Remote On-Boarding in 2020
Written by our guest blogger: the VanHack team
After you’ve hired your first remote employee, it’s very important to have a great onboarding experience to truly make them a part of your team – and equally, for your existing team to feel like a great new colleague has joined the company.
You might wonder why it’s so important to go through this process. Isn’t it enough to simply send an all-hands email announcing the new hire? Possibly with a picture and a brief bio?
No, it’s really not that simple. The reason for that is quite simple as well. Us humans are social creatures, and we’ve evolved with an entire glossary of non-verbal communication that we instinctively use when we meet someone in person.
And this doesn’t necessarily happen in one meeting either. We build on this over time, and after a few weeks, we feel comfortable around the other person.
A remote employee is naturally unable to go through this social process, and it can feel quite isolating. It can even affect their performance at work.
So, how can you set up a remote on-boarding process that makes everyone feel welcome?
VanHack’s been a remote company since 2015, and we created our process over time. We made some mistakes and we learnt a whole lot. Here is our guide – we’re sharing it to help you avoid the same mistakes!
Day 1- The First Introduction
VanHack works on Slack. Our company channels are constantly humming with activity as people across the world join in. The #team-vanhack channel is a combination water-cooler, meeting room, cafeteria and general hang out.
All new team members are first added to this channel, with a message from our head of HR that says something like
“@channel please welcome our new $JobTitle @vanhack-name. @vanhack-name will work together with @vanhack-xyz getting VanHackeers doing ABC.”
Our company culture ensures that everyone welcomes the new hire with a personal greeting. Often, conversations begin right here – people ask where the new person is from, share stories and so on. Since Slack is asynchronous many-to-many chat, it’s usually low pressure and easy enough for even the most introverted people to talk.
Most companies do this via email, but it’s a lot harder to kick off spontaneous conversations on email thanks to the lag plus the one-to-one nature of it.
If your company is larger than a few hundred employees, it’s usually best to introduce the new hire in dedicated team channels instead of in the all-company channel.
Week 1 – The Weekly All-Hands
We have a weekly all-hands call where everyone joins in. This is one of the few rules we have at our company about working at the same time – we really do want EVERYONE to be on this call, and we want all webcams to be turned on.
Our CEO and Head of HR will jointly introduce the new team member towards the end of the call. This gives you some time to understand the rhythm of the call, how people interact, and so on. In addition, you’ve usually already been on Slack for a few days and will start putting names to faces.
This is the point at which you address the company. You’ve already sat through 40-odd minutes of the call, and therefore know that the vibe is low-key and quite informal. After a brief introduction, the rest of the company asks questions. Since we’re all remote, we’ve evolved a mix of chat + live questions that usually doesn’t need any moderation.
For companies that are a mix of in-person and remote workers, we recommend that you have at least one team meeting where everyone is remote. Pick separate meeting rooms, sit at your desk, whatever it takes. That way, you avoid a situation where there’s a separate conversational undercurrent in the meeting room that the remote employees are unable to sense or take part in.
Again, depending on the size of your company, you may want to do this in smaller team calls, or on your general all-hands calls.
Week 2- Buddy Assigned, Resources Shared
Towards the end of Week 1, we match you up with a work buddy. Your buddy is supposed to be your first port of call for any questions, or even if you just want to chat.
We make sure that people who volunteer to be buddies are somewhat gregarious and outgoing. The buddy program is run by HR, and we have a separate process to join and be trained as a buddy.
Your buddy sets up calls on a mutually agreed schedule. In addition, the new hire is encouraged and expected to reach out via Slack whenever they like – and in the first few days, the buddy makes sure they contact the new hire a few times a day to make sure they don’t feel shy about getting in touch.
This is also when a bunch of resources are shared with the new team member. The idea is to provide information along with someone that can explain things to you so you don’t get lost trying to make sense of it all by yourself.
Week 3 – Calls with all Team Leads
Calls are scheduled with all the team leads to help get a sense of how the company operates, and what the various divisions do. These hour-long calls are taken very seriously by the team leads – they are almost never rescheduled.
During this call, the team lead will explain how their team works, who the members are, and present any information they deem relevant. You are expected and encouraged to ask a lot of questions, and they usually do.
The teams that are most relevant to you will often include other people on the call to start building personal connections.
Week 4 – One Month Check In
VanHack HR checks in with you towards the end of the first month. This call is structured to help ensure that you have met all the internal milestones that HR sets. If some have been missed, we try and quickly catch that and fix it.
HR will also check in with your buddy to get a sense of how you’ve been feeling. You buddy can suggest various things, ranging from “Everything is A-OK!” to “We should make sure we’re providing even more support.”
The reason for checking in with your buddy is simple – when you’re new at your job, you may hesitate to say that things aren’t working out, or that you’re having issues.
However, if your buddy has been checking in with you as they are supposed to, they usually have a good sense of how you’re feeling about joining VanHack. And they only provide general guidance to HR; your conversations with your buddy are quite private (this is all part of the Buddy training).
At the end of the first 30-days, you should have a good sense of VanHack’s communication patterns. Throughout the month people will be messaging you on Slack, inviting you to calls, and generally getting to know you. The team channels will show you how we operate through the day as members log on and off depending on their time-zones.
It takes longer than a month to feel at home, of course, but we’ve found that the combination of a structured process with HR and an unstructured process of self-discovery along with a friendly guide (your buddy), provides optimum outcomes.
And it doesn’t stop here. The first month has the most extensive support for a new team member, but we ensure that you have support for at least six months.
Do you want to know more about remote hiring and onboarding? Check out VanHack’s website or get in touch with the VanHack team! They have a lot more information on the subject, and they’re always happy to share.