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Conventional Wisdom, Unconventional Times: Virtual Onboarding in a Startup

Picture of Andrew Horgan
byAndrew Horgan

It had been 132 days since I had taken public transportation, been in a restaurant, or had shaken a new acquaintance’s hand. It was surreal that in these strange times I was about to start a new job, meet new coworkers, and begin training for my role in an entirely virtual environment. Despite my best search efforts, I was unable to find a best selling handbook on acclimating to a new job in a pandemic. Unfortunately there is no onboarding equivalent, but with the help of my new colleagues at mabl these new challenges were overcome with a truly rewarding experience.

 

I began my first week at mabl with a virtual onboarding session with both Pooja, our people operations lead, as well as my fellow onboarding buddy Christina. Pooja was friendly and helpful every step of the way, and in no time we were ready to wrap up and begin our day. To help get to know our coworkers and the company better, Christina and I left the meeting with a mabl centric scavenger hunt and we could work together to hunt down our answers. It was nice to build some camaraderie with another person in the same virtual boat.

Soon after I started, a flurry of congratulatory messages filled Slack as my new coworkers welcomed me to the team. In between the various meetings scheduled throughout the week I continued my scavenger hunt quest, and began connecting with lots of mabl folks across every department. This online equivalent of office introductions was a great way to get to know my new coworkers and share a little about myself as well. As I worked through questions like latest book recommendations, quarantine hobbies, or favorite local dinner spots I was also introduced to various Slack channels to connect on some of my own shared interests. Channels like #pets and #golf gave me an opportunity to really feel personally integrated into the team despite the social limitations in this completely online world.

Drinking from the Firehose

Much to my benefit during my first week, my incredibly supportive manager Darrel made himself available to me for daily check-ins. With every new job there is a wealth of knowledge to absorb, and then a million questions to follow. Being given so much opportunity to ask these questions while I acclimated to the platform and our workflow made this transition time a very positive learning experience. For each new call I joined, and every new question answered, confidence in my ability to contribute to the team grew, as did my connection with the team. Within just a few weeks time a friendly rapport with my coworkers developed and my ability to connect with and help customers became natural, that’s when I really started to feel like part of the team.

Whenever you join a new company there’s so much to consider especially when it comes to fit. Naturally you want the work to feel meaningful and for the company to have a positive culture, but in a remote work environment this can be challenging to determine. Mabl did everything I could think of to not only get me up to speed and contributing, but also engaged in the culture. Virtual events like team jeopardy, and socially distant outings such as golf, really solidified for me that I was in the right place. The online accessibility of my teammates across the organization was one of the best things that helped accelerate my timeline to contribute. I felt that at any time I could meet with or message anyone across the company and immediately get a response whether I had a question or just wanted to check in to say hello.

In times like these we need to be a little more inventive in how we best support new hires and encourage engagement in company culture. Whether that means making more time for daily check-ins or creating virtual team events, there is ample opportunity to nurture success and feel welcomed. Games of old like scavenger hunts or even bingo can help break the ice and make getting to know everyone just a little more fun and easy. Whenever possible, pairing up new hires to work together on a shared task is always a great way to foster camaraderie, and encouraging open communication lines across your organization can really help new hires feel supported and part of the team. Whatever the next challenge on the horizon, we can rise to it together with just a little creativity and teamwork.

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