In a matter of weeks, companies everywhere shut down offices and went fully remote — with employees working from home and connecting over video and email instead of in-person. And those are just the people lucky enough to still have jobs.
To say this has made work more difficult is an understatement. But what about people who are just starting new jobs and those who are responsible for onboarding them? How do you get someone up to speed when you’ve never actually met them? How do you make them feel like part of the team when the team itself is scattered across the country and around the world?
How do you foster and maintain the culture when so many people are never in the same place?
This post aims to share lessons from leaders who run distributed companies — including GitLab, Elastic and others — about how to onboard employees and maintain culture in a remote work environment. Done right, these steps won’t just make things easier during this tough time; they will also help over the long-term as some teams move to more distributed, remote environments.
The lessons themselves fall into three main buckets:
Write it down
Writing things down may sound like more work, but having a record also forces people to think through processes and make sure they are consistent. Winging it isn’t good enough anymore. Neither is accepting different levels of training depending on who your manager is. It’s time to make what was somewhat informal and ad hoc more formal and concrete.
When it comes to onboarding, every company should ask themselves:
What is the process for onboarding?