Onboarding in the age of flexible work



Onboarding at any new job is reminiscent of that first day of school. You’re ready to put your best foot forward at your new company and show them why they hired you. But you’re not the only one trying to impress. During onboarding, the company has an opportunity to make a great first impression — to excite and engage a new employee to not only want to stay, but to feel they truly belong.

As an onboarding professional at GoTo, it’s my job to help make that first connection, especially now when it’s through a screen. GoTo is a remote-centric company with employees scattered around the world. In my remote work space, you’ll see me drinking tea out of a cute mug and gently nudging my cats off my desk. At first, that’s all you see.

What you don’t see is the real me beyond my job title. I’ve witnessed an erupting volcano in Iceland after an overnight hike and gone paragliding in Switzerland. I’m adventurous and take full advantage of our Work from Anywhere policy, self-care days, and unlimited time off. I share this because in order for remote onboarding to be successful, we need to focus on the human element and the unique person behind every video screen.

Why is onboarding the key to success?

In short, people are leaving their jobs. At a time dubbed “the Great Resignation,” there are tons of opportunities for candidates. To compete for talent in an employees’ market, companies need to set themselves apart. With onboarding, you get to prove why they made the right choice. The key is a dynamic and engaging program that communicates what your company is about, while setting up new hires for success. This is the time to share company culture, mission, and goals and get colleagues well acquainted.

If your goal is to be a destination employer, keep reading to learn how we implemented a seamless, localized, and compliant remote program that allowed us to successfully onboard almost 1,000 new hires worldwide in 2021.

What does onboarding entail?

Onboarding is the time when a new hire is first introduced and integrated into an organization. They need to learn:

  • Who you are: company history, people, leadership, and culture
  • What you do: details about the product or service
  • How to acclimate to their role and responsibilities
  • How to log on to equipment and access all systems

It begins from the moment they accept the offer letter and can last beyond their first few months or year. But onboarding could also continue far longer than that. When an employee is promoted, offered a new role internally, or becomes a manager, “onboarding” can start over again. It is one of the most sensitive and critical moments in their tenure, impacting job satisfaction, retention, productivity, performance, and culture.

According to the Work Institute annual Retention Report, employers must act fast when addressing retention. Their findings conclude that voluntary turnover skyrocketed from 1.9 million in April 2020 to 3.4 million in December 2020 in the US, and that the highest levels of turnover occur in the first year of employment. Let’s flip the script from the Great Resignation to the Great Onboarding. By examining your data, reviewing honest feedback, implementing streamlined processes, embracing automation, and utilizing system capabilities, you can make an impact.

The challenges of remote onboarding

Remote onboarding brings a new set of challenges. There are no welcome breakfasts or office tours. New hires are joining companies from their home office and frankly it’s harder to make connections. It can be lonely, confusing, and overwhelming for employees trying to access the right information and tools.

There were a few key hurdles that we had to overcome, with the additional complication of a global pandemic.

  • Problem: New hires were overwhelmed while trying to access new information, resources, or tools.

Solution: We created a central repository of resources for all stakeholders (new hires, managers, and internal local onboarding teams) to utilize as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for resources, tools, FAQs, updates, etc.

  • Problem: New hires were confused on what the first day will look like, what is expected as a new hire, and specific cultural or geographical needs.

Solution: We updated and streamlined all communication. Overall, we used our HR systems to their full potential to automate tasks that were formerly manual. A full preboarding and new hire dashboard was developed to boost excitement prior to the start day. We collaborated with regional teams to build multi-lingual, custom text based on culture nuances. The welcome email was customized with simple log in details for day 1 and we provided a local contact list for HR, IT, and Talent Acquisition. 

  • Problem: As a Global Talent Development team, it’s difficult to prioritize ideas

Solution: Gather feedback and make data-driven decisions. We created and evaluated new hire feedback surveys and hosted focus groups with our stakeholders that served to map our priorities for projects. Using the data analyzed monthly and annually, we re-adjusted our priorities based on ask, need, and business goals.

  • Problem: New hires have a lack of human connection, involvement, and engagement. There was confusion on equipment setup or what to do as a new or newly promoted manager.

Solution: We hosted events to embrace our culture, communities, and resources. We offer monthly, bi-monthly, and quarterly events for our new hires and hiring managers. We offer an event that connects executive leaders with new hires; an event for our new hires to ask IT questions and learn tips; and a learning session for new hires on how they can get involved with our employee resource groups and diversity initiatives. We created a separate central repository site for resources, action items, and processes specifically for hiring managers. Finally, we host a monthly event where they can learn the full onboarding process and ask internal stakeholders questions directly.

  • Problem: It's challenging being a new hire without an onboarding journey mapped out.

Solution: We created a preboarding experience and onboarding experience. We created a series of onboarding modules, videos, and workshops that are automatically distributed at specific milestones in the journey before they begin, on their first day, and in their first few weeks. We also created a full preboarding dashboard that contains a preboarding module, documents, prehire tasks, a welcome video, and much more to get them excited to start. We also created a country-specific new hire dashboard that contains location-specific legal documents, benefits information, and additional new hire tasks to be completed by the new hires.

If you are looking to improve or enhance your program, think about what will bring the most value and what will have the greatest impact?

Whether you are creating a remote onboarding program for the first time, or looking to enhance a currently existing program, it’s important to recognize this process as a true investment for both employees and the company. With trust, feedback, and active stakeholders, you can create a map of your own to support new hires wherever, whenever, and however they choose to join your company.

If you want to talk more about preboarding, onboarding, or anything in this article feel free to contact me via LinkedIn. If you are interested in joining our company and experiencing this firsthand, check out our open positions, be sure to check out our Careers Page!