“Trust has to exist from day one. When you're remote you don't have the opportunity to lean into someone's cubicle to see how they're doing. You have to get creative about ways to nurture that relationship.”

- Chloe Oddliefson, Head of People Operations at Dribbble

Remotely Onboarding Researchers (with Notion)

With the remote environment lasting for almost a year (on-and-off like an awkward relationship rollercoaster), it seems like a perfect moment to reflect on onboarding in a remote environment. And especially researchers. Why? Because over the last year our UXR chapter changed and grew, and we’ve learned a lot from it (and are still learning).

Wait, what happened?
In the past year, we hired six researchers for the PUX team and two left - in total, we are a sub-team of six now. This all happened mainly remote. Our newest member will start in March and has us working on yet another remote onboarding. Here are the key elements that we believe make our remote onboarding process successful:

  • We embrace Notion as our onboarding tool, even more than before
  • We plan most activities for the first week and try to have a project ready to jump right into
  • Every newcomer has a remote coffee meeting set up with every team member, to mimic the informal onboarding office environment
  • A Google Meets invite is set up, and ready to jump in with any questions during the first weeks
  • We continuously reflect on the onboarding process and keep changing and improving it

Notion as onboarding tool

For every new team member, we have two Notion pages ready: a general onboarding page with the most important information on how we work, and a personal onboarding page explaining their first day, week, and month. The benefit of Notion is that our projects, tasks, team- and background information, etc. is there already. It only needs smart linking.

The biggest challenges

  • Networking. When onboarding remotely, it becomes clear how important networking is at work. It is difficult not to fill everyone's calendar with ‘informal chats’ while still expecting to know when to reach out to who with what question.
  • Q&A. Although knowing that it’s ok to ask a million questions - when working from home, this means that you have to stalk your colleagues via Slack, email, or Google Meets. We’ve learnt that emphasising that questions are always welcome is not enough; we need to cater better for this.
  • Finding structure. The importance of structure, processes, and forms has never been more clear than in the remote setup. Investing time in setting this up prevents more meetings and explanations later. But how much do you formalise, and how much do you leave open -  how far to take it?

General - Howdy, new PUXie! This overview page contains general information and many links to important documents. A small selection of topics: PUXecutive letters, Intranet, how-to-Google Suite, how-to-Notion, Planning tools, Communication, and fun videos (mainly Robin’s TX Conference talks). All these topics have a brief explanation and a link to more. This information is key to setup and start focussing on the daily work and collaboration.

Personal - Howdy, Denise! The personal page is an always-WIP-page. After every onboarding, its changed based on new learnings. The current page contains mainly links to (sub)team related information, and a description of expectations and activities for the first day/week/month. This page aims at becoming more familiar with PUX, the PUX way of work, and the Research chapter related activities and information.

Impact on work

Remote onboarding is tricky. It is easy to forget about smaller differences between remote and on-site onboarding; the lack of contextual information on team culture and dynamics, the experienced barrier when reaching out to someone as a newby, the decreased speed of onboarding, etc. As we now know, it can take months before feeling slightly as “on board” as with previous experiences. That’s why we are constantly reviewing our process and updating, and we clearly see the need for this.

It is not clear how long this ‘remote onboarding’ will continue, but we could all benefit from sharing our learnings, tips, and tricks - the more the better. Reach out for sharing yours!

In the monthly Product and UX letter the PUX team shares insights about projects, interviews with product gurus and personal anecdotes inside and outside the TX group:

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