The Trial Case for Virtual Onboarding: My First Week at 9 Clouds

The Trial Case for Virtual Onboarding: My First Week at 9 Clouds

As the guinea pig for 9 Clouds’ virtual onboarding process, I want to share some good news: it is possible to virtually onboard new employees successfully!

Before this spring, I would have been unsure about a purely virtual process for starting a job. But one week into my time at 9 Clouds, I believe I am set up to succeed in my role, feel comfortable with the team, and am excited to continue to learn!

A Job All About Learning? I’m In!

The team at 9 Clouds is all about learning. The team strives to continuously grow and put time into improving our skills. This mindset is perfect when tackling a brand-new employee onboarding experience.

Hearing about the frequent learning opportunities for employees, I grew more excited as I interviewed for the account coordinator role with 9 Clouds. Two years ago, I went back to school because I wanted to learn and grow and try new things — so jumping into an office environment full of lifelong learners ready to handle whatever 2020 throws at them is my ideal workplace.

This spring, I graduated with my Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. My simple explanation of the degree is that I learned how to learn and turned into a metadata nerd. The coursework prepped me to be a guinea pig for new processes, including being 9 Clouds’ first virtually onboarded employee.

9 Clouds Has the Tools to Succeed Virtually

The 9 Clouds team has successfully worked from home well before 2020. When shutdowns began in the United States, the transition for the current 9 Clouds team did not require a complete overhaul of their process, which was already based around online tools for remote work

In March, the team even hosted a webinar all about how to work from home! While most companies were still trying to learn Zoom and Google Teams, 9 Clouds was putting out content for the rest of us about how to succeed. 

Combining my grad school training with the success of 9 Clouds, we were ready to have a completely virtual onboarding experience.

The COVID-19 of It All

Have you ever started a new job during a pandemic? 

Probably not. I hadn’t until last week. 

Now is generally a really scary time to be searching for a job. I sent countless job applications, did a variety of Zoom interviews, and listened to podcasts about the terrible job market and how many individuals were struggling financially.

With April and May bringing the highest unemployment rates anyone currently in the job force has ever experienced, there are plenty of individuals looking for employment, including about three million students graduating with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree this spring.

As the country adjusts to the new COVID normal, it is time to start rehiring and adding to the workforce while it is still unsafe for groups to be in offices together. This leaves many companies needing to virtually onboard employees.

There are a variety of checklists and how-tos on how employers can successfully welcome new employees while never having met them. These types of resources are great, and I appreciated the plan 9 Clouds has laid out for me and my first month on the job.  

But, before you utilize the checklists, your company has to find the perfect person to hire! And you have to do it without being in the same room as the interviewee.

Why Hiring During a Pandemic Isn’t So Bad

Most people seem uncomfortable hiring people without meeting them in person. We want to be able to shake someone’s hand and look them in the eye to really measure them up and see if they fit into the company culture.

To dispel this need to meet in person to judge one another, I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s book Talking to Strangers, in which he tears apart the idea that we are accurate judges of character even when we do meet people face to face. (You may have noticed I received a master’s degree that includes the word library in it, so I am ready with a book recommendation for any topic.)

The shift of office employees working remotely could change how we work forever. Now that so many employees are working successfully from home, it is likely the office will never look the same again. This has the potential to be a far-too-late win for accessibility activists, who have been asking for more work-from-home opportunities for decades.

Due to the unpredictability of the world, I may not be the last person 9 Clouds hires virtually. Thankfully, I am part of a team of learners who take excellent notes.

We are learning from my process to make the next employee’s experience easier. For example, I was brand new to using a MacBook, and learning how to use my computer was not in my training. But it is now in the books to ensure the next employee is given resources to adjust to a new laptop and operating system if needed.

Each member of the 9 Clouds team occupies one Zoom box in a three by four grid of faces.

In lieu of a normal first-day lunch, the team planned a virtual welcome lunch for me!

One Week In

Now that I have hit the one-week mark at 9 Clouds, I can say that virtually joining a marketing team isn’t scary. The experience is strange and new for all of us, but we are putting all our remote work tools into making my virtual onboarding a success. 

There were hiccups getting me signed in to various platforms, but a quick email or screen-share was enough to solve those issues. I felt guilty every time I ask how to get logged into Google Drive or find a document, but I’ve been met by a supportive team ready to answer my questions without judgment.

It feels strange not being able to walk over to someone’s desk to ask a simple question or sit down next to a coworker to learn a new program, but I am learning how to make screen-sharing for problem solving an efficient tool and not being shy about asking seemingly simple questions.

I’m so glad to be the newest member of the 9 Clouds team. It has been a unique experience onboarding during a pandemic, but we are all learning from the process, and the company is setting me up for success on the account management team!