Many companies have returned to in-person work following the pandemic, but it appears that the future of work will likely be a hybrid of remote and in-person. A McKinsey study found that 50% of senior executives believe their employees will work in the office less than half the time in the future, and only 10% believe they will work in the office over 20% of the time. This highlights the importance for all companies, executives, and HR teams to adapt to a non-face-to-face work environment in order to thrive in the future. One key aspect of this transition is effectively onboarding new employees, even in a remote or hybrid setting.
Here at Modyo, we have been 100% remote since August 2020, and our experience has allowed us to adapt the way we welcome new people to join our team, because we are clear that working remotely and distributed requires more than ever, to learn to work collaboratively among all.
If we take a moment to consider what’s shifted, the changes are in many ways profound. There are new details to consider, and this warrants enough attention and inspiration for me, as Head of People Operations here at Modyo, to write down and share some insights I’ve both given and received from my 10-years of experience in human resources.
These insights are a collection of my own recent experiences, what I’ve learned from reading and re-reading Remote, and more specifically, these two articles from the Doist blog: How to Build Human Connections in an Async Workplace and How to Move Your Team Toward Async-First Communication (if you don't know the Doist blog and are interested in learning about remote work, I HIGHLY recommend it).
Teams are simply people getting work done
First, what’s important to keep in mind, in any idea, problem, initiative, project, change, in any situation that happens in an organization with a remote culture, is to always be clear about the following:
We are a team (i.e. working remotely is not working alone), we work with people (it sounds so obvious, but we forget this too), and of course, we have to get work done (we have a common shared objective).
Three key aspects of employee onboarding
Let's start then with the 3 aspects that form the basis of a healthy, useful employee onboarding that you can operate from anywhere in the world:
1. Functional/operational onboarding
This point is purely pragmatic and answers the following question: how do I deliver/provide/make available all the work tools that the person needs from, day 1, moment 0?
First and foremost, there are the essentials, which are to deliver any necessary equipment, accessories, create their accounts, and have everything available upon their arrival to the company.
Moreover, there’s another element among these essentials: adding them to the "enabling spaces", for example, regular meetings, communication channels (such as in Slack or similar tools), access to shared folders or repositories, and any space that contains information that is enabling for the person to carry out their work, without obstructions of the type you may know all too well—"Ah, you weren’t at that meeting the other day where we talked about <<insert your topic>>", "We mentioned it in Slack... whoops! We haven't added you yet", and so on… I have thousands of examples.
2. A dip into company culture
If a good employee recruitment and pre-boarding process has been done, then the path is already well underway. Everything that goes through and involves an employee onboarding process—meaning the first weeks/months of a person at a company—is perceived as the “company culture”.
And here let’s specify two critical aspects that speak very honestly of what a company's culture is like:
Documentation: what is written down—or what’s not—in the company's history, values, mission, and purpose. What the company's business consists of (how revenue is generated), objectives (of the company and of each area, at least), processes, roles, the information a new person needs regarding affiliation or profit sharing, policies, procedures, organization chart, etc. All the information in terms of its content and form speaks greatly of the company's culture and is an enhancer of how fast a new employee acclimates to that culture, as well as setting—in the way all the information is written and organized—the tone of a new employee’s workspace.
Understand how decisions are made: there are moments in which decisions are made during important meetings. In other moments, they’re made little by little, or in some cases decisions are basically avoided, or opposite, made in reaction and urgency. Finally, some decisions are made in response to long-term planning. The system and manner in which an organization makes decisions is part of the culture because it allows each employee to not only to measure the “tone”, but also the cadence and rhythm that sets the pace of the organization.
3. Social Calendar
The question that brings the importance of an organization's social agenda to life and mandates who takes part is the following: "who in the organization will make life easier for the person coming in?"
In order to structure and provide a mental map to a new employee, People Operations at Modyo organizes them by following a formal structure (organization chart) of internal relationships, and following an informal structure.
Formal: in young and/or more “horizontal” organizations, many times formality tends to be minimized, but it's actually very important. Having an updated and published organization chart for the whole company helps formalize roles and provide a core structure. The organization chart’s purpose is to provide clarity to the entire organization, and mostly for new arrivals, to help them orient where they’re located "spatially" within the organization.
Informal: It’s not uncommon to encounter people within an organization that demonstrate "informal" power. In my personal experience, this informality closely relates to the number of times that different people in an organization across different areas mention certain individuals. Also, observing those who are gathering people, meaning that in interactions in group activities (face-to-face or remote), and inversely, individuals that others gather around, or react to or follow their instructions (in dedicated channels in group chats, again such as Slack, for example).
Having mapped these two dimensions and clarified them, it’s critical to create a list of people with whom a new employee should have a 1:1 meeting during their initial month. More than sending a one-off message, and more than scheduling work-related meetings immediately, it’s important to create space for employees to introduce themselves to each other, to listen to one another, and to organize the work they’ll engage with together.
To know if an employee onboarding meets expected outcomes, we use self-evaluation questions, some of which are as follows:
- Am I clear about what is expected of my role?
- Am I clear about the most effective way to communicate with key people for my work (Slack, mail, call, schedule a meeting, etc)?
- Am I clear about the synchronous and asynchronous instances in which I have to participate in order to do my job?
Each new employee answers questions like these after their first month in order to review their onboarding process and understand how we can continue to improve and help them in any way possible.
At Modyo we’ve been carrying out an onboarding process covering the three points described above for 3-and-a-half years, and since the start of the pandemic and transitioning to a 100% remote organization, our focus on socalizing new employees has become even more relevant.
Work, whether remote or face-to-face, implies great importance in social interactions that not only allow us to achieve common goals, but also nurtures a sense of belonging and purpose that, when shared, helps us achieve much greater results.