Company Onboarding From a Distance
Tips to help inform your remote welcome strategy
We’ve all been the ‘new person’ at a job at some point in our lives. As that new person, an onboarding experience is something you always remember; it gives you an idea of how ‘together’ a company really is and serves as a first impression. When the pandemic began, Method needed to rethink how to welcome new hires so they would still feel like an integral part of our community, even from behind our screens. We brought on more than 65 remote hires in the last year, so we had to get creative.
Remote new hires are automatically at a disadvantage, as they are coming in “blind”, having never set foot in our office space. We wanted their onboarding experience to be even better than an employee who starts at the office in person, surprising them with how immediately included they feel. We needed to think about how to make a new hire feel this way, even remotely. How could we facilitate this kind of experience? We approached this question with the same rigor we bring to any design challenge.
Through qualitative interviews and survey analysis, we distilled a number of key insights for any company hoping to hire remotely. We conducted interviews with more than 20 people from all “eras” of Method in order to understand what new hires loved, what they weren’t fans of, and anything else they wanted to change about their onboarding experience. Our anonymous company-wide survey asked for honest opinions about starting at Method and whether they felt like they were “just being shown to their desks.”
While we hope we actually get to see our coworkers in the office at some point in the next year, we fully realize that offices may look very different in the future. The need for remote onboarding is not going away. How might you make a remote hire’s first month the best it can be? Here are some tips to help inform your remote onboarding strategy, for a new hire’s first day, first week, and first month:
The First Day
Send swag beforehand
Honestly, swag goes a long way in making someone feel like they’re part of the studio. Who doesn’t like getting presents in the mail? Even better if everyone in the studio has matching hoodies.
Liven up your digital onboarding materials
Your onboarding guide shouldn’t be another boring slide deck. Onboarding decks and welcome packs are what help new hires navigate during onboarding remotely. Because of this, they should become a “bible” of sorts during that introductory period.
Pack the day one schedule
If there are any days that you should embrace back-to-back meetings, it’s on Day One. Packing that first day with meetings, lunches, and “get to know you” remote coffees is key to shaping the new hire’s first impression. A tailored schedule goes a long way – as the saying goes, when you’re having fun digitally meeting your new coworkers, time flies.
The First Week
Assign a buddy
All new hires will undoubtedly have questions they don’t really want to ask their official managers. We heard time and time again that those with assigned ‘buddies’ had a much more impactful experience and felt much more welcomed than those without.
Appreciate the role of IT
The IT Manager is an important person who helps a new hire get settled in on their first few weeks. They provide them with the tools and equipment needed for a successful onboarding and they are there to provide a new hire with the systems and subscriptions they may need in order to work with teams or on specific projects. Make sure you’re coordinating between the new hire and IT department so technical glitches don’t disrupt the first week.
Within the First Month
Balance the first week’s schedule carefully
Feeling aimless is a concern in these computer-reliant times, even if we have company tenure. New hires need key meetings on their calendars, but at spaced-out intervals – having something to look forward to a few weeks out is key.
Remember to check-in and say “hey”
We’ve started a 30-day check-in tradition with new hires now that we’ve gone remote; this check-in is designed to understand how the new hire is feeling and how their first month has gone. Everyone, no matter their seniority, should have the same onboarding experience.
Experiment with breaking out of the standard calendar invite
One would think being remote would negatively affect a company’s culture. But in reality, when you value your office community, it can survive anything. We’ve found some ways to nurture our culture this experience, including everything from virtual happy hours to daily challenges to Hangout lunches. We have embraced new Slack channels, with topics ranging from #Cat-Squad to #WFH-is-fun. Creating a remote, “fun” culture helps a new hire connect with other employees outside of project work and it helps grow relationships in organic ways.
When you boil it down, successful remote onboarding comes down to a few simple principles: new hires (no matter the level or role) want to feel valued as early as possible, and they want to feel as if they’re immediately contributing something to the studio culture and work. We may only see our coworkers from the waist up nowadays (honestly we have no idea how tall all our new hires are), but that doesn’t mean we can’t make them feel as valued as those who started in person. The TL;DR version of all this? Find ways for our new, remote-first culture to feel like a digital hug hello.
Enza Pappalardo has been at Method for 3 years. Her favorite part of the Method studio is the feeling of family – she’s also the in-house onboarding expert.
Claire Lorman has been at Method for just over a year. She’s thankful she has this studio to be remote with and just likes having new digital faces for her and her cat to talk to.