In the most typical of circumstances, interviewing for and starting a new job can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. From new processes to new people, there’s a river of information to take in and first impressions to make. For anyone undergoing this process during the outbreak, the anxiety of starting a new job is probably colliding with the anxiety that many are waking up with on a daily basis.
Infotech’s Talent Management team is doing everything they can to establish a process that will make remote interviews and onboarding feel, if not normal, as comfortable as possible. We sat down with several members of the team to get a better idea of how they’ve adapted to the situation.
Lindsey Day, Assistant Director of Talent Acquisition and Development
Daniella Rossi, Talent Coordinator
I-Shien Shiao, Talent Manager
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that this is a problem we are incredibly fortunate to have. We hope that the processes we are establishing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak may act as helpful guides for those transitioning their businesses online.
Candidates come to Infotech from across the country, with much of the sourcing handled by I-Shien Shiao. I-Shien said the process has mostly remained the same - with the exception of a clear tonal shift in her communications.
“The conversations now have been a little more compassionate.”
In a world that’s been boiled down to necessity, people are more upfront about their situation, but they’re also kinder.
Infotech is hiring senior developers at the moment, and I-Shien said she has encountered refreshing transparency in her conversations. The candidates are interested, yet wary of leaving a steady job during a pandemic. I-Shien assures them that things at Infotech are moving full steam ahead.
“One thing that’s very positive for Infotech is that we are moving forward with hiring and have created new processes to adapt to, so I encourage them to continue to look at our website and get on the phone to talk through it.”
So far, Zoom interviews are getting positive feedback, and potential hires have said that they still feel they are getting a good sense of the team. Hiring managers can make use of the tool to get a better sense of a candidate’s personality than a phone call would allow.
While Infotech is hiring for specific senior development positions, the Talent Management department has also been fielding a lot of interest from a wave of candidates who have been unfortunately laid off due to COVID-19 cutbacks. I-Shien is assuring those candidates to stay positive and check back soon for available openings. After our initial round of virtual onboarding, Infotech plans to open up pending positions and start accepting more applications for positions outside of our development roles.
“I tell them that Infotech is still moving forward, we’re going to see how successful we are with the virtual aspect of onboarding and once we see how comfortable leadership is with that, we can open up those pending roles that we’re really looking forward to hiring.”
Once I-Shien finds a candidate and a hiring decision is made, the team goes into preboarding mode. Typically, preboarding is a carefully coordinated collaboration of 7-8 people outside of the Talent team, working together to ensure a smooth transition for the new hire into life at Infotech. There's a lot of processing, assembly of paperwork, IT equipment setup, supervisor and team organization to juggle on a normal day, and coordinating this is no easier in the current predicament.
“Basically you’re getting 7-8 people involved just to onboard one person and now we’re having to do that virtually,” said Lindsey.
And that’s far from the only virtual aspect to the preboarding process. The team also had to prepare additional documentation to instruct new hires on how to connect to the VPN, how we use Zoom, and anything else needed to work in the new normal. And with social distancing measures in effect, the process that all employees undergo had to be radically rethought: orientation, onboarding, and the first day.
The first day of a new job is a combination of exciting new experiences and an informational overload. At Infotech, a new employee’s first day is usually chock-full of set-up meetings and the opportunity to settle in and get to know their team. With seven new local hires and strict social distancing policies, that process had to be altered significantly.
Daniella Rossi has often said that her favorite days of work are orientation days. She’s often the first person a new hire meets on-site and even now, that will remain the same. No group gatherings, no welcome party, but as always, Daniella will still be there to greet them at the door.
“The morning orientation portion is no longer really the same structure. We built out a sign-up sheet, so we have seven new hires coming in and they each can select a 30-minute time slot to come on-site. I'm going to meet with them individually to do their paperwork and their badge, and then they'll also meet individually with one member of IT to get their equipment set up,” said Daniella.
(Note: While this process worked for Infotech’s April new hire orientation, the building has since closed and social distancing measures have become more severe. The team is still workshopping how they will tackle orientation in May with no face-to-face interactions.)
This group of new employees also had to come in to do their I-9 verifications in person, but the Department of Homeland security has since altered their requirements to accommodate remote hires during the outbreak.
So, that’s the practical part of onboarding out of the way - but there’s so much more to it than that. As we all scatter to our separate corners of Gainesville to work through the outbreak, what keeps us focused and on track is a mix of loyalty to the company, our team, and the natural sense of community we feel working at Infotech. How do you help a new employee feel that without coming into the building? How do you ensure that when this is over, coming back to Infotech feels like coming home, not like starting anew? The Talent Management team came up with several solutions:
- Virtual Building Tour: New hires will receive a tour of the building through our online interactive map to give them a sense of their future workspace.
- Supervisor Training: Talent Management conducted a special training with supervisors to highlight the differences in this onboarding process and suggest a few ideas to make new employees feel comfortable and welcomed.
“We encouraged supervisors to designate an onboarding buddy that’s intentionally supposed to be a peer and not a supervisor. The other thing we encouraged is to make sure your team schedules one on ones and virtual coffee breaks so the person can get to know their peers,” said Lindsey.
- LinkedIn Learning: One of the few silver linings to this situation is that it prompted the Talent Management team to assess some of their current onboarding processes and see how they can be improved in the long term after the pandemic subsides. To that end, the team revised, created, and enhanced several LinkedIn Learning paths on Infotech’s corporate account.
“One is the new hire path; we expanded that and put in some content like Infotech Co-Founder Tom Rothrock’s video on the foundation of AASHTOWare Project™. We also made a path called Infotech Tools to help employees who have maybe never used Slack or Zoom before. And the last thing we designed is a learning path for tips for effectively working remotely,” said Lindsey.
- Remote Lunch: An Infotech new hire’s first day always includes lunch with their supervisor. Since dining out is off the table, new hires will get a chance to support local businesses instead.
“We have them order lunch from wherever they want and reimburse them to support a lot of these local businesses that are struggling right now with the stay-at-home order. So, we asked them to order somewhere and have it delivered on us and connect with their supervisor via Zoom,” said Daniella.
In times such as these, sometimes all you can do is look to the positive. Training and Development tools like Kahoot and LinkedIn Learning are being explored to their fullest potential. Hiring conversations are filled with more empathy and understanding. The level of coordination and additional information required by this situation has pushed our Talent Management team to elevate the onboarding experience, and many of those changes will remain once we are back in the office. In a few weeks, we’ll follow up with the group of new hires to get their perspective on what it’s like to start a new job in the midst of a pandemic. Until then - stay safe and stay healthy.