During the last three months, we’ve welcomed ten new joiners to FINBOURNE whilst operating remotely. Here’s what we’ve learned over the lockdown period about what is, even in normal times, such a vital and interpersonal experience to get right. We discuss how we help people to connect, maintain our culture, develop relationships and retain focus on our goals. We include feedback from line managers and new joiners, and what we’ve changed in our processes.
Starting a new job at home
It’s nerve-wracking to start a new job in the middle of a global pandemic, especially when you have no face to face contact. Many of our joiners come from companies where they had worked for several years and built strong working relationships across the business; we tried to be mindful of both of these factors as we brought people into the company. We made several fundamental changes to our onboarding journey to welcome new staff, and ensure they had resources to discover anything they needed to know or were curious to find out.
Increased communication before day 1
The week prior to a new joiner starting, we encourage line managers to contact new team members, talk informally about upcoming projects and give them a familiar person to get in touch with. In the words of a recent new joiner: “This provided a great opportunity to get to know a bit more about the team, projects and what it’s like working for FINBOURNE.” Our technology team also contacts all new joiners in advance, ships out the relevant equipment and talks through the set-up ahead of time.
More introductory team sessions earlier in the journey
We’ve ramped up the number of our introductory sessions within the team to ensure all new members quickly understand people’s roles, team responsibilities, current projects, longer term goals and of course where to turn for help.
We also help new joiners to schedule introductory meetings with people from different teams to begin to understand how it all fits together. We hope this also sets the foundations for relationships outside the immediate team.
Interactive 30, 60 and 90-day planning
We’ve had this process in place before transitioning to remote work but it’s proving even more useful now. We encourage all new joiners to collaborate with their managers to develop aligned objectives, goals and flag any areas where they may need support. Again, increased communication around this and regular check-ins with managers help keep this on track.
We regularly run topics such as codecraft for engineers, finance Q&A sessions for non-sector staff and product overviews for everyone. Ad hoc meetings are often scheduled for anything our staff think others may find interesting: how to land a plane, how to fly a drone, how to manage an equity portfolio etc. Finally, our monthly all-hands is now fortnightly and new staff are introduced to the entire organisation when they are ready!
Make time for non-work conversations
When in the office, we don’t spend all of our time talking about work. But when everyone is working remotely, it’s easy for this casual chat to be lost. We’re trying to build more social events into the calendar to help our new joiners feel part of the team. That can be anything from baking competitions, virtual pub meets to gaming sessions.
Getting the technology right
Having the right tech stack to enable efficient remote working and remote on-boarding is crucial. Just prior to lock down, we completed our annual SOC2 audit , so the topic of BCP was fresh in everyone's minds. We detail our approach to setting up a cloud-first company in an April 2020 blog.
When FINBOURNE Technology was founded three and half years ago, the founders had the benefit of designing all our internal systems from scratch. The technology choices they made have undoubtedly made the recent move to remote working far easier for us to deal with.
Given many in our team were already working from home regularly, our working practices were already geared up to support people being out of the office and bringing on new starters which helped immensely.
Our new joiners shared their experience of the tools and processes we have in place which proved helpful when refining and learning for the future.
- Bamboo HR – “The team org chart was really helpful in the first few weeks as it provided a clear overview of the company and how everyone fits together” – New starter in operations
- Teams for client calls and internal meetings
- Wiki – Our wiki contains useful information about every aspect of the business and we encourage everyone to read, update and contribute. It’s intended to have the answer to many of the questions new starters may have. If it doesn’t, we update it with the question and answer so the next new joiners benefit.
- Slack – “everyone is on and active in a number of different channels so I’ve already started to either chat to or just hear other members in both work and non-work matters. Even though I interviewed remotely so have not met anyone face to face I already feel at ease with contacting anyone” – New engineering team member
- Daily team stand-ups –“When starting a role the more frequent the contact with the team the better” – New starter in finance
- Fortnightly whole company All Hands – “What really stands out is the transparency and honesty in the updates which is brilliant.” – New joiner in sales engineering
- Finance Q&A sessions – as our team comes from a range of sectors, not only the finance industry, we run fortnightly sessions on everything from what is asset management through to how a swap works. “These sessions have been really good. From a sales engineering perspective the more we understand not only our clients’ business but how they function and more importantly the problems we’re alleviating for them, the more clients we can hopefully convert”
What have we learned?
Portable for everyone
Going forward we plan to issue everyone with laptops. This is an expensive proposition, especially for developer-grade devices. But as our company grows, and people require increasing mobility, we feel the trade-off is worthwhile. Furthermore, by using generic USB-C docking stations in our offices, we can reorganise the team quickly as we begin a phased return at some point in the future.
Reducing key man risk
We identified that the same few people in the business were being looped into technology, access and operational matters when a new starter came on board, taking up an increasing amount of their time. We broadened this group and automated the process as much as we could, reducing the burden on the individuals.
Getting equipment ordered more quickly
It sounds trivial but shifting our timeframes out a few weeks when it comes to ordering kit has made the world of difference. The demand on laptops has obviously increased significantly and in the early days we found ourselves facing delays with equipment arriving.
With the right people, remote doesn’t make a difference
We’re a team of naturally curious people who love building tools and understanding how those things work and can get better. The right technology stack combined with the right culture means we can all continue to do that, whether in the office or not. We’re fortunate to work in an industry where home working is possible. This experience has forced us to change some of our working practices, and by making home-working more effective, perhaps it may even benefit us in the long run.