September 25, 2020

Onboarding In The Time of COVID-19 (Week 2)

Onboarding In The Time of COVID-19 (Week 2)

Cody’s Take

Last week we talked about our personal experiences starting a new job at a new company and how it was impacted by COVID-19. While our experiences were different they definitely had some similarities. One thing that was similar is the fact that we have been able to see what some pros and cons of in-person onboarding and virtual onboarding can be. So that's what we want to talk about today. There are many pros and cons that come out of switching from “in-person” to virtual onboarding but I will just be picking a few of each to expand on in the hopes that it makes you take a look at your own experiences to see where you can improve.

For most people starting a new job can come with its fair share of anxiety. Trying to find the conference room for orientation, meeting new people all while trying to understand what your role is and who you are going to be at this new company. I know on the first few days of a new job it can be overwhelming to keep track of everything. This is where virtual onboarding can play a key role. Instead of increasing the already stressful situation, offering virtual onboarding so a new hire can focus solely on the information provided and then take separate time to meet and form relationships can help remedy this problem. Giving the option for employees to take an in-person or virtual orientation can allow for flexibility that was previously unavailable. Whether you look at it positively or negatively COVID has given us the opportunity to test this on a larger scale. Companies have restarted their rehiring process and many of them are forced to invest in virtual onboarding processes. Only time will tell if this is a net positive or negative for organizations but having the option of virtual onboarding can help with continuing education for enterprises by providing a resource for employees to look back on in the months after their initial hire date.

While being forced to modify your onboarding process can be a stressful, unexpected change in 2020 it should provide positives to your organization and employees. There are, however, negatives to an only virtual onboarding process. One of the largest takeaways from an onboarding program is the relationships formed between the new hires as a group and the new hires and their orientation leaders. These relationships can help bridge the gaps between different business units as well as create a more cohesive work environment. By removing this aspect from onboarding via a virtual program it will seriously hinder the full benefits of any onboarding process. Speaking from experience my new hire orientation group was very diverse and we still keep in touch with each other even 7 months after starting at Red Hat. It has come in handy to know people across our Products, Finance, and Human Resources organizations, especially in this time of constant change.  

There are ways to avoid losing out on the team building and that's what we will discuss in week 3 but for the time being keep in mind that your new hires may be struggling to make connections outside of their team and this may be a good time to reach out. There are plenty of other pros and cons to this new world that we have been forced into. I will let Cameron take over from here but remember to keep an open mind that the rules have changed and with any rule change comes new problems and new possibilities.

Cameron’s Take


Thanks Cody, I think at first the cons were a lot easier to pick out than the pros.  As time went on though and I acclimated I stopped thinking about what got taken away but instead focusing on what I’ve gained out of the experience.  I’ve even begun to round off the sharp edges of our new predicament and use a few things about being remote to my advantage.  To be clear, I really did not like being made to go remote especially just as I was feeling more settled and had established a new routine that I enjoyed.  I even had an apartment picked out across the street from our headquarters...Oh well, onward!

Pro: Less Distractions

Let’s start with one of the positives that came out of being thrust into a remote onboarding and that was a massive drop in the number of distractions that got in the way of getting things done.  My workday became eerily devoid of the constant distractions that I had grown accustomed to in the office.  In some ways that was extremely helpful.  I definitely had more prolonged quiet time to focus on getting things done.  Assignments that had been piling up were knocked out in a few weeks.

Con: More Mind but Less Heart

It wasn’t all sunshine though, while I could more easily focus on the work in front of me it became apparent that all those “distractions” from earlier were far more necessary than I first thought.  Talking with people in the hallway, playing ping pong, striking up conversations with fellow coworkers for the first time, these small things were not just idle distractions.  They were much more profound and were actually building up a sense of belonging and community that is essential for being a part of a productive team.  Without those in person interactions trust and teamwork can be more of an effort especially with people you have only known in 2D.

Pro: Everyone Gives Remote More Effort

While not being able to to build relationships in person makes teamwork a bit more difficult it has been nice to see everyone put in more effort into all the virtual forms of communication.  In some ways I think that might be the most positive thing about the transition to remote.  People realize the importance of communication in all its forms and that will, hopefully, carry over into a world free of COVID-19 as well.  I no longer wonder if I will get a response from an email or message on slack within the same day I send it.  I know I will.  That goes both internal and external to Red Hat as well.  So while the ability to communicate in person is gone the speed of communication remotely has quickened.

Con: Things Can be Hard to Explain in 2D

Inevitably there comes a time where you and your coworkers decide to just grab a conference room, a cup of coffee, and a couple markers and figure something out.  Except, now we can’t do that and while virtual workarounds are plenty it’s just not the same.  Conversations can take twice as long and be half as effective if you aren’t in the same room together.  The extent of technology and will power to bridge the gap between in person markerboarding and zoomcalls with a screen share are limited.  You still get the same work done, it just takes longer and more effort.


In the end we will have markerboard sessions again and the in person encounters by the coffee maker will return.  So in that we can all take heart.  In the interim I’ll be working on improving the pros and figuring out how to take them into the future as lessons I’ve learned from this experience.  The cons are something that I know won’t last forever and with that in mind, they already don’t seem so bad.