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Virtual employee onboarding, Observe.AI style!

Amitha Kamath
July 2, 2020

Be it your first job or your fifth, your start date in any new role will always be memorable. 

Most remember it to be a day of introductions and paperwork, but also of excitement and meeting unfamiliar people who may even become some of your closest friends. Now, that first day of work likely takes place behind a screen. 

In a virtual working landscape, it’s more important than ever to create a personal, hands-on onboarding experience that allows new employees to feel welcomed and included as part of the team. From the ways in which we virtually engage our global remote teams, to how we cultivate an organizational culture, we must go the extra mile to ensure that the employee experience isn’t diluted by the nuances of remote work. 

In this blog, we’ll walk you through how we’ve adapted our process to create a lasting virtual onboarding experience and ensure that new hires at Observe.AI feel like a part of the team despite a fully remote work environment.

“Today will be a busy first day, but I wanted to send a quick note your way and give a HUGE thank you for this awesome gift basket. This absolutely made not just my day, but my family’s as well. Things like this are so above and beyond and have already set this company apart in my mind.” —Alex Lustig, newly onboarded Sales Engineer

Filling the Gaps of Virtual Onboarding

Starting a new job is overwhelming. Where employees could ask questions in person before, it’s all taking place through digital communications now. Here are some ways to bridge that gap.

Streamline administrative tasks to get them out of the way fast

Here’s where pre-first day onboarding comes into play. In this way, all the paperwork, which we call the “rock, paper, scissors” part of onboarding, is completed before day one. 

Provide new hires with at-home infrastructure quickly

Many people have been forced to adjust to remote work without as much as a desk to work at. We make sure that a new employee’s work laptop gets delivered at least 24 hours before an employee’s first day. 

Go the extra mile to inspire confidence and security

These are times of massive uncertainty. If you’re hiring, it’s important to assure your new hires that they won’t be vulnerable to sudden lay-offs as new team members. Our CEO makes it a point to meet with each hire after the offer is rolled out, setting time aside to go over the company vision, get to know them, and give them the confidence that they’ll be taken care of by their new employers. It also opens up a window to demonstrate and highlight a culture of transparency, like the one we have at Observe.AI.

Reinvent your company’s new hire welcome kit

Where a new hire folder and office swag was the standard before, welcome kits now must fill the needs of your employees in a better way. At Observe.AI, we are giving our welcome kits a makeover to include useful items like electronic essentials in addition to branded merchandise to make home a more comfortable place to work.

Consider including lap desks, WiFi boosters, or additional high speed internet services or ethernet connections to ensure that new hires have what they need to succeed.

“I was onboarded remotely. When I joined, on day one, devices and tool access were already in place, meetings were already set up, a checklist of things to do and read was ready for me. It was warm, inviting and I could tell the team went to great lengths to make sure I felt welcome and included. This was like having a Google map that helped me navigate seamlessly in my first few weeks.” —Akshay Kore, newly hired Product Designer

Building Virtual Connections 

Our onboarding strategy is focused now on making sure that new hires are given several opportunities to get to know their new colleagues and feel a sense of connection to company culture at their own pace. To start:

Begin providing engagement opportunities early on

As we’ve gone from in-person to Zoom meetings, it can be even more difficult getting new hires up to speed. Introducing new hires with a personalized onboarding email is step one. Next, help them get to know your meeting flows by inviting them to team meetings or company-wide all-hands to ease new hires the remote work style of your company. Let them know what the objective of the meeting is and the expectations for participants.

Invite new hires to celebrations and communication channels before their first day

In that same vein, allow new hires to observe the team in low pressure, casual settings. For example, our company has a team WhatsApp channel that we use to keep up with each other in a non-work related capacity, which is one of the ways that we’re creatively staying connected as a globally remote team.

When you know new hires will be on the call, make it a point to ask attendees to turn their cameras on and go around introducing themselves - but warn everyone in advance that this will be happening, especially if you work across time zones like we do.

We also use weekly Zoom happy hours, lunches, and hilarious virtual birthday parties as a way for new team members to get a sense of our culture, both in work-mode and outside of it. To keep activities engaging over the computer, we’ve tried everything from Zoom fitness competitions, to trivia, Top Chef, and even Powerpoint Karaoke. 


Set up a buddy system

Taking it back to elementary school, assign a welcome buddy to your new hires. Our buddies have the responsibility of:

  • Introducing new hires on meetings
  • Aligning with new hires on projects
  • Providing moral support and encouraging their participation in team communications.
  • Setting up 1:1 meetings for the first three months of employment.

Small group catch-ups and assigning a buddy goes a long way in a remote set-up. They enable new hires to make headway and feel empowered with a support system of peers.

Establishing a Virtual Onboarding Roadmap

It’s important to set up an onboarding plan that extends beyond week one. Identify the internal stakeholders who will play a role, and clearly communicate with both the new hire and other team members on what they can expect in the coming weeks.

Create a ‘meet-and-greet’ schedule with internal department heads

Setting up meet and greets with each department head is essential for new hires. Without this step, you risk creating a siloed culture of work with a wave of new hires that only understands their own team’s process. Put 30-minute time slots on department head schedules 2 weeks in advance to help allocate time and highlight that these meetings are a priority for the company as a whole.

Serve as your employee’s virtual compass

As a new hire’s first point of contact, it’s your job to make sure the onboarding process makes sense and is easy to follow. There may be gaps in the process that go unnoticed, so regularly check-in with new employees to learn what’s working well and what isn’t. Consider sharing a timeline that they can use as a frame of reference like the one below.

Continue identifying opportunities for improvement

To reiterate, It’s important to always pay attention to how processes can be improved. If there's an opportunity to automate some tedious administrative tasks, research what that would look like for a company like yours. Using the right tools to set new hires up for success in the customer support space, in particular, is crucial in order for remote training and coaching efforts to pay off.  Decide whether anonymous surveys or more candid check-ins are the right methods to collect feedback.

Looking Ahead

Onboarding is the first step of providing a good employee experience as they first get to know the company. As long as remote work continues to rely on factors outside of our control, every aspect of the process will keep evolving and we must learn how to best support our employees. At the end of the day, seamless collaboration among hiring managers, HR, Admin and security engineers is the key to success. Employee experience will always take the center stage at Observe.AI and the standard will be pushed higher and higher as we step into new normal.

Explore open opportunities and learn more about joining our growing team at observe.ai/careers. Learn more about our culture and life at Observe.AI by visiting our Glassdoor listing.

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