How We Onboard New Team Members Remotely and Async
If you're an "Office Space" fan like I am, you see the humor in the office life aspects of the movie that highlight how working in an office or cubicle is often less about efficiency and effectiveness and more about face time and clocking time.
In this article, we'll dive into how we onboard a fully remote asynchronous team in a way that sets new team members up for success. When onboarding at Float, we focus on three key things: setting a foundation, building trust, and getting a quick win.
Setting a foundation before the job offer
As a SaaS company, every person we interview for an open role has the opportunity to trial Float and find out a little about us. They're sussing us out before they even apply! As a result, how we communicate is important. Doing what we say is important. Living our values is important.
Many of our recent team members have told us that our blog was the first place they looked to learn more about what it's like to work at Float. We're fully remote, work asynchronous, have very few meetings, and are building a brand that reflects our values. Being upfront helps us find the best candidates for roles and sets a positive tone from the get-go.
“The async onboarding didn’t stop with just the first meeting with the CEO, I also met the other engineers and I had the opportunity to schedule time with them when needed. One thing I really like is the internal “Float weekly newsletter” which helps to understand the things that are happening in the company but even more to know what happened in the past.”
Claudio, Senior Application Engineer
Onboarding is about relationship and trust-building
For us, the relationship and trust-building start when we list an open role, so we list the salaries for open positions and provide complete visibility into the company's benefits and perks. While most organizations might save these conversations for someone's first day or after a contract is signed, we believe that onboarding should start in the recruitment phase to build a genuine process of integrating and familiarizing a new starter into our culture.
Our interview process reflects how we work
In every interview with a job candidate, we are building a foundation of trust. We start our interview process with a 15-minute screening call with each shortlisted candidate to learn more about each other. It's a quick and effective way to learn more about a person's communication style and work preferences—two critical pieces to success with async work.
After the screening call, candidates who move forward meet with members of our team, where they dig into the day-to-day and tactical aspects of the role. Interestingly, in both the screening calls and team interviews, one of the most typical questions asked by candidates is: "What's it really like to work at Float?" People want to make sure that what a company says is also what a company does.
The final meeting is generally with a department head or our CEO to discuss Float's strategy, mission, vision, etc. Having everyone rowing in the same direction is essential both culturally and strategically. By the time we make an offer, the candidate has had a comprehensive walkthrough of what it's like to work at Float.
Presenting a truthful and accurate portrait of how we work and communicate eliminates any first-day or first-week surprises for a new team member while they are building their knowledge and gaining confidence in their role. We also believe that transparency, value-alignment, and effective communication are the foundation needed for successful relationships!
Preparing for day one with async onboarding checklists
A few days before a new team member is scheduled to start, we create two critical checklists:
- An internal checklist for our onboarding team.
- A welcome page checklist for the new team member so they know how to kick things off on their first day.
Our onboarding team is made up of various team members across Float who work together to set up access and schedule initial meetings and check-ins with a new starter. Half the battle when you start a new job is not knowing what you don't know, so the onboarding team ensures that important information is passed on and the new team member knows who to reach out to and what tools to use on day one.
The welcome page checklist provides details on what they need to know on their first day, the first week, and beyond. It takes the guesswork out of the priorities, tasks, and learnings for the first eight weeks at Float.
Welcoming our new starter with an internal onboarding checklist
The internal onboarding checklist includes things like setting up access for new starters and scheduling welcome meets with their team leads to learn more about the work they'll be doing. We ask the onboarding team to schedule these meets before the person starts and arrange them to be within the new starter's first week at Float.
Without a physical office to walk them around to meet everyone in person, having these meeting invites already in their calendar shows we're excited and ready to start working with the person! We've also introduced a buddy system with another team member who is located in the new starter's time zone. This person is assigned to reach out to the new starter and set up a meeting to walk them through their department's focus and targets.
What’s covered on our internal checklist? We break it out into four key sections:
1. Important new starter information
To ensure the onboarding team knows who is starting and what their role is, we provide them with the information they need to plan accordingly. For example, if our lead engineer is in India and we have someone starting in Canada, it is helpful to know when they will be online.
