The delicate process of onboarding and how to run it remotely

The first day of work begins long before the actual date which is defined by the calendar, both for the newcomer and for the company that will welcome him/her. What will you do, what awaits you, and many others are the questions that you ask yourself before you start working. In the meantime, at the company, the organizational machine has been activated for a long time with the organization of every detail: from documents to papers, until the technical induction.

Usually, the onboarding process is a multi-faceted moment, that becomes even more nuanced when you cannot meet the newcomer in person.

At Mia-Platform, the onboarding process has been structured over time and has gradually improved. It is a moment that we follow with great care and it involves different people. Although the period prevents us from welcoming a new person by opening the office door and shaking hands, we still did give the first - of several – remote welcome.

In this article, we want to tell you about our experience so that it can support any company that keeps hiring even in such a difficult time.

Therefore, we interviewed Iryna Sary, Operation Specialist, Livia Rossetto, People & Culture Specialist, and Federico Oldrini, Tech Leader and Tutor of the newcomer. These are the people who, once established the date of entry, managed to define all the steps to follow.

 

The Previous Days

As anticipated, the organizational machine was activated a few days before the onboarding date and, in this case of remote management, particular attention has been paid to the time schedule.

Usually, the newcomer has the time to walk through the office and meet people. Instead, in remote onboarding, it is important that the new employee is escorted step by step and that everything goes smoothly through the different operational steps.

This is the reason why the organizational team has:

  •       Defined the day schedule;
  •       Created an ad hoc shared Hangouts room with the people involved;
  •       Created calendar events for the different moments of the day.

The first day of work is full of questions both for the most navigated employee and for those who are at the first experience. Who will I meet? Who will welcome me? Should I bring lunch? This is the reason why we usually send emails sometime before in order to involve different people.

  • We tell the newcomer how the first day will be and people he/she will meet: morning welcome with the staff of People & Culture, and introduction to the work environment; meeting with the Tech Leaders to learn about the technologies that we use; lunch with the new team; afternoon of introduction to the project and, maybe, assignment of a small task.
  •  We remind the new entry to the team that the newcomer will join and we officially  introduce the new person.  

And remotely?

Remotely, the day was run in the same way, but with some organizational differences. There was much more coordination among the managers of the various areas who took turns in the Hangouts room. The lunch turned into a virtual coffee together with the team in the early afternoon.

All the people involved – especially the team that would welcome the new person - were asked to turn on the webcam whenever possible during calls, to shorten the distances - at least during the first few days.

As for the equipment that we normally give upon arrival, the PC was shipped to the newcomer’s residency a few days before the start. All our gadgets (water bottle, T-shirt, backpack, etc.) will wait for him/her at the office on the first day of work together.

 

The Onboarding day

Our onboarding day is structured as follows:

  1. Administration and operations
  2. Our culture
  3. Join the team

First part: administration and operations

Iryna leads this first part, providing all the useful tools to start a new journey at Mia-Platform.

Normally this moment takes place in a meeting room, with the PCs side by side.In this situation, webcam and sharing screens are necessary to get to know each other and understand all the operational aspects of this beginning.

 

Mia-Platform_Wiki

 

 Going in-depth, our operational onboarding explores these topics:

  •  Internal communication tools. Overview and registration for each one: the Telegram chat, the general Hangouts rooms, and the shared calendars;

  • Gmail: activation of the account, an overview of the tool where necessary and setting of the company signature;

  • LinkedIn: job position update;

  • Jira: our precious tool for managing tasks, hours, and internal documentation;

  • Team organization: which are the teams and the projects in progress;

  • How we work: a brief introduction to Scrum and the various moments that recur in office life, such as stand-ups and sprint planning;

  • The Wiki: on our wiki, an internal and shared webspace, there are various parts dedicated to projects and to the office;

  • Google Drive: here are all our shared folders and, in particular, the regulations folder with all the procedures for requesting holidays, personal leave, sick leave, expense report, health insurance, etc;

  • Spotify: we have a beautiful playlist where everyone can add songs (and show their own true nature);

  • Our office: this is the moment when Iryna usually shows around the office: open plan spaces, conference rooms, common areas with the PlayStation, the kitchen with coffee and fresh fruits.

