This is part 2 of a 3-part series. You can read part 1 here.
As Container Solutions continues to grow internationally, so does our need for innovative onboarding strategies. We aim to make this tumultuous time as smooth and enjoyable as possible for every new joiner, no matter where on the globe you are located.
With the world in lockdown-induced stasis during the summer of 2020, we seized the opportunity to re-evaluate the way we approach onboarding new employees— true to our nature as a learning organisation.
Our old iteration of onboarding consisted of a three-day introductory event at our London office, and a three-month mentorship programme between peers. This worked well enough for a small startup; we were still able to fly everyone out, had no middle managers, and considered ourselves a flat organisation.
When COVID struck, we realised that our onboarding—which relied on physically coming together—was no longer possible. We continued to hire, but couldn’t onboard any newcomers. On top of that, we realised that the processes that had made sense in our start-up phase only seemed to be holding us back in our scaling efforts. We needed a change.
The Onboarding Solution
Through months of data-collection, planning, and experimentation, we came up with an entirely new model for our onboarding programme that could support our ambitions to scale up and scale remotely.
This new onboarding plan has two major internal players: the line manager and the buddy. Meanwhile, our People function provides support at every step of the way.
So what does the new remote onboarding look like and what are the key features?
The Line Manager
Your line manager takes on everything to do with getting you up to speed and ready to take on the day-to-day responsibilities of your new role. This means creating a personalised onboarding programme covering the first three months, providing constructive feedback at regular intervals, and closely monitoring the new employee’s progress.
The line manager also has the scope of knowledge and understanding to make a confident decision in extending contracts, and having them—who was most likely also the hiring manager during the selection process—take over the new employee's career growth from day one greatly reduces the long wait between the new employee joining the company to being "client-ready".
On the other hand, the buddy is a peer who's exclusive duty is to socialise the new employee in the first month. They set up a social event for the company to get to know them, introduce them to different teams within Container Solutions, and make themselves available for the new employee if any questions or concerns arise.
This Is Us
Another element of our onboarding system is our This Is Us programme. With colleagues spread across the globe and an ever-expanding body of talents, it became crucial that we adapted to a remote way of onboarding. We created this programme to provide a bird’s-eye-view of everyone in the company to the new joiner within the first week.
The innovative, asynchronous element of the This Is Us programme is what makes it invaluable for this first week—names and faces become familiar without burning out on virtual meetings.
Since we first implemented this new way of onboarding in November 2020, we have gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback, with several of our new employees saying this is one of the best—if not the best—onboarding programmes they have gone through, despite it being 100% remote.
As part of a continuous feedback loop running on the onboarding programme, we collected responses to track new joiners’ level of anxiety as their onboarding entered its first stages. We found a definite decrease across most of the responses.
Straight From the Source
Here are what some of our recent joiners have had to say about our onboarding:
“ The best part of our remote onboarding here at CS is the feeling of being surrounded by people. Joining a new company during the pandemic with all new processes and practises would make anyone feel anxious and I totally wasn't immune. But what I never felt was alone. My new team, my buddy, the People team, just wanted me to show up in the most honest way I could. I felt accepted and appreciated from day 1. Now I'm getting stuck into all the work I can find.’ Joe Glassfield (Design Thinking Lead)
"I found the onboarding process seamless. I felt very quickly like I had worked at CS for a long time. My colleagues were completely supportive and open and the psychologically safe culture allowed for me to ask questions and to have honest conversations. This has been excellent for relationship building and feeling part of the team. The “this is us” directory was valuable during the onboarding phase. I could read through the information at my own pace, documenting questions this made the conversations with my colleagues much more effective.
The onboarding process made me so aware that colleagues want you to succeed at CS. Knowledge sharing is key and encouraged and this has allowed me to feel happy end effective in my new role" Rachel Cunliffe, CFO
“I think the aspect of my onboarding that made it easier and less stressful the most was the option to just start working on whatever and start getting to know people at my own pace. Instead of feeling dragged through a "process" I feel that I was able to make my new position my own. Since I was feeling secure, I was able to find the points where I could make the most impact on the company and get stuck in with tasks and projects that really drive me and will continue to do so as I establish my own day-to-day.” Tibor Eszes (Cloud Native Engineer)
“Starting somewhere new is fricken terrifying. “What do I do?”, “Who do I go to for this thing?”, ”I’m lost. Have I made a huge mistake?” And most onboarding sucks. You’re lucky if you get a reused post-it with your name at your designated desk. I think the difference at CS, beyond the remote onboarding considerations, is the psychological safety that is implemented throughout the company. Being encouraged to ask questions, allowed to be confused and safe to feel vulnerable - especially online - alleviates anxiety almost immediately.” Jessica van der Berg (Copywriter)
Next: Part 3 of our series on the employee journey, the Personal Development Plan.