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Onboarding in a Pandemic

How our Employee Experience team welcomed change while welcoming new hires

The COVID-19 pandemic suddenly and completely upended office work worldwide (not to mention just about every other aspect of life) in early 2020. Government, education, media, religion, arts and entertainment, family, and business all had to rethink how to live, work, play, and connect. It’s one thing to see a need and then shift. It’s another thing when a global pandemic demands immediate drastic changes.

In March 2020, Mailchimp’s Employee Experience team was in the middle of an onboarding week when it became apparent that lockdowns were looming. Picture this: You’re a new hire still taking in the cool sights of Mailchimp headquarters at Ponce City Market in Atlanta. You’ve had the opportunity to meet your team as well as many other amazing individuals. Suddenly your onboarding facilitator says, “I’m going to ask you to pack all your things and take them home for 2 weeks.”

The uncertainty of that time caused us to consider what onboarding looks like in the long run, even post-pandemic. Until March 2020, onboarding was a weeklong in-person experience at Mailchimp HQ. Everyone outside of Atlanta was flown in for that week (some would stay for 2 weeks) so all new hires had the same experience.

Because Mailchimp already used Zoom to keep in touch with peeps all over the world, we were able to pivot and make the onboarding sessions fully remote. We worked with content owners to edit and update their sessions and created a time-zone-inclusive itinerary, where we pushed all group sessions to the early afternoon Eastern time so folks on the West Coast wouldn’t have to attend meetings at 6 am.

In a year that felt like more like a decade, the pandemic actually made us better. We’ve been forced to reevaluate the whats, wheres, and whys surrounding the employee experience. We used feedback from our post-onboarding survey to give new hires what they felt they needed and eliminate what they didn’t. We cut 15 minutes from each session to give peeps a break and help reduce Zoom fatigue. Every session was held under the microscope so the Employee Experience team can reevaluate content relevance and order of sessions. We’re currently developing a strategy for what onboarding will look like as offices begin to slowly open.

In the end, although this pandemic is a terrible thing, we know that our onboarding process is now able to withstand sudden winds of change.

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