Most of our internal communication is done via Slack, so sharing email allows folks to pre-schedule intro meetings before the start date so all the information is in their calendars and ready to go once they log in on their first day.
2. Prior to start date tasks
Each task listed has someone on the team responsible for completing it and checking it off. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page. If a critical task like "Setting up G Suite access" is not completed, then the tasks that follow it cannot be finished either.
The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande demonstrates how checklists can help doctors save lives and help pilots avoid fatal errors. While no life or death decisions are being made at Float, the value of the checklist for routine processes is clear, and it ensures that no critical steps are missed.
3. Week one key information and knowledge sharing
The first-week checklist slowly introduces the new team member to the information they need to know and helps them avoid feeling overwhelmed. We understand that starting a new role can feel like drinking out of a firehose for the first month or so, and introducing information over time helps keep the person on track.
4. First eight weeks check-ins and follow-ups
The first eight weeks at Float is both an onboarding period and a probationary period. That is not by coincidence. Probationary periods vary globally, so we've set a standard at Float that gives both parties enough time to access long-term fit. After all, you spend 40 hours a week (and 2080 hours per year) with your team!
Setting up for success with our external welcome checklist
It's natural to have first-day nerves. No one, no matter how experienced, comes into a new role knowing exactly what to do or the specific expectations. I've onboarded dozens of people, and while everyone has their own way of learning, we all have similar fears and self-doubts. We're only human, after all!
Our welcome page checklist removes a lot of the unknowns and sets up a clear path of tasks, deliverables, and priorities for the first eight weeks at Float. This is not an exhaustive list but a reference check for new team members to navigate as they work through adapting to new norms, terminology, and people.
It's important to note that nothing we do is set in stone. We ask for feedback during and after the onboarding process with each new hire, and there is likely always something we can do to improve. Feedback from our customers and team members is an essential ingredient in refining our processes.
“I loved that I had on my first day a Welcome Page in Notion with all the steps I need to take in the first day, and what I need to accomplish in the first week.”
Cristina, Senior Application Engineer
Building confidence with a quick win deliverable
Once the accounts are all set up and new team members have had time to dig into our Notion pages and learn a bit about how we work, we focus on a quick win deliverable. Doing something for the first time can be scary, especially when you are at home and the rest of your team members are spread out across the globe (there's no hiding in a cubicle at Float).
We think that the best way to learn and get over those nerves is to produce something quickly in your first eight weeks. That looks different for every department. For engineering, it might be releasing a new feature into production; for customer success, it could be leading a sales call; for marketing, it might be gathering data and testing out a new ad buy.
The idea is not about flawless execution. It's about keeping it simple, owning it, continuously improving, being constructive, and playing like champions—values we live by at Float. Confidence vs. ego is an important piece in any successful team and team member. Knowing you can do something because you have tried, learned, and adjusted for next time helps the entire team grow.
The only way through is through!
Onboarding check-ins and monitoring progress
The onboarding process is about getting a new team member up to speed and seeing if it's a long-term fit. There are various check-in points from different teams during onboarding:
- Operations: Two-week check-in focusing on how a new team member is settling in and any challenges they are facing. We also ask for feedback on the onboarding process to date (new people bring new perspectives!).
- Onboarding buddy: Generally a weekly check-in to see how someone is doing with their work and if they are finding the answers they need.
- Management: This happens at weeks four and eight and focuses on deliverables, contributions, and learnings.
New hires get clear deliverables to focus on in their welcome checklist over their first eight weeks, and it's obvious what is expected of them from the start. They also receive feedback from their managers at the four-week check-in, and their managers ask for feedback in return. By the eighth week of onboarding, we see team members settled and confident enough to ask questions, make suggestions, and show their personality on Slack—a people ops dream!
All aboard (pun intended) team Float!
Eight weeks of onboarding goes fast, and people are usually surprised when they've reached it. Managers wrap up the onboarding process with a formal meeting and feedback, and nothing else really changes. That's the goal. By then, the hope is that things feel natural, communication is open, questions and answers flow easily, and the new team member feels like they have been at Float forever!
Want to join a fully remote and async team with a culture that supports living your best work life? Check out the current open roles on our Careers page.
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