Virtual onboarding/induction

With the increase of people having to work remotely and practice social distancing, does anyone have any advice regarding how to manage onboarding/inductions virtually?

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Hey Alex, we had 8 people start the same day our entire company shifted to working remotely. We are lucky in that, instead of reinventing the wheel, we have been leveraging 3 tools we already use every day at Duolingo: email, Zoom (video conferencing), and Slack (instant messaging/text chat). Here are some things we did to help induct them (and also encourage our tenured employees to interact socially):

  1. Strongly encourage everyone to have an icon across all work accounts that is a photograph of their face
  2. Whenever we video conference, request that people turn their videos on
  3. We already have our manager’s introduce their new hires at an All Hands meeting - we had them do this over Zoom
  4. We encourage people to post photos of themselves/pets/family/meals via Slack and email, to better share what they are up to
  5. I launched a new “Meet and/or Greet” program, where employees opted in to be randomly paired with a fellow employee for a 15 minute Zoom meeting (to “meet” them if they didn’t know them already, or “greet” / check-in with them if they already knew each other). I did some sorting by tenure, so more tenured employees were paired with less tenured employees
  6. We use Slack prefixes, to help everyone navigate through our literally 100s of Slack channels. We created a new prefix, “wfh” where people have been creating their own channels to talk about their daily lunch, the silver linings of working remotely, or sharing Zoom tips. Our new hires have been very active in these channels, and it’s helped them meet folks
  7. Team or function “Happy Hours” over Zoom. That has helped our new hires integrate as well!

I lead Stripe’s new hire experience. We moved our fully in-person (in SF) one week global onboarding to a virtual setup. It wasn’t something we’d been planning for, so was a scramble but overall we are now into tweaking systems vs. designing them. Our class last week was about 30 people to give you a sense of size. Like Elise, we’re relying a lot on Zoom and Slack for the new experience. This is a long write-up as it’s been my life the last few weeks and I’d love these notes to be useful to others and to hear ideas from anyone else. I am happy to chat through specifics either over DM or Zoom if we get enough interest.

Some notes/thoughts/challenges:

An updated Google Doc about onboarding for other Stripes
The best thing I did as a program manager was create a Google Doc overview of how onboarding was changing with FAQs for all current Stripes. It’s being used by recruiters, managers, curious onlookers, etc. People feel strongly about supporting new Stripes (hurray!) and have a lot of questions. This has allowed me to redirect people to that resource and not handle a lot of one-off questions so we could focus on the program needs. It’s a basic approach but really crucial for the success of our transition.

Day1 Logistics:
We shipped laptops and did password & ID verification all virtually the first morning. We did a lot of breakout rooms to get through our new hire setup quickly. It’s pretty people heavy at the moment: we probably have 2 current Stripes helping out for every new Stripe in the first hour. We intentionally focused our v1 design on the user experience of new Stripes vs. the long-term scalability of our systems. We’ll come back to these systems over the next month as we figure out how long we’re going to be doing this and try to make them better.

We also had local points of contact for time-zones that we couldn’t support from SF time. These folks in Dublin and Singapore don’t normally work on onboarding since it is in SF but have been crucial for our Stripes starting there. We created guidebooks for them and they’ve been a huge help to make those Stripes feel welcomed and supported in real-time.

Creating Community within the class:
Creating community within the class is a big focus for our first week. Historically, we’ve been able to rely on this happening organically in the in-person classroom, over lunches, and after work for our many travelers who grab dinner and hang out together. Virtually we’ve replaced this with:
a) an activity on the first day where we do an interactive icebreaker. I find asking a question with a scale shown on your hands (0-5 fingers) is a nice way for people to interact.
b) a cohort session where we have a prompt & breakout rooms (go Zoom!) for ~4 people to discuss. We did things like: name, role, 1-2 sentences about what your team does, if you could WFH somewhere for a month and not be quarantined where would it be and why!
c) a happy hour at the end of week 2 and another at week 4 for the class

It’s probably not enough yet. So, ideas are welcome!

The classes have appreciated the time together even though I feel like an inexperienced Zoom improv artist. I noticed that the first day activity and getting folks used to each other over Zoom has significantly increased their interactivity in the sessions thereafter.

Everyone knows that remote onboarding is new for us. I have invited ideas and encouraged the class to experiment and figure this out together. This has been crucial for better ideas and a sense of ownership amongst the class in creating community together.

