Last year, like many employees, I experienced a layoff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I began to search for a role at an organization whose leaders, employees, and clients identified with a vision and set of values that resonated with me. I eventually found that at Blue Beyond and while I’d worked in remote positions before, I’d never done remote onboarding, and wasn’t sure what to expect. Over my first three months, I learned that the kind of deep trust, high expectations company culture I was looking for did exist — and that an employee’s experience of it starts from day one of an effective onboarding process.
Virtual onboarding can work.
My first several weeks with Blue Beyond were well organized and intentional. On my first day, a welcome email went out from our CEO to the full team, sharing my background and welcoming me to the team. Suddenly, my inbox was filled with warm welcome messages from my new colleagues. I spent time working through an onboarding “checklist” which helped me understand how I could use time I had between client meetings to learn on my own. Regular check-ins with our Operations Manager and a cohort of other new hires to discuss how I was doing made me feel included quickly. The way my time was scheduled kept me engaged and also allowed for me to be autonomous in my learning. While I worried that onboarding remotely could leave me feeling disconnected, I felt more connected than I had at other in-person onboarding experiences. I knew my team trusted me to learn what I needed to, to ask for help when I needed it, and to feel comfortable contributing from the get-go.
Learning by doing is great, but mentorship is key.
My onboarding experience included quite a bit of time to learn on my own about work processes and procedures, internal ways of doing things, and the context of client accounts. I enjoyed the autonomy and flexibility and the trust that I would spend the time I had committed to doing so. Once I had a good knowledge base, I found my colleagues and account leads willing to spend time with me one-on-one, providing me with any additional context I needed and answering any questions I had. I have also had access to regular constructive feedback and have been encouraged to share feedback in return. I appreciated the trust to learn independently, with the knowledge that I had support and mentorship throughout.
Spend time connecting.
One of the things I valued most about the remote onboarding experience is that I was given the gift of time to make meaningful connections with my co-workers. Even though we were operating in a virtual world, I was able to meet with the majority of my co-workers to get to know one another personally, hear about their professional experiences, and build a foundation for positive working relationships. I was also assigned an onboarding buddy — a person to meet weekly with that I could bond with and that could support me through the onboarding process. Rather than being immediately immersed in client work or overwhelmed with meetings, I was expected and encouraged to spend time creating trust and building rapport.
Internal relationships set the tone for client relationships.
Building relationships based on deep trust and high expectations with my colleagues has set the tone for how I’ve seen our entire team approach client relationships. There are not less expectations for how we interact with one another than there are for how we interact with our clients. To learn during onboarding that your employer and colleagues value you as much as they do the clients, reinforces the deep trust that exists within the organization. For client relationships to be the best they can possibly be, employees must feel valued, challenged to deliver on high expectations, and trusted.
The thought of starting somewhere new – entirely virtually and amidst a global pandemic — can be scary for anyone. But a company can put those fears to rest with an effective onboarding program and an inclusive culture that embodies deep trust and high expectations from day one.