Throughout my career, I’ve had some interesting onboarding experiences. I’ve had boxes arrive on my doorstep days before I was going to start my new job with no other communication. One company took the entire team out to lunch to welcome me on my first day (one of my favorite experiences). I also once worked for a company that did employee onboarding in a parking lot. A PARKING LOT. Say a quick hello, hand off the equipment, and wish the employee luck. That’s literally how I started my job.
I joined JDM in 2021 as the first full-time People Operations employee. We’d been a remote company since our founding in 2017, so we were a lot farther along in our onboarding processes, but most still had to be either built or optimized. The biggest lesson I brought to JDM onboarding is that immediate personal connections are harder, and at least 10 times more important, to make for remote employees who can’t walk into an office and meet their colleagues on day 1.
And the significance of good onboarding is massive, especially for agencies whose clients rely on team consistency. Good onboarding, which starts the minute the offer letter is signed, improves employee retention, which improves client satisfaction.
With that in mind, here are some initiatives we’ve built into the new-hire onboarding process at JDM.
I reach out to new teammates the day they sign their offer letter with a warm welcome and details for what they can expect in the coming days: equipment, starting date, systems integration, etc. From the day they sign, they know what to expect, and they know they can reach out to me for support along the way. And on day one, they get a bright-and-early welcome Slack from their manager in the General channel, which is always followed by a round of greetings from the team at large.
We send our new teammates welcome packages with JDM swag and a stipend so they can set up their work environments as they like.
Nothing builds morale faster than building genuine connections with your teammates. We need to be especially mindful of that in a remote company. Over the course of a new colleague’s first few weeks (we don’t front-load so they don’t get overwhelmed), they’ll have 1:1 meetings with every member of their team. They’ll have virtual coffee chats. Everyone gets a “new hire” buddy that they can use as a sounding board and resource for questions they might not want to ask their manager or their new friend from People Ops (although their new friend from People Ops does regular check-ins over the first week, month, and quarter to make sure they’re getting what they need to feel good about life at JDM).
One of my favorite touches: we ask every new employee to do fun get-to-know-you activities in the first three All Hands meetings after they start. Week 1: two truths and a lie (a JDM favorite). Week 2: get-to-know-you questions that produce some truly fun details. Week 3: favorite movie quote or favorite book or a chance to show off their WFH set-up.
Looking for some inspiration for fun icebreaker questions? Check out this post!
My personal favorite part of all of this is the check-ins the People team does with new employees as they get settled in. They get support, and we get great information and insight from them about their onboarding experience (including things that we could improve) while it’s still top of mind.
These check-ins are a great encapsulation of the way we approach employment: it should be mutually beneficial to JDM and the employee. If we’re doing our job well in the onboarding process, it’ll be the first step to a great relationship for both sides.