Since March 16 most of Austria’s companies are obliged to switch to remote work. The transition from on-site work to pure remote work went really smooth for Symflower. Mostly because many of our employees already worked from home for 1-2 days per week and all processes were already digitalised. However, can our hiring and onboarding process cope with new employees during Covid19?
Symflower is growing fast, and still growing with several open positions. Thus, we were facing the question, whether hiring and remote onboarding can work during a total lockdown. In other words, you won’t see the new employee in person before hiring them and you need to get them productive without the benefit of sitting next to each other during the onboarding process. Waiting until the end of the lockdown and basically being forced to stop expanding our company for an unknown amount of time was definitely no option for us: we kept looking for new team members. Luckily we found Lucia in the middle of March who is now reinforcing our graphics department.
Now that Lucia has joined Symflower for a while, it is time to examine what we have learned. Here are our two perspectives on hiring and onboarding during Covid19 as well as our main learnings.
Symflower: “The hiring process was actually not that different from our standard procedure. For a new position at Symflower we usually require two interviews. In case the person would have a rather long journey to get to our site we offered to do one or even both interviews remotely in the past. With Covid19 we simply switched to doing both interviews remote.”
Lucia: “For my interview at Symfower I had to prepare a graphic for a social media post in advance. Before the interview I had problems with my webcam, also I did not know how I would be able to present my work with the used video-calling solution. After these initial problems the interview went quite smooth, we had a very nice and upbeat atmosphere.”
Learning: Inform applicants up-front about the details around the remote interview procedure. Especially how the exercise can be presented during the call to ensure that applicants feel comfortable during the digital interview.
Symflower: “The onboarding was surprisingly similar to our usual onboardings. We prepared the first tasks that Lucia would work on in advance. We made sure to choose some small tasks at first that simply show our work processes and how the issue tracker is used. The tasks afterwards were meant to get to know all the existing design works as well as the domain of the Symflower product. On her second day Lucia already started working on her first company critical task: completing the design of the most important pitch our company has had yet.”
Lucia: “I really enjoyed the first few tasks, because they gave me an idea how everything is organised in the company. I was a little overwhelmed though by the importance of my first bigger task (completing the design of a pitch deck). On the other hand it’s really nice to know that I am trusted with important work right from the start.”
Learning: An issue tracker to organize work is essential to any project. When working fully remotely it is key to reflect which person is working on which tasks at any point in time. Choosing minor tasks at the beginning is a good idea to show newcomers how people work together at your company.
Symflower: “Since we founded Symflower, we are using the mentor-mentee principal. The person mainly in charge of the onboarding, the mentor, needs to reserve some time for answering upcoming questions and giving feedback on the mentees work. Additionally, the mentor needs to proactively ask the new employee how things are going at least twice per day. The mentee should not be disturbed too often and should always have the feeling that all of their questions are worth asking.”
Lucia: “When working from home it’s much harder to see if somebody is occupied or not. That means you do not know exactly when your questions will be answered. Additionally you feel bad disturbing somebody at their work, so I guess the threshold for asking questions is remotely higher than it would be in the office.”
Learning: Make it perfectly clear that the onboarding mentor has reserved time for onboarding. Asking questions is always OK: either through chat-messages or by calling the other person. Giving rapid feedback and advice during onboarding is key to get new team members feel welcomed and productive. If a mentee does not feel comfortable reaching out for help, it will take them longer to get productive.
Remote onboarding was surprisingly similar to our standard onboarding process. By sharing one’s screen and using voice-calls most things can be taught perfectly well remotely. We are really happy Lucia joined us despite Covid19, and are amazed with the work she has already done during her first two weeks at Symflower.
So would we do remote onboarding again? Yes, we will definitely keep hiring despite Covid19. Absolutely no problem.