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CultureMay 28, 2020

Onboarding at Home: Being a New Hire During A Pandemic

JP Nguyen

It was early spring on the West Fork Trail in Sedona. My friends and I had visited the Grand Canyon yesterday and sought some different terrain to hike. The West Fork Trail was just that: rapid running streams that ran through canyons lined with beautiful pine trees. The trail, though beautiful, can be tough. The trail takes you through ice-cold streams, trees that fell over during the winter, and soil that gives a vexing squish with every step. Early on in that hike, I thought to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?”

Onboarding with a new company during the Coronavirus pandemic can be equally, if not more, intimidating than taking on a difficult hike. During a time when many offices are closed, social activity is sparse, and face to face interaction is limited, those entering a new workplace are tempted to ask the same question I asked myself while hiking the West Fork Trail, “What have I gotten myself into?”

many unique onboarding experiences

I joined Credera about two weeks before stay-at-home policies took place. In light of my own unique perspective, I was curious and interviewed other newly hired Crederians to see how they were responding to a completely remote, onboarding experience:

  • Matt Patterman is a Senior Consultant in the Data and Analytics Practice at Credera. Before joining Credera he was a data scientist specializing in AI and predictive analytics for NPP systems. He enjoys going to museums, making video games, and free diving.

  • Hannah Sartore is a Campus Recruiting Lead at Credera. She was previously a Talent Acquisition Specialist who led campus recruiting and internship programs. In her free time, she enjoys international travel, experimenting with plant-based recipes, and staying active.

  • Allen Jung is an Art Direct in the User Experience (UX) Practice at Credera. Prior to Credera, Allen was a lead UX designer at a logistics and transportation firm. Allen likes rock climbing, photography, and playing board games.

Before joining Credera at the end of February, I was a college student and was uncertain of how the transition to being a full-time employee would be. What were the days leading up to starting at Credera like for you?

  • Matt: I was really excited to join a larger consulting company, but I remember feeling more and more stressed out as my start day came up. The country was slowly going into quarantine and I wasn’t sure what my first day would look like or if I would even have one. At the same time, I was excited to shift my career and was eager to meet my coworkers!

  • Hannah: I had very few concerns leading up to my start date as the recruiting team did a phenomenal job of sharing Credera’s work from home plans and updates with me. They were very transparent in their communications which only made me more confident in my decision to join the firm.

  • Allen: The Coronavirus impact started to grow two weeks before my start at Credera. I had a lot of friends who had their new jobs pushed back indefinitely, so, naturally, I was concerned as well. I was fortunate that Credera continued to follow up with me and assure me that I would be starting on my scheduled date.

Starting a new job while working from home made it difficult for me to get to know my teammates and the systems and tools that they used. What were some challenges you had entering a new workplace while stay-at-home policies were in place?

  • Matt: The hardest part about onboarding remote was the feeling of loneliness. At the time, my girlfriend hadn’t moved down yet and only seeing people through a webcam was hard on my mental health.

    Getting a feel for my coworkers and just feeling like part of the team was rough. It felt isolating to be in a new town, in a new apartment, talking to new people. Fortunately, everyone has made it easy to feel like I’m part of the team – from the recurring “Weird Question of the Day” to the few minutes before a virtual meeting to catch up!

  • Hannah: I’m usually not one to shy away from conversation, but I have found it more challenging to speak up and get to know others through virtual encounters. On top of that, many virtual encounters occur through dedicated meetings with a full agenda. This meeting time is very precious and does not always allow enough time to get to know the person on the other side of the screen.

    As time allows, I try to incorporate a few minutes of introductions and background into the meeting before jumping into the meat of the discussion. I try to bring as much enthusiasm and passion to each virtual meeting as I would an in-person meeting in an effort to build the trust needed in team relationships.

  • Allen: I think building a personal relationship the first 30 days of any workplace is so vitally important. For me, getting to know someone face to face in an immediate vicinity was something that I took for granted.

    Being 100% remote, I think we all now have to make a very intentional effort to carve out the time to be able to “meet” with someone. It’s certainly much more difficult than organically carrying a conversation during a lunch outing, or just over a cup of coffee.

Before quarantine, I made time early morning for praying, reading the Bible, and writing. During the quarantine periods, I’ve made an active effort to continue doing so. Are there any habits you’ve built or continued that have helped your transition?

  • Matt: The best habit I’ve picked up is moving around the house throughout the day. It’s easy to get fatigued working from the same desk for eight hours straight. Sometimes I sit on my balcony or at the kitchen counter and the change of scenery really helps me from getting antsy.

    I’ve also started waking up earlier. I generally get up between six and seven, which gives me a solid three hours to work uninterrupted. I feel the most focused in the morning and I feel it’s my most productive time of the day.

  • Hannah: I thrive off routine and have enjoyed continuing my early morning runs or workouts prior to starting my workday. Waking my body up through exercise helps wake my mind up and keeps me energized and motivated throughout the day.

  • Allen: We started to setup Zoom calls with our close friends to catch up and play a few rounds of board games. I feel like I have tried to keep all my old habits in place while at home.

I’ve really enjoyed being in meetings with Credera leadership who have intentionally checked in to see how everyone in the meeting is doing – it affirms the kindness I saw during my interviews with Credera. What have you appreciated about Credera’s response to you during this time?

  • Matt: Everyone has been super nice, and I can’t thank them enough for being so helpful.  Everyone works hard on everything they do, and it really is motivating. I’m proud to be a new Crederian.

  • Hannah: Our CEO, Justin Bell, has been doing weekly video updates for the entire firm during these weeks. Before my first day, I remember setting up my work laptop at home when his video update appeared in my inbox. I watched it twice! Many of the remaining questions I had going into my first day were answered in that video. It was also another great example of Credera’s transparency, which is something I think all new hires are looking for in their new employer – especially during this season!

  • Allen: Before joining Credera, I was uncertain what my future job would look like. Thankfully, two Credera leaders, Peter Yobo and Jake Carter, did everything they could to check in on me. Their investment in me during that time really helped me to stay calm during the days leading up to my start.

making the most of remote onboarding

Just like the Crederians that shared how they continued forward in the midst of uncertainty, my friends and I continued to hike the West Fork Trail. Our feet were frozen, our clothes drenched, and our boots dirty, but we made it! We made it to the end of the trail where we saw breathtaking views of the forest and the waterways that Sedona and all of its red rocks and canyon walls had been hiding from us. I’m glad I didn’t turn back.

I hope that you have learned a little through the experiences of my colleagues and friends as we all continue through the uncertainty of the future.