Employee Communication in the New Normal: experiences of a digital agency

The corona crisis currently poses completely new challenges for many companies, including internal communication and collaboration amongst others. Mutual trust and understanding are essential in maintaining the flow of information and the feeling of solidarity entirely virtually. This, however, also requires regular communication from management and the courage to try out new interactive formats.

Executive Officer & Project Manager Lisa is involved in a wide range of cross-departmental initiatives as a management consultant at ecx.io, and has discussed ways and means for employee communication in the new normal with our colleagues Jenni, Onboarding Success Manager and Inga, HR Marketing & Communication Manager.

Lisa: Hi Jenni! Not too long ago you also welcomed and guided me on my first day at ecx.io. Back then, however, it was in person in the office. So how does the virtual onboarding look like in contrast to our physical one?

Jenni: Hi Lisa. So the first step is to make sure our new starter has received their hardware before their first day of work. The next step is to set up IT over the phone. We can only activate our most important communication tools once that has been carried out.
Alongside individual orientation, we usually organise two days of concentrated onboarding in the office on site. There, we present our processes, working methods and the various departments. At the moment, however, we are spreading out this onboarding, and delivering the sessions over an entire week. In working with our customers we have learnt that full-day remote workshops are extremely demanding. A breakdown into smaller units is much more sensible and, above all, more enjoyable. Now that we know virtual onboarding is definitely an option, we are currently busy looking for new employees. Take a look at our job portal.

Lisa: Thank you for the insight Jenni. You have already carried out several virtual onboardings. What is your conclusion and what tips can you share with our readers?

Jenni: We have been carrying out our virtual onboarding since March. We have therefore already introduced a number of colleagues to working at ecx.io using the new concept, and have so far received a lot of positive feedback. We did of course encounter some challenges during design and implementation, especially in the initial phase. Due to the rapid changes at the beginning of the crisis, there was a relatively high time pressure to make onboarding virtual for our upcoming new starters. Within a few days, we revised the concept and prepared it for its first run. The redesign also significantly increased the preparation time, as well as the support and coordination required. A lot of creativity was also required for the virtual implementation of the interactive networking. We were also able to learn what can be done virtually. My tips for a remote onboarding?

  • Provide each new starter with a contact person from the beginning (we call them buddies) who will take care of them, invite them to the relevant meetings in the first few weeks and be available to answer questions at any time.
  • Reduce the number of sessions per day and allow time to process and browse through the onboarding documents.
  • Always switch on the camera (as long as the bandwith allows) and arrange an alternative communication channel in case the laptop goes down.
  • The selection of speakers is much easier with virtual onboarding, because you can now easily include colleagues in the programme regardless of their location.

 

Lisa: Hello Inga. You joined us in Human Resource Marketing in April this year and recently went through virtual onboarding with Jenni. How did you find your start?

Inga: Jenni contacted me a few days before I was due to start at ecx.io and told me that I would begin by working from home. I was very pleased to be contacted early. It showed me that, in spite of the exceptional situation, there was a plan B. I was pleasantly surprised that everything was already prepared for my virtual start. The onboarding itself provided me with the most important information during my first week. Through the extensive support from Jenni and my buddy I felt very well taken care of.

Of course, it was a shame that I could only meet my team virtually at the beginning. Thanks to our dailies, we always started the day together and were in constant contact via our chat tool.


Lisa: Do you feel well informed and involved despite the physical distance?

Inga: Yes, definitely! A great example of this is our internal, and currently virtual, employee event, the family night. This regular event brings employees from all ecx.io sites together for a virtual conversation.

Within this framework, our management communicates very openly about where we are at the moment and what is new. Through the contributions of our teams, we also get interesting insights into our projects. A personal highlight of our last family night was definitely the virtual DJ intro by our colleague Dominik. Even though I was sitting at home alone in front of the computer there was a great atmosphere!

 


Lisa: What is your overall opinion on employee communication in the new normal at ecx.io?

Inga: Generally speaking, employee communication plays a crucial role for us. During the corona crisis, virtual conversations have become even more important due to the lack of personal contact. Virtual onboarding is a very good example of the fact that from the beginning we focus on looking after employees – even when they are working from home. All things considered, however, I was happy when I was able to work in the office on a daily basis and meet my team in person. A face to face coffee – albeit with a safe distance – is much more than a virtual one!

More information on how we work (as a rule) is also available in our Employee Stories. Feel free to take a look!

Author Lisa Altvater

Executive Officer & Project Manager
ecx.io, part of IBM iX