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Designing Employee Onboarding for the Remote Workforce—Connect Recap

by Victoria Fitoussi

May 23, 2019

Employers across all industries are seeing a rise in the remote workforce.  Technological advances allow for more and more work to be conducted from almost anywhere, and employers who want to provide a positive employee experience are facing challenges in developing a process that can be delivered anywhere.  Dennis Field Senior Manager, People Development, at InVision spoke recently about a process his organization has developed to meet this challenge at Sapling’s Connect Summit on May 1, 2019.  You can watch his session here.

InVision is the operating system that is used to design apps and websites that we use every day. What is even more interesting from a recruiting and onboarding perspective, is that InVision is a 100% fully distributed company.  Each employee literally works out of their own homes or offices.  For this reason, there is no traditional onboarding process. Essentially, they’re a global organization with 800 employees from 42 states and 28 countries across the world who are solely connected through technology.  

In his talk at a recent Sapling’s Connect Summit, Dennis outlined some of the challenges and opportunities employers may face and how these challenges were met by his group during the design phase of the onboarding process. Read on to discover, Dennis’ learnings:

Challenges

When considering ways to improve your remote onboarding process, begin by targeting several key challenges that the organization is facing with the existing onboarding.  Some examples that many companies face include:

  • Limited visibility: In a traditional office setting, it is easy to poke your head into an employee’s office and touch base on a daily basis.  With remote settings, it takes a little creativity and extra effort to maintain high-quality communication.  It all starts well before the employee’s first day on the job.  Preboarding includes a lot of things that need to be built before that first day so that the employee has the ability to get into the new “office”.  
  • Proximity:  People are working in their homes and offices across the world.  Each of those remote locations adds a diversity that changes the ways we communicate, the topics we talk about, the things we can share.  There is also a piece that makes everything about the remote work setting feel distant.  There are sometimes individuals in very rural areas with different internet sources, which can create even more challenges.
  • Employee’s expectations of onboarding: Employers want to understand what it’s like for someone who’s new to remote work and what they’re expecting from onboarding in general.  The answers to these questions would help determine how the onboarding process would be designed in order to meet not only the organization demands but also their needs and expectations.
  • Resources:  Understand that everyone has restraints, how will you keep the focus on making sure your organization and remote employees work smart with what they have?

Once the challenges are identified, the next initiative is to really understand the audience.  The InVision group used their own software to map the entire employee experience.  They went through a complete exercise to see what tools were being used, to recognize the communication channels, and to identify what is happening behind the scenes that they might not ordinarily see.

To gain additional insight, you could conduct onboarding needs surveys and ask questions to gain feedback on the process from the employees who have completed the onboarding process. This will help employers to see how well the process is working and what needs improvement.

Opportunities

Once challenges have been identified, the next step is to identify and target several opportunities to place focus on.  The greatest opportunities for InVision were around culture and community.  They set a responsibility to make sure that culture and community were fostered in the first five days of the onboarding process.  An opportunity that is often overlooked is the ability to surprise and delight new employees.  Be creative and try to find ways of doing things in a distributed environment that you initially didn’t think you could do.  

Mission

The mission was set to create an onboarding experience that is world class, authentic, iterative, engaging and scales to meet the needs of InVision today, as well as in the future.  Understanding the importance of having an ambitious goal helps remind the team why they are doing this in the first place.

Guiding Principles

Wanting it to feel connected, the team chose features to include in order to build the world-class onboarding experience.  They wanted it to be world class and lovable.  They wanted new employees to complete the process, feeling that this was the best onboarding they ever had.  They also wanted people to leave feeling empowered and excited as well as connected and engaged.

The process needed to be designed with intent and purpose.  It needed to be flexible and collaborative, but also authentic and people-focused.  

Solution

The ideas for InVision’s onboarding solutions focused around the idea of hospitality.  They chose the name, Xenia, for the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, and for their beliefs in the idea of welcoming and generously hosting guests.  These beliefs are rooted in what they feel the first five days should be.

How Xenia is structured

The program is set up for five days.  Dennis said, “we realized it doesn’t make sense to fly everyone to a location, conduct training and send them back home - it kind of defeats the purpose of onboarding if it isn’t available in the physical work location, so you would essentially have to re-onboard them at home.”

The team has designed a variety of activities to keep the pace steady while encouraging a fun, relaxed atmosphere.  

  • They offer pop quizzes daily.  
  • Show and tells, where they may include other InVisioners to share their stories of growth.
  • AMA’s (ask me anything) activities encourage open, honest communication.
  • Watching content and having a group discussion about what they are learning.  
  • Individual learning with study halls and homework as well.  
  • “Invite” everyone to breakfast to start the week, and they often provide lunches that employees can expense.  

All of these activities help to make the remote culture feel a lot less “remote”.  

Tools that drive this onboarding experience

Tools are available that can make the onboarding experience easier and more user-friendly.  Dennis and his team utilize Sapling to automate tasks, workflows and for complete homework during Xenia.  Since there are teams that cannot be reached in every time zone, Sapling serves as the “host” when everyone cannot be present.

employee onboarding process

Zoom is where the teams have their daily sessions and conversations.  This is their “classroom”.  Onboarding employees log in every morning and chat for about four hours about the content for the day.

Slack serves as the primary way to communicate throughout the day and beyond.  Dennis even calls it the “headquarters”.  For this reason, they make sure to teach the new employees the methods of Slack and how to manage it right from the classroom itself.  

The Results

The feedback and measurable results have been good after InVision has been doing this for around a year.  Some interesting statistics gleaned from current employees who have experienced Xenia show the proof:

  • 89% feel very knowledgeable about our culture, goals, mission & impact as well as our products and solutions.  
  • 93% feel ready to move into role training.
  • 97% are very excited to continue their journey at InVision
  • 96% highly likely to recommend Xenia

It can be easy to feel disconnected in distributed work.  This disconnect can be lessened right away, within the first five days with a well-developed, quality onboarding program.  You want your employees to feel more connected to people in your organization that they may have with most co-workers at previous jobs, even though they would see and talk to them every day.  The idea is to make employees feel like part of the team very early in their journey.  

With consistent commitment and a willingness to give innovative ideas a try, you can help your remote employees feel like a member of the team right away!   You will see strong retention and engagement from your new employees for years to come.  

Want to know how Sapling can help you develop the best onboarding experience for your remote workforce?  Try a free demo today!

Victoria Fitoussi

Victoria joined Sapling's marketing team in Spring 2018. She is passionate about connecting people, any and all creative pursuits, and helping Sapling enhance People Ops leaders to deliver employee experience programs with consistency, visibility, and analytics.