It’s hard to believe that we’ve been remote for over a year now even though so much has happened, like rethinking how we stay connected virtually and onboarding new hires. Rustici didn’t hire just a few new faces, we welcomed 10 new employees (and looking to hire even more). I definitely had my share of ups and downs adjusting to new ways of onboarding. Here’s what I learned about welcoming new hires to Rustici, helping them connect with coworkers remotely and helping them learn what they need to know.
You’re part of the team
Culture and team building are huge parts of what makes Rustici a great place to work, and for the first time, we had to come up with ways to recreate that feeling of connectedness while apart. When we were still in the office, we would decorate the new hire’s office and have a welcome breakfast where everyone could drop by for a doughnut or bagel and say “hi.” Now, I’ve come up with a few ways to welcome everyone virtually.
For a lot of the new hires, I’m the only person they’ve met in person. If they’re local, I drop off their equipment and a little extra surprise. I get a lot of joy out of curating a basket filled with someone’s favorite snacks, a little succulent plant, some local coffee (if they’re a coffee drinker), a handwritten welcome card and other treats. I think this personal touch goes a long way, especially when people don’t expect it.
Other ways we show people we’re excited to have them is with:
- A welcome email with some food, drink and preferences questions
- A gift card for food delivery for a virtual “meet your team” breakfast
- An all-company virtual happy hour toward the end of their first week
- A two-week check in to see how things are going
The most important thing is to communicate! With exclamation points!!! Just kidding, kind of. In all seriousness, be enthusiastic when welcoming new hires to let them know that you’re really excited they’re joining the company.
Baskets I sent to our most recent new hires.
The first few weeks
I schedule several one-on-one meetings for their first two weeks. These meetings are typically an introduction to people in different departments, our products, HR set up and short get-to-know-you hangs with teammates. While that sounds like a lot to keep track of, it’s not so bad with the right tools, like a shared onboarding list in a project management app. When we moved to work from home, I tweaked our template to specifically cater to remote needs, and it comes in handy to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
I also created a separate Google calendar for new hires. That way, I can block out their meetings and send invites without cluttering my own calendar, and it allows me to keep an eye on what they have going on for the first few weeks. I try to add fun details to liven up the meeting invites and give some quirky information about the person the new hire is meeting with. For example, “Chris is somewhat of a bird whisperer. He tracks all the birds he spots and even befriended one he named Greg. He loves all things outdoors and outer space. Maybe that’s why we think he is simply Out. Of. This. World! Today, he’ll be sharing with you the story of SCORM.”
Finally, I created a checklist for the new hires themselves to know what and who to expect in their first weeks. My hope is that this gives them the agency to ask for what they need if they find that a meeting or goal is missing.
Hospitality with a capital “H”
Rustici has an unofficial culture credo from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: Be Excellent to Each Other. To me, hospitality means to be warm, kind and actively invite questions. We explicitly tell people that we’re all here to help each other succeed. So if you need something, have a question or if you’re like me and have a thousand questions, just ask.
My goal when new people arrive is to create an atmosphere of extreme welcome, celebration and structure so they don’t feel too overwhelmed their first few weeks at work. Learning your new job is stressful already, let alone during a pandemic and starting completely remote.
Most of our new hires aren’t familiar with eLearning standards and our products, so there’s a steep learning curve. Even though we are mindful to tell them to ask questions and that we don’t expect them to remember everything in their first week, it can still feel like a fire hose of information pointed at them.
Knowing this was a challenge helped spark the winning idea for our recent Rustici hackathon: a new hire onboarding portal in Instilled, a Learning Experience Platform, which includes a series of videos to watch based on role. For instance, marketing may see different videos than what a developer watches. The videos allow new hires to watch training at their own pace and rewatch when they want a refresher, which will hopefully reduce the pressure to remember everything right away.
We haven’t replaced our one-on-one hangouts, we’ve just created a way for new hires to refresh the topics they feel they want to spend more time reviewing.
Looking back and ahead
Not too long ago, we sent out a survey to all of our new hires, and hearing their feedback was one of the most meaningful moments for me from the past year. I appreciated hearing how they’ve felt so welcomed to the company, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. If they need things, like a specific kind of keyboard or where to take recycling if they’re new to the area, I’m here to help them out.
As for the future and planning what we might do when we can safely return to the office, I’m thinking airhorns. Definitely air horns. That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my planning for boarding the office train.