Onboarding @Home: What it's like to start as a new employee at Namics in times of home office.

Serbian folk stories, virtual cheese cake meet-ups and yoga classes are just some of the first days at Namics for new employees.

There are numerous companies that hire and onboard people solely remotely and it is obviously a valid way to do it, but - it was the first time for Namics. Six months ago, when I myself was a candidate for the Senior Recruiting Manager role in Namics, it meant a lot to me that I can see how the offices look like and that I can feel the company’s atmosphere. Now, I am usually doing interviews online when the candidate comes from another city, but I would rather go with the face to face option whenever it is possible.

Dusica, Senior Recruiting Manager

Six months ago, when I myself was a candidate for the Senior Recruiting Manager role in Namics, it meant a lot to me that I can see how the offices look like and that I can feel the company’s atmosphere. Now, I am usually doing interviews online when the candidate comes from another city, but I would rather go with the face to face option whenever it is possible.

Working from home has some pros and cons, and so does remote interviewing. We are all aware of how much nonverbal communication means to all of us and how quick to judge people based on the first impression like a simple hand shake, for example. Although we might feel more secure in our decision when we have met the candidate in person, we focus more on what the candidate is saying in the remote interview, and therefore we might lower the impact of bias and prejudice. We’ve made some adjustments to our recruitment process, but we managed to adapt to the situation. And we got great news: the candidate who went through the whole recruitment process remotely just accepted our offer! Great, but how are we gonna do onboarding? 

Although we are home office friendly, we advise our new colleagues to work from the office in the first months. And one of the strongest arguments why people should work from the office rather than work from home is onboarding new colleagues. Just imagine being a new joiner and coming to the half-empty office every day. How long would it take until you feel fully onboarded? Would you feel belonging to that company? Would it even cross your mind to schedule a video call just so you can share how you overslept that morning or that you are looking for a new apartment? I guess not.

But the work is much more than getting your tasks done. Making deeper connections with colleagues, sharing ideas with them, or even having small talk in the elevator makes a huge difference. When people take that into consideration, they usually agree that being in the office is a better option (if we have to choose between the two).

But what happens when you have no choice and you have to choose your future colleague solely remotely and also onboard him or her the same way?

Die neuen Mitarbeiter im Videocall versammelt

We make sure new joiners have all the necessary equipment, tools, information, and last, but not least to feel like a part of the company. 

So, first of all, we need a detailed onboarding plan. As usual, we identify a coach and a buddy to the new joiner. The choice of coach and buddy is particularly important when onboarding remotely. That has to be someone approachable and talkative. Someone who will for sure make the new colleagues feel welcome. A coach would usually welcome a new colleague at the doors, but this time they meet online. A buddy would usually show the new colleague around and where to get coffee, enjoy Playstation, table tennis, etc. This time the buddy can explain confidentiality issues using a video call and 6 steps to troubleshoot your internet connection :)

We had 2 new joiners being onboarded remotely, Ognjen and Milovan. The first step was picking up their laptops. Since they have to be set up by IT Support, we need a brave soldier for this one: our dear Ana. She got to the office on the first working day of our new colleagues and set up their computers with them. Within 2 meters distance, of course!

Our new colleagues got to know more about Namics’s history, our culture and values, organization, tools that we are using, benefits they have rights to, etc. After these introduction-meetings were over, they onboarded on their projects and had certain meetings with their project team. This is all pretty straightforward, right? We would have had these meetings anyway and it is not that big of a deal sharing your screen instead of booking a room and presenting. But how do we make sure our new colleagues feel comfortable and welcome? We made sure that they will have 1:1 meetings with as many people as possible from the company and drink (virtual) coffee with them after lunch. Just chatting about the weather :) Of course, we made sure they are invited to regular gatherings we have, such as Online Quiz with beer every Thursday, Reading Serbian Folk stories by freelance actors, virtual sessions about how to make cheesecake, virtual Yoga lessons, etc. We want to see how they are doing and this is what they said:

Milovan:I joined Namics “online”: from initial interview till experience day and on-boarding, everything was done on the Internet. The process was smooth (considering it was a first time experience for both sides), and all the colleagues I interacted with were very helpful and supportive. The downside of the “all online” situation is that I didn’t meet colleagues on a beer day on the awesome terrace at the top of the building with a great view. That, along with working from home, makes you feel a little isolated.”

And Ognjen: “It was definitely a bit more challenging (and interesting, at the same time), but all the colleagues have given their absolute best to make my first weeks as comfortable as possible. All the necessary information was quite well documented, meaning that I always knew where to take a look when finding myself in the need of clarification.

What I miss, of course, is getting back to the office and having the opportunity to operate on a face-to-face basis with people around the office. Until then, I’ll continue following instructions and guidelines provided by my coach and teammates.”

Looks like nothing can replace the small (or big) talks in the kitchen, cheering for the best ping-pong player, finding out what are the pet peeves of your colleagues, approaching your colleague’s desk when having a question or chatting a bit longer with your colleague although you got the answer you were looking for. On the other hand, we can agree we do not miss everyday traffic jams.

No matter how much people look forward to starting working for a new company when they have decided to, it will be a step up from their previous experience, changing a job is a stressful situation. Furthermore, we are living in a stressful time when we are worried about our health and the health of our loved ones. Therefore we need to make enough effort to be sure our new colleagues feel confident in their decision to join us. Because we are!