April 8, 2020

Overcoming Obstacles: Onboarding While Social Distancing

Jessica Versaw
April 8, 2020

Overcoming Obstacles: Onboarding While Social Distancing

Jessica Versaw

Transitioning the onboarding experience from in-person to virtual for new hires seemed daunting at first. With social distancing requirements in place due to COVID-19, we knew we needed to adapt as it was important our new team members joined us as planned. We believe it’s essential for every new Spreetailer to feel welcome and excited their first week by getting to know their coworkers on a deeper level and understanding our business before jumping into their roles. It took intentional planning to execute a completely remote onboarding agenda, but with extra effort we created a successful experience for the 6 new Spreetailers that joined our team last week.  

A normal onboarding experience for a new hire at Spreetail includes 6 days packed with department overviews, culture discussions, customer experience phone calls, and other activities to build relationships across the organization. We begin the week by introducing each new team member to their mentor – a current Spreetailer in a different department to help guide them in their first few months. Next, they receive a tour of the office and Spreetail swag before meeting with our IT team to set up their workspace.  

Since these tasks usually rely on in-person collaboration, the Talent Development team had to make some adjustments to achieve the same experience remotely. We shipped computers and swag to our 6 new team members’ homes - including hand-written welcome cards. Mentors were asked to reach out to their new hire prior to their first day via email and to check in via video throughout their first week. Detailed materials were emailed one week before their first day, explaining how to set up their computers and connect with our team via video for their first session. Once their computers were working smoothly and we had contact with each new hire, our facilitators adjusted their sessions to work in a remote environment by adding additional questions and interactions. Because Spreetail highly values building deep, meaningful relationships with each other, managers were asked to connect with their new hires often throughout the week. The onboarding programming packed 3 days, but we didn’t want the new hires to miss out on our culture so we created “get-to-know-you” activities with each new hire’s teams and other random coworkers across the office.  

AJ Thrower, Customer Experience Training Specialist, leading our new hires through a virtual onboarding session.

Our biggest concern before this new virtual onboarding experience was the engagement and relationship pieces – how can we make sure each new hire is engaged and enjoying their sessions when we can’t read the room as easily over video chat? How can we ensure each facilitator doesn’t lecture for an hour with no interaction? How will each new hire build relationships with other Spreetailers over a computer screen? Preparing our schedule intentionally and providing training resources to our facilitators helped overcome those challenges. Looking back, we didn’t need to worry about connecting with our new hires on a deeper level because not only do we have incredible people facilitating the sessions, we also hired personable, excited new team members. As our Training and Development Specialist, I still got to know each new hire personally and it was awesome to see they were able to build relationships as a cohort.  

While we’ve overcome a lot of big obstacles, the challenges aren’t over – the first 90 days for a new employee are vital to their success, so we’ll continue engaging with our new team members and adjusting as needed throughout the coming weeks. After completing this virtual onboarding, we decided to ask our new UX Designer – Jessica Versaw – to share her experience:

From the beginning, my onboarding experience with Spreetail was organized and simple. Even before the pandemic set in, all my new hire paperwork had been sent to me and completed, so I felt ready to get right to diving into everything Spreetail the first day. Despite that, I was naturally a little freaked out when restrictions were announced, and it became very clear we weren’t going to have a typical onboarding experience any time soon.

Communication had been so incredibly solid through the interview and hiring process, and that was no different when the new reality around Coronavirus began to settle in. I felt comfortable texting Hannah any concerns I had regarding my start date, how onboarding would work, and other logistics -- and she was quick to send updates as soon as she had them. The communication, coupled with awesome perks like a box of swag (including a onesie for my daughter, who has already made her Spreetail video conference debut a few times over), put me at ease knowing that Spreetail was still invested in me and my future here.  

While hopping from virtual meeting to virtual meeting can be a bit exhausting, the facilitators did a great job of being engaging and interactive in each session, and the training team was sure to schedule breaks throughout the day. The process was so seamless, you’d never guess this wasn’t how Spreetail normally does onboarding – schedules for each day were laid out clearly with links to all meetings, and the training team checked in with the new hires throughout each day to make sure everything was going smoothly. Throughout training, it was clear that the commitment to making onboarding during an uncertain time a great introduction to Spreetail went beyond the training team – everyone was empathetic and committed to making sure I felt welcomed, engaged, and cared for.  

Starting at a new company from home has had challenges – one is a little over a year old and calls me mom – but the camaraderie at Spreetail is evident even over video calls, and it’s clear we’re all working through a weird time together. That being said, I’ll be ready to get into the office, laugh with my coworkers without that slight video call delay, and cheers so many people once we can have an in-person happy hour again.

Jessica Versaw

User Experience Designer

Ready to sell to more customers, more places online?

Let us know how we can help by filling out our partnership inquiry form. One of our ecommerce experts will be in touch shortly.
Success! We'll be in touch soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More Blogs