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Remote on-boarding: Lessons from Signifyd’s Belfast office

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When we made pre-pandemic offers to three of our newest team members, we never imagined that their first few months with Signifyd would be completed from home.

COVID-19 has created new challenges in all parts of our lives. Naturally, it has changed the way we engage with and hire new Signifyers. At Signifyd, we are lucky to have a history of remote work. A significant portion of our team was working remotely even before the coronavirus turned the world upside down. So working from home was the norm for many. Still, when you are expecting an office space and face-to-face meetings, starting a new role remotely can be daunting. 

We knew our on-boarding process would need to adapt in order to address our new reality.  We had a good foundation, having put a lot of work into our onsite on-boarding process. We knew that creating an epic employee experience from day one was key, so we tried to mirror that in our remote process as much as we could. 

Getting it right was a matter of understanding why the little things and the big things in our existing process were important and finding a virtual version that simulated the experience. 

We always start by organizing the tech and other devices our new hires will need to do their jobs — Macbooks, 4K monitors, keyboards, Jabra headsets, water bottles, Signifyd t-shirts, hoodies, travel cups and jelly beans — because who can get anything done without jelly beans?

Being cloud-based means the workplace is any place

The good news?  At Signifyd, we are mostly cloud-based, so we don’t need to be in the office to access anything critical. Employees can work from anywhere in the world with their Macbooks. We have virtual private networks (VPN) in place for the dev environments so engineers can access their instances. The fact that we already had all of our cloud-based practices in place made the transition to remote onboarding and fully remote work pretty smooth. 

Things got a little trickier when it was time to prep the swag. In the days of the real-life office, we would set up all the swag on new workers’ desks. For good measure, we’d tie a bright blue, helium-filled,  ‘Welcome to Signifyd’ balloon to their chair. 

Blue and yellow Signifyd balloons welcoming new Belfast hires

We admit, it’s a little bit cringey having the equivalent of a giant blue arrow above your head for the first week, but it’s a massive help in the long run. People tend to pop over to say “hi,” or encourage you to grab a coffee. And never underestimate the power of a bright, blue balloon to help a new employee in a new environment find that new desk in the office of a growing company.

In place of the social power of a balloon, we invited our three new starts to an informal Zoom lunch call so they could chat with other folks from our Belfast office. We spent the majority of the call playing with the filters from Snap Camera. (We’re a mature bunch!) It was the most I had laughed in ages! 

As for the tech gear and the fun stuff (including jelly beans), our amazing human resources and information technology teams prepped all of it for our new arrivals and packed them up safely to be delivered. Matt, our HR manager, personally drove to each of our new team members’ houses to hand deliver their new setup.  

All Signifyers’ first week includes some general on-boarding training. At Signifyd we set “start dates” so that people can start in groups. A new job and an office full of new people can be overwhelming. It’s nice to go through that with someone in the same situation when possible. Day One always starts with a coffee and some informal introductions.

 For the remote version of the tradition, we sent a coffee and cake care package to each of our new starts to fuel them up for the day ahead!

Gift box of coffee cake, tea and snacks for Signifyd new hires in Belfast

Next it’s on to the Zoom-based training sessions! The agenda includes an IT session to help new hires get set up and familiarise themselves with their new equipment and key systems (Slack, Zoom, Gmail etc.). It also features an overview of Signifyd’s history, culture, benefits, perks and goal setting, led by the HR team. We even had special “Welcome to Signifyd” Zoom backgrounds made up!

Breaking bread with new hires takes on a new twist

The rest of the week was peppered with sessions to give new starts a good knowledge of the company structure, as well as deep dives into each department and what it is they actually do. Our managers also tailored individual sessions to allow for team introductions, technology overviews and an understanding of what the wider teams are doing that are specific to each role. 

At Signifyd we love to eat! And, yes, food was a big part of real-life on-boarding and company culture. When the office was open, we provided all our staff complimentary lunch and snacks every day. There was very much a family vibe as we all ate together. It’s a nice, informal way to get to know your co-workers.

Signifyd new hires on a Zoom call

During their first week, our new Signifyers typically would go for an off-site lunch with their team to spend a bit of downtime together. But since this isn’t a typical time, in place of a lunch together, many of our teams organised online games, like pictionary or taboo, to allow them to still spend time with the new additions and get to know them. 

Everyone who starts with Signifyd is assigned a buddy on their team who they can ask any general work related questions. We also allocate a “Signifyd Sensei,” someone outside of their team who can answer more general culture questions like: How competitive are the quiz nights? (Very!) Where’s a good place to get a coffee? (River Coffee House.) And do they ever stop feeding us? (No, it’s a never ending conveyor belt of food). 

Once everyone is settled in, we have a bunch of ways to stay connected even while working remotely, including: 

  • Zoom lunch breaks
  • Virtual Dungeons & Dragons 
  • #stircrazy Slack channel
  • MTV cribs challenge
  • Pets-at-home Zoom hour

Our key measure of success is whether we are constantly improving things for our awesome team!  So far, so good.

Our new recruit Mark put it perfectly: “Starting a new job is always going to be weird and with a pandemic on top of it, it could have been a nightmare getting started. But it was all really straightforward!”

Straightforward, productive and fun. So much so that I can hardly wait to welcome the next new group of Signifyers. 

Looking to join a team of creative innovators? Let’s talk.

Tamsin Mailey

Tamsin Mailey

Tamsin Mailey is a senior recruiter at Signifyd, working in our Belfast office