Welcome, Nice to Virtually Meet You!

While this year has been anything from predictable, one thing remains unchanged: we love that moment of adding a new name to our staff list. Since March alone, we’ve had the pleasure of bringing on 15 new team members, giving us enough practice to adjust to our new approach to onboarding. But with staff working from home and our in-person office get togethers on hold, we needed to find a way to welcome new-hires in a way that feels inclusive, informative, and hopefully — fun!

“The transition to virtual onboarding wasn’t too difficult. The hardest part was trying to make the experience personal using a tool that traditionally, is very impersonal,” says Human Resources Manager MariaLuisa Keane. “But we were fortunate to have things in place and everyone who was part of the process really pitched in.”

“Normally when we onboard in-person, we welcome the new hire over breakfast with the entire staff, but when onboarding moved to virtual, we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose that “breaking bread” feeling. So, our modified version was born: The Breakfast Club. We invite five or more staff to meet the new hire over an office-paid Teams breakfast. We hope that the new hire can feel how excited we are to welcome them aboard while the existing staff also get a break from their usual routine to meet their new coworkers and catch up with other staff they might not get the opportunity to talk with as much now that we’re remote. We continue our first day meal traditions by also giving our new employee a $50 gift card for lunch on us.”

Lauren Bucher, who was was one of the original organizers of our firm onboarding process, explains, “We were in a good position for the transition because over the last few years, we’ve really prioritized and invested in our onboarding experience. The foundation was set, we just had to tweak the design a little. Some firms overlook the first day for new hires, but I think we understand the importance of first impressions and having a variety of staff involved. If you’re going to learn about your new company’s culture, who better to hear from than the people who helped shape it — your coworkers?”

Staff Hannah Schurrer and Sean Coffey currently lead the traditional office tour turned virtual culture meeting.

“When we were still in-person, we would end the day with a tour of the office to introduce our new hire(s) to all the non-project related resources and extracurriculars like our staff sketch group Le Sketch, social events, mHUB membership, etc. and also to the staff in charge of those resources,” says Hannah. “Virtually, we still cover each of these topics along with a couple of new ones including our new VTO (Volunteer Time Off) policy, but we emphasize how the office is continuing to grow and evolve by implementing new opportunities for the staff to connect while we’re all at home. We also encourage our new hires to share any resources they think could be a good addition to the office. We’re all about making sure staff are comfortable not only sharing, but spearheading new ideas with the team.”

Sean adds, “These meetings are open enough for random conversation, which gives everyone a chance to learn a little about the other people on the call. Hopefully our new coworker(s) can log off the call understanding they have a great group of people to support them with work and otherwise.”

So from starting off the day with a Grub-Hub breakfast to closing out with the office culture chat, we asked a few of our newest employees about their first day experience — and what new folks in the future can expect for themselves.

What did you think about your first day?

Jaya: “Honestly it’s been a pleasure. It was great to have so many meet and greets where I got to connect with coworkers who I might not necessarily get to work with every day. They really helped give me a good sense of the office culture — even as we’re remote right now.”

Scott L: “My first day was fantastic! It was a surprise to me that SNHA would dedicate most of the day to onboard new employees into the firm with scheduled meetings introducing some of the leaders and team members. I felt very welcomed and informed. It was a great introduction to the firm, and more importantly, the staff I will be working with.”

Stanley: “It was pretty relaxed. The process of getting acclimated is seemingly measured and patient.”

What was your favorite part of the day/agenda?

Jaya: “It’s hard to say what my favorite thing was, but I think the breakfast was probably near the top! A great start to the day. Plus, it gave me some familiar faces to look for later on.”

Scott L: “My favorite part of the day was meeting and talking to the staff (virtually) and finding out more about them and their unique role in the office.”

Stanley: “Not getting staffed on a project right off the bat and having time to adjust.”

Since this is new for everyone, were you surprised at all by your experience with virtual onboarding?

Jaya: “The onboarding process seems pretty streamlined now. It was very helpful to have links to things like the Data Center 101 video and the glossary in advance so I was able to follow along more easily.”

Scott L: “With not being able to meet in person, I thought the virtual on-boarding worked really well — more than I expected. You’re being socially distanced and safe, but still connected to your new work family.”

Stanley: “I was coming from a pretty hectic office so the contrast has been a bit jarring. That’s not a bad thing — there is a lot to soak up regarding the data center typologies.”