Delivering our original content:
In our first week onboarding, we do deep-dives into different products and parts of the business. We work with volunteers from across the company who are experts in their area to deliver the content. Our Education team partnered closely with these folks to make sure they were ready to deliver over Zoom. Most facilitators said something to the effect of “Yes, totally ready” when we first asked them about moving to remote onboarding. I’m glad we took a more proactive approach even though they said they were ready. A lot of the content needed to be adjusted (whiteboard usage, interactive product demos, etc) and our facilitators aren’t used to delivering over Zoom. We created a one-pager on how to facilitate/teach over Zoom for all of our leads and coached them along. We also moved many sessions to a self-guided activity (eg. follow this doc while testing out this part of the product!) with a facilitator answering questions in a Slack channel instead.

Supporting parents/caregivers
We created a one-pager for these folks in particular. It mostly points them to the existing resources for all parents at Stripe who are figuring out how to balance life and work right now. We made it a very easy self-serve resource and reiterated to them that we understand and they’ve got support. We did this as they were – understandably – expressing the most pre-start angst amongst new Stripes. In the future, we’re going to try to get them their first week’s calendar a week in advance so that they can plan caregiving around the schedule better.

Calendar tetris
I spent hours (hours!) working on schedules to try to get live and interactive content to as many of our new Stripes as possible. I created a Google spreadsheet with timezones lined up and moved blocks of content around depending on what was most important to deliver live, where we had facilitators in the region who were trained to do so, and what availability of different people was. This was by far the most inefficient part. I think it will be less hard now that we have a rough plan to repeat each new class. But, I’d love ideas on this one. Better systems? Products? Approaches?

After week one
We have always had a strong first week experience. The experience thereafter varies a lot by team or function. Historically we have given best practices but have been less directive with managers and spin-up buddies (mentors assigned per team – critical right now as well!). I’ve started being much more directive with managers on what they need to be doing for their individual Stripes who are new right now. Early feedback from new Stripes indicates that this is where I will be spending the majority of my time working on systematic improvements over the next few weeks.

Speaking of…Gathering feedback
We’re a bit obsessed with user feedback at Stripe. Here’s what we’re doing:
a) running our normal 14 day CultureAmp survey for new hires; I’m comparing this with previous class metrics. We will continue to watch this data in our 45 and 90 day surveys.
b) asking recruiters to check in casually with the new Stripe in their first week and share themes with me. This is the person that the new Stripe typically knows best at this time.
c) I do coffee chats with new Stripes in each class to say hello and temperature check. I get about a 15% volunteer rate when I offer these hellos. My sample is inherently biased but I’m getting good feedback each time and discovering new issues.
d) interviewing managers and spin-up buddies for ideas.

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Hi @Alex. Quiip has been a wholly distributed organisation since day one, so all of our onboarding is done virtually. Acknowledging there that we have the benefit of remote work being the norm, rather than a temporary measure.

In addition to the excellent advice already shared, we start the induction process with all contracts able to be signed digitally. Part of that is a workplace safety checklist to ensure everyone’s workspace is free from hazards and follows the guidelines set out by state OH&S bodies.

New employees receive a digital copy of our onboarding manual, which we call the Big Book O’ Quiip! It includes a brief history of our company along with our mission and values, environmental policies, payroll, benefits, outline of our commitment to staff and corporate culture.

We have additional manuals saved in Dropbox that detail how to use each of our tools for communication, rosters and EAP.

Each new member is assigned an onboarding buddy who they can go to with any questions. They check in periodically to see how everything is going, and can be emailed / DM’d as needed.

Finally they are introduced to the broader team via a welcome video from our CEO on our communication hub, and encouraged to participate in some of our “getting to know you” threads.

LOVE this info, thanks for sharing, Lisa! I’d love to see your Zoom one-pager on how to facilitate/teach over Zoom. We are lucky in that everyone is experienced using Zoom Rooms in our offices, but few of them have used Zoom personally/on their computer.

Re: calendar, we use a tool called Interview Schedule (https://interviewschedule.com/) to schedule…you guessed it…interviews! But maybe this tool could be used for other meetings? At Duolingo we have made interviewing and onboarding company priorities, so our People Team essentially has approval to schedule interviews and onboarding over people’s pre-existing meetings. We try to do this at least 1 week in advance, so folks can reschedule their other meetings. While this is subpar, we keep hours consistent for these activities (so we are only scheduling over things on specific days, at specific times). We also cap the amount of time we book people/week (ex: we onboard in 2-4 week cycles), so we are not constantly adding things to people’s calendars, or creating a bias towards inviting certain people more/less than others.

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