When Viasat asked its non-essential employees to work from home in mid-March, a lot of the company’s normal processes changed – and changed fast. Among them was its new-hire onboarding procedures. A process that once included face-to-face introductions, group orientations and team gatherings shifted almost overnight to completely virtual.
Employees hired through the virtual process say that, while they miss in-person connections, their introduction to the company has been smooth.
“Every step – from documentation and screening to getting equipment and creating accounts – was virtual,” said Balvaishwer Singh, a software engineer and recent Texas A&M graduate. “It was definitely not the way I expected to start my first job, but everything went well and everyone was very thoughtful. (Viasat) People & Culture even reached out to me personally to be sure I wasn’t having any trouble.”
That smooth process took some fine tuning.
Before mid-March, new Viasat employees gathered for group orientations and individual, in-person meetings with their mangers every Monday.
“We left the office to work virtually on a Thursday,” said Viasat onboarding specialist Meagan Wall. “That day, we figured out what we were going to do for the following Monday.”
It took a couple of weeks to segue into the current process, which now divides onboarding into two days. For the majority of new hires – those deemed non-essential and who work from home – the first day is a virtual Monday meeting with Wall to review documentation and other steps. The second day, now set for Tuesdays, is a virtual group orientation with all of the week’s new hires.
Essential employees – those whose jobs require them to report to their individual office – follow a similar process. But their first day of onboarding includes short, on-site meetings to get a badge, complete paperwork and meet with their manager.
Two weeks before new employees start their first day at Viasat, they also receive a welcome email, schedule, paperwork and equipment. IT sends each employee the equipment needed for their individual job – based on their manager’s recommendations – and a virtual IT setup sheet.
For non-essential employees, it’s all done without any personal contact.
Because the group orientation is a Zoom format, new hires can at least see one another.
They’re also encouraged to use the Slack internal communications channels regularly.
From Wall’s perspective, onboarding is going well, though she sympathizes with many of the new employees’ desire for connection.
“The biggest challenges we’re seeing is getting IT equipment set up remotely and not meeting people,” she said. “But they’ve all been very understanding, and excited to start.
“Slack has been really helpful for people to reach their managers and connect with other employees.”
New hire and software engineer Nathan Margosian, who started at Viasat in early July, agrees.
“Slack has been a great tool for facilitating interactions,” he said. “And when those messages aren’t clear enough, I’ll do a quick phone call.”
Margosian interned with Viasat’s Marlborough, MA office in the summer of 2019, and was recently hired to work at the Germantown, MD site.
“I was able to draw from my in-person internship onboarding in the virtual onboarding,” he said. “It was still fresh in my mind, so this was almost like a refresher.
“The rest of the process was super smooth. IT reached out to me a couple weeks in advance, and the weekend before my job started, all my equipment showed up.”
What’s been most challenging, Margosian said, is getting to know people.
“Connections are inherently going to be harder to make over Slack,” he said. “I don’t know my team as well as I could if we were interacting in person and making small talk. That’s just the nature of remote.
“But the reason I came back to Viasat is I had an awesome internship experience. The work experience has been different because you’ve lost some of that culture aspect, and while I miss some of that, it still has been great so far. I’m still learning a lot, and everybody’s been supportive and friendly. I’m able to do my job effectively from home, but it’ll be good to be back in the office.”
Another change: Many new hires are opting to delay relocation.
Singh, for instance, decided to stay in College Station instead of immediately moving to Carlsbad. Wall said many other new hires have done the same.
“In these tough times, I took this opportunity to be with my friends,” Singh said. “I was really grateful to Viasat to have that flexibility. Eventually, when things open up again, I will move to Carlsbad.”
Like Margosian, he looks forward to someday working on campus.
“A couple of my friends interned and then got fulltime employment with Viasat; they were highly appreciative of the culture,” Singh said. “So I was looking forward to getting started on my job, meeting new people, trying different restaurants around Carlsbad. If I were in the office and I had a question, I could also walk up to a teammate and ask him. Now, I have to set up a meeting. So that is one part I miss a lot – the human interaction among my coworkers and colleagues.
“Irrespective of that, Viasat has done a tremendous job of onboarding employees virtually,” he added. “They have been very considerate of the fact that I’m a new employee. And I know this all must have been a tremendous effort. I want to thank them for that.”