Making sure they have a proper welcome event to the department and the company—whether it is lunch or even a weekly meeting.
- Set them up for success. Give them the tools and agenda to know what to expect the first week and beyond.
- Don’t just walk them across the street and then let go. Check-in with them even if they aren’t in your department. Having someone from HR or IT touchback to make sure they have what they need is crucial for their success and the company’s.
- Look for ways to keep employees engaged and feel included. This is a challenge that may lead or contribute to zoom fatigue. Offer a variety of cultural initiatives that people can pop in and out of when time allows. Music and arts, physical fitness, food, and beverages, are just some casual examples of activities that can be organized on a regular cadence.
Learn and adapt
When we went into lockdown, we tried to keep the weekly game and happy hour cadence on Fridays. It became too much for everyone, including the planners. By pivoting to a monthly social hour and a bi-weekly yoga zoom class, our team finds other ways of connecting. We had to pivot. Learning to pivot has been a lesson we have learned many times over in 2020. We should remember this when it's time to go back. Pivoting will happen again, but it won’t just be returning to normal.
At Arkose Labs, we have had a great deal of success with remote onboarding. This is where building a great company starts. Our attrition rate in the first six months of employment is 0%. The people team is often developing new ideas and reviewing current ones to make sure there’s something for everyone as our team has grown from a young start-up into something much more. It starts with our people and how they start matters.
Having found the right balance, I continue to support company initiatives and ensure new hires aren’t forgotten.