How To Onboard New Hires Now

Lish Gates who manages global revenue enablement at Algolia put up a thread on LinkedIn on how they are onboarding new sales and revenue professionals.  Algolia is around 350 employees, so a stage ahead of many of you, but in many ways just beginning its transformation from the startup phase.

I asked her to do a longer thread on it here to help other folks.

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Lish Gates – Sr Manager, Global Revenue Enablement

Hiring a new employee now means facing an unprecedented challenge: onboarding during a global pandemic. Right now, companies worldwide are experiencing a fundamental disruption to their regular business practices and organizational structure. Regardless, the reality for a new employee is that those first weeks of a new job sow the seeds that bloom into a long-lasting professional relationship with fellow colleagues and the company as a whole.

While social distancing is vitally important, a side effect can be a compromised onboarding process. Where do you even begin trying to develop rapport between hiring managers and new employees with fewer options available to connect?

Start by asking and answering these crucial questions:

  • Why should this person believe in what you believe? 
  • How can you create an experience that instills culture, knowledge, and a ‘one-of-us’ mentality during social distancing?

If you’re left scratching your head, below is a cheat sheet to clear up any uncertainties about how to proceed.

You need much more than an office furniture stipend, especially during onboarding. A common misconception in the workplace is that technology and workspace setup are paramount to productivity in isolation. However, a recent survey by a Bay Area SaaS company showed that only 24% of one’s productivity was based upon these creature comforts. The other 76% comes from a transparent commitment to employee development and success, as well as old-fashioned follow through.

Routine starts with confidence and predictability. COVID-19 has rolled in a fog of uncertainty ― the last thing you want impeding your onboarding process. The remedy is providing both a clear path and a plan for new hire success. And always, show, don’t tell. Display your commitment to new hires by building a solid, tailored onboarding plan and routine that includes a syllabus of self-paced training, live sessions, expected milestones to reach, and a meaningful mentorship program.

We’re virtual now, so here are four tips for creating digital routines to support the onboarding plan:

  1. Create a Slack channel for your onboarding class. Use this channel for daily check-ins, updates, and feedback loops; consider including select VPs/C-suite members to give new employees some welcomed love.
  2. Digital office hours/Q&A time. Start a doc for Q&As in your onboarding class Slack channel to collect questions that new employees may have during the onboarding process. Engage new hires by inviting them to a weekly online office hour to review questions and share answers.
  3. Calendar time slots. Need a task or project completed by a deadline? Suggest calendar time for your new hires to comfortably and efficiently get things done.
  4. Create accountability. Provide new hires with an accountability partner/mentor (ideally, someone in a similar role who can check-in, practice mock scenarios, and provide additional guidance each week), and allow them to shadow real-life work scenarios whenever possible.

Don’t forget to interact. Human interaction is important, however, if you’re doing back-to-back Zoom training, you’re likely doing it wrong. Avoid the all-too-common death by one-thousand slides. Instead, your primary focus should be dialed in on interaction ― and steer clear of sleep-inducing slideshows.

Plan and practice. It’s crucial to introduce prerequisite reading ahead of any virtual training to offer proper context to the discussion. Talk through concepts and practice application. Zoom Breakout Rooms have become an essential component for onboarding programs, allowing large groups to break into smaller discussions or roleplay exercises with the end goal of bringing the wider team back together to share the high notes from their experiences.

Social distancing doesn’t equal being socially distant. Most businesses are a month into social lockdown. Through this experience, many companies are spotlighting socializing online. If you haven’t, you should start.

For a new hire, there’s no better way to get to know your teammates than simple gestures such as virtual coffees, workouts, meditation hours, and happy hours (extra emphasis on happy). Also, creating ice breakers at the outset of each onboarding virtual session is a great way to get to know your new colleagues, as well as encourage them to grow comfortable with sharing and talking with others. In fact, our teams have experienced a sharp uptick in engagement since starting our live sessions this way.

“Your first day, your first week in an organization is when you’re observing each detail, figuring out where you stand. That’s when your sense of the culture gets seared in.” ― Ben Horowitz, What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

Show care and commitment. It’s the company’s role to ensure that new employees can easily see that you’re committed to them and their success in your organization. Understandably, this becomes exponentially more difficult when the new hire is remote.

At Algolia, we have five values: trust, grit, candor, humility, and care. We thread these values into our daily interactions during virtual onboarding. More importantly, we instill in our teams that these values extend to employees as well as customers.

For instance, to show “care”, we share stories of how we’ve gone above-and-beyond for customers, and also times where we could’ve done better. Honestly and openly communicating these stories imparts a dedication toward humility, grit, and care. And as the onboarding class goes through evaluations, we’ve embedded the same candor through feedback.

Share your passion for what you do. Our proven formula is that if you authentically enjoy what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, it’s a force multiplier. Have fun with your new hires. Share gifs, memes, laugh often and be vulnerable. Everyone is dealing with this pandemic differently, and starting a new job is often an intimidating and stressful situation. However, if you share who you are, what you’re doing, the cause you’re fighting for, and the problems your team and company help solve, making them successful and one of you is never mission impossible.

 

Published on April 24, 2020

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