How can I make onboarding/integration successful for my new employee?
November 18, 2020 11:21 AM   Subscribe

We (an in-house legal team) hired a new lawyer, and they are starting remotely on Monday. They will report to me, but do work for several people across our businesses. I want to do whatever I can to make their first few days comfortable and interesting, to start to establish a good bond, and to get us set up for success in the future. Remote starters/HR onboarders/good bosses: what should I do (and not do) to get things off to a great start? (Bonus question: any tips on how to generally be a good remote boss to a new employee?)

Other information, if it helps:

* The lawyer is new to in-house work, coming from a big law firm
* They have been a lawyer for less than 5 years; I am almost 20 years out (holy crap when did that happen)
* They have general experience in law but will be new to our industry (food and grocery)
* We have all the tech stuff worked out - a computer, docking station, monitor, speakerphone, webcam, etc.
posted by AgentRocket to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am a lawyer working in house remotely. I also just got a new boss, so it’s a bit like onboarding in some ways. One thing new boss is doing that’s a big improvement is being very deliberate about providing opportunities during Zoom meetings for all of us to develop relationships, sometimes with specific prompts. It’s hokey but helpful.

What I wish I had had when I first started was more of a systematic introduction to the many complex functions of our institution, who’s who, etc. Those things are going to be especially hard to pick up remotely since you’re having hallway conversations, so it would be good to have a system for imparting that information in some other way.
posted by HotToddy at 11:36 AM on November 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I just got onboarded in a fully-remote company and am having a great experience. Big high points:

- Very first thing I did with my manager after my paperwork was done was look at the org chart (which we have in a dynamic format in our HR system, which is nice) together to discuss who's who and who I'm likely to be working with regularly
- I was given a shared new hire document that listed all the sites I needed to set up logins for, who to ask if I had trouble with the listed shared drives, how to open an IT ticket, what slack channels I'm not auto-assigned to but might enjoy, and most critically:
- - - a list of people to schedule intro calls with and whether I should set up 30 minutes or an hour, whenever I could find time on their calendars over the next week or two. For me, that was over 20 other people, and it's been exhausting but incredibly important and I will never not do that again. I do feel a little bit like it was on me to set these up as part of an initiative check, because in a fully-remote company you can't be shy about this stuff. (It's also entirely expected, everybody I set a meeting with knew why I was doing it, and some of them who weren't on my list reached out and set one up with me.)

My role has a counterpart, so she's basically been my miscellaneous process buddy, but if that won't happen naturally for your new hire give them a company buddy who is less busy than you (I know, but do your best) they can ping when they can't find something or figure out how something works.

Certain weekly internal meetings are designated camera-on and the rest are blissfully audio-only. Our weekly team meetings include a 5-minute blitz presentation where one person talks about something they're really into for 5 minutes, like sloths or croissants. The company has a robust nonwork slack culture with channels for cooking, books, tv, other watercooler stuff, and one of the VPs I talked to who gave me a bunch of great advice specifically said one of the keys to success is getting in there with your dog photos and "is a hot dog a sandwich" arguments because this is how we differentiate each other from meaningless blobs. That may not be your entire company culture, but worth considering for your team. We also do work chats where we just all sit on Discord voice chat for a couple hours and work (if we're not in meetings) quietly but toss out quick questions or mini-QA requests and sanity checks.

If you can at all, a daily stand-up of even 5 minutes for the first week or two is nice, but maybe even better if you can get the whole team to do it, or at least whoever's not in a meeting at the time.

I don't know how distributed you are, but we put our home time zone in our email signatures. It's taken me a few weeks to start memorizing who lives where.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:43 PM on November 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

A friend started remotely and on her first day her employer ordered a goodie basket/coffee as a welcome. She really appreciated the gesture.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 4:04 PM on November 18, 2020

I had new staff shadow me at nearly every meeting for a bit, even if not directly relevant to their work. In the physical office, they would have benefitted from being around (and overhearing) everyone else, learning the players, the personalities, the lingo, the priorities, by osmosis. So my thought was to try to give them some of that exposure, remotely.

We’re a business/legal department and we never want our first time meeting a stakeholder to be mid-crisis—as counsel you may relate—so this was an efficient way to build a bit of rapport as well.
posted by kapers at 6:02 PM on November 18, 2020

Uh, "not having hallway conversations."
posted by HotToddy at 6:07 PM on November 18, 2020

I also just got remotely on boarded to a new position and experienced a lot of similar stuff as Lyn Never. A great thing about the many intro meetings for me was that our group has a pm type person who does all this kind of scheduling stuff (coordinating with those in her analogous position in other depts), so I didn’t have to try and figure all that out right at the beginning.

About all those intro meetings... let them be spread out over the first few weeks. I found them super helpful but also really stressful just because of the new-to-me telecon system and the stress of meeting lots of new people remotely. It’s daunting to think at the beginning, oh god is this person going to be good at conversation? Will we be able to chat for the whole 30 min? What if I say something stupid?!??!?! It was kind of like going thru the job interviews again with new people, although slightly more relaxed!

For me these were mixed in with a lot of meetings that I was a passive attendee of. (Which often provided some subject matter for those intro calls). Sometimes I attended meetings in other departments whose specific info were completely irrelevant but the meetings were structured similar to what I’d need to do later. So yeah, create some passive opportunities, which may seem weird but will make up some for the various passive learning that’s impossible to do without onsite. On preview, kinda like what kapers said.

Last, make sure the person has clear info abt what the company supplies for remote. I found out accidentally that our it department has no problem providing a monitor...but only on request. So I still wonder what else might be requestable.... it’s awkward at the beginning to ask for stuff - I found out another new employee was so nervous about it she didn’t inquire about how her laptop arrived sans power cord and just supplied one her self....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:46 PM on November 18, 2020

Where I work, remotely since March, we’ve all had IT and connection issues and had to get used to new tools/software more or less overnight. Generally there has been a lot of patience and understanding, but it wasn’t all plain sailing at first.

So I’ve made a point of mentioning to remote new starts that we’ve been through a learning curve with the company’s remote connection software and tech more generally (like in June when my neighbour did some clumsy hedge cutting and cut clean through my phone cable. It was not a happy discovery) and everyone we work with has had problems at some point. Hopefully then when they inevitably can’t connect / get their microphone to work or whatever they won’t freak out and think colleagues will be judging them etc.
posted by ElasticParrot at 7:31 AM on November 19, 2020

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