Thus the first part of onboarding ends. That's a lot of information but we take all the time we need. Usually, this part lasts from 2 and a half to 3 hours.

In a remote management mode, particular attention was given to the explanation of the various moments that would follow and people involved. Livia joined in the final moments of this first part to greet Iryna and move on to the next phase.

 

Second part: our culture

The second part of the day is dedicated to our corporate culture and all the aspects connected.

Let's dig into it!

  •  What is Mia-Platform: the mission and our spirit;

  •  The Manifesto: our values and how they are declined in everyday life;

  • Training and Library: the presentation of the training activities and the shared library;

  • Our communication channels, both internally and externally, and the peculiarities of each one:  LinkedIn, Instagram, and others.

  • Our events: we sponsor, present as a speaker and organize events, conferences, and meetups;

  • Corporate Social Responsibility: every year we try to start some CSR activities. This year, we partnered with PlayMore! and this involves everyone at Mia-Platform;

  • Career paths: how it is structured, how it works, and the fundamental stages of the path at Mia-Platform.

 

Mia-Platform_Manifesto



Third part: join the team

It's time to get to the heart, get to know the team, and “get your hands dirty”!.
Normally everything starts at lunch together. In the case of remote onboarding, some changes have been made to the usual procedure.

At Mia-Platform, a Tutor, an existing employee, is assigned to a new starter.
Before getting to know the whole team, the Product Owner and the Tutor had a chat with the newcomer to take some time to introduce themselves. After that, as mentioned above, there was no team lunch - which could be a little uncomfortable through a screen - but there was a coffee break on the webcam just before starting the work in the afternoon.

 

Mia-Platform_Onboarding

 

This was the part of onboarding that had multiple focus points to adapt to the remote mode. Let's see them in tangible ways:

 

  • The moments of the day: usually it is very clear to guess when people go to lunch, when they return home or when they get up to take a break. Remotely it is not easy, especially for those who have never worked in the office and shared common habits with others. Here it becomes very important to communicate also what the team's moments and times are: what time the morning starts with the standup, at what time everyone goes to eat, and at what time the workday ends. We would never want the first day of work and the second day to be a continuous flow.

  • Communication with the team: when you arrive in a new company, you might refrain from asking all the questions you have in mind, for fear of  disturbing. Also, if  asking a question to the desk neighbor is relatively simple,  it is not as easy to write in a chat or talk in a room where there are already 5 or 6 people who would be interrupted. In this case, a separate room was therefore created with the newcomer, the PO, and the Tutor so that everybody was free to share and ask questions.

  • Technical induction: our onboarding involves carrying out some exercises that help the new employee to get to know the tools and languages used by the team. We have added remote pair programming sessions, with a split-screen, to allow the newcomer to work alongside a colleague who is working on something that he/she has previously studied, at a theoretical level, or experienced thanks to the aforementioned exercises. Working in real-time alongside a colleague is definitely a great way to get to the heart of the project, safely and with support. Once you have acquired a little mastery and confidence with the tools, the moment of assigning the first tasks arrives.

  • Scrum moments introduction: each team runs the Scrum moments according to its own calendar. Every day the Team meets for the Stand-up for about fifteen minutes and once a week for the Sprint planning. It is therefore important to share the calendar of these events to allow everyone to be on time and well prepared.

Finally, some other aspects have been adapted to these manners. The CEO and the CTO welcomed the new hire with a phone call and there were two Tutors in case one was busy for a meeting.

Remotely welcoming a new person in the team can be done, if you have a well-built onboarding process and therefore easily adaptable to new manners.

Webcam, pair programming, a few more messages and we will suddenly be back at the office or having lunch together. 

 

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