The past few weeks have been a time of rapid change and adjustment to a new world. At times like these, it’s more important than ever for People and Learning & Development (L&D) leaders to connect and exchange ideas with each other. In our virtual miniseries, Udemy Connect, several hundred L&D and People peers have come together virtually to share ideas and solutions for our new working world.

Each episode in this three-part miniseries explores a different topic of interest for People and L&D leaders. In the first episode, we looked at ways to ensure your employees’ success anytime, anywhere. You can read the blog recap here. In the second episode, we explored how you can adapt and transform existing in-person training into an online environment. Read the blog recap of that episode here. And in this blog, we’ll look at some highlights from the final episode in the series, Episode 3: Ready for Anything, where we addressed lessons learned over the past several weeks since we transitioned to an all-remote workforce.

Checking in: How are you feeling as a leader in your organization today?

As in our previous webinars, we wanted to acknowledge how participants are feeling and recognize that none of us are truly alone in this challenging experience. We asked participants to share a word or phrase to summarize their current state of mind.

The word cloud shown here indicates a significant change from our previous webinars. In the first two sessions, we saw words like “fear” and “anxiety” emerge as the most common responses. This time, we’re beginning to see words like “hopeful,” “confident,” and “energized” indicate that our sentiments are becoming more positive. We believe that as People leaders, we’re held to account to help our businesses work through crises, but that doesn’t take away from the level of uncertainty that exists all around us.

The urgent need to pivot onboarding at Intuit

Our guest panelist for this session, Dwight Davis, is the Senior Program Manager of Global Onboarding at Intuit. In the next few sections, we’ll pass the metaphorical microphone to Dwight so he can share how he quickly pivoted Intuit’s new hire onboarding.

In my role, I own the end-to-end program from offer letter acceptance to day 90 and lead a team that’s responsible for delivering onboarding for North America and EMEA. The map above indicates the locations of our global offices. 

In early March, we made a quick decision to transition our new hire orientation — which was scheduled to take place at our Mountain View headquarters — to a remote setting. In one sense, this decision was easy: Intuit is an employee-first organization and we were committed to putting the health and safety of our employees first. However, this meant that over the space of a weekend, we needed to act fast and create a remote onboarding plan for the 31 new hires who were scheduled to start on Monday.

Here’s a quick overview of the steps I took:

Transforming in-person onboarding into a virtual experience

At Intuit, we’ve historically believed that face-to-face sessions are more effective than virtual onboarding, which is why our program relied on having new hires join us in the Mountain View office. As we considered how to transform this in-person experience for a virtual setting, we had a number of questions in mind.

To make the transition to a virtual setting, I outlined all the collaboration tools we could use and created a learning pathway in Degreed.

I quickly discovered that there were some benefits to using technology for this process: With a Google doc, I could easily see who was engaging with the content and clicking on the links. And with the learning pathway set up in Degreed, I could also keep tabs on new hires’ progress and follow up if necessary.

But perhaps the most pleasant surprise was seeing what happened when we divided new hires into cohorts and gave them assignments. In the in-person training, this would occur in real-time and people would only share their work with coworkers sitting at the same table. In the virtual environment, though, people were able to take their time to deeply engage with the material. And when they shared their results via Slack, other new hires had the ability to evaluate and give feedback. This was a critical moment where I began to question whether face-to-face training really is better than learning in a virtual setting.

Initial results from virtual onboarding at Intuit

I was unsure how our new hires would adapt to this quick shift to virtual onboarding, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I had several people reach out to say that the decision reaffirmed their choice to work with Intuit and demonstrated that we truly put our employees first.

We run a pulse survey to ask new hires about different aspects of the onboarding program. I was particularly impressed to see 98% of employees agree that they felt prepared on their first day, especially given our tight timeline for getting them set up for working remotely.

What’s next for the virtual onboarding program? 

As horrible as COVID-19 is, it has been a good teacher. I am learning so much and at incredible speed. I am very optimistic to take our early insights and watch our overall program transform the employee experience. When it is safe to return to the office, I will not be in a rush to deliver an all-day face-to-face onboarding experience. My goal is to lean into a virtual experience for the next 6 to 12 months and reevaluate then. As of now, our way forward is:

Promoting ongoing employee engagement at Udemy

Throughout the Udemy Connect miniseries, we’ve referred to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the bottom of the pyramid, we have basic human needs like food and shelter, and higher levels include belonging and self-actualization.

Over the past few weeks, as People leaders, we’ve needed to shift our thinking from topics like building relationships, driving recognition, and promoting career growth to addressing our employees’ basic needs like safety and security. At the same time, we still need to continue to drive our business forward. Here at Udemy, as a learning organization, our goal was to provide the tools to help our employees navigate this new world. Here are a few of the ways we’re thinking about promoting ongoing employee engagement at Udemy.

While we’ve typically considered questions like how to build relationships, how to make Udemy a fun, compelling place to work, and how to help our employees do their best work, we’ve recently needed to shift our focus. In times of uncertainty, we need to go down the pyramid and ensure employees have what they need physically and they and their family members are safe. We need to establish that baseline of safety and security before moving on to questions of performance.

We had many managers say that they wanted to discuss these topics with employees, but they could use support to frame and guide these conversations. While they were used to discussing goals or professional development with their direct reports, they hadn’t ever needed to talk about their access to food or a safe space. 

Itamar Goldminz, founder of the OrgHacking group, kindly provided us with a work-from-home canvas, which we adapted for Udemy. The canvas is a fillable PDF that accounts for each level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and allows employees to disclose the amount of information they feel comfortable with. It also provides a framework for managers so they can better understand their direct reports’ most pressing needs.

We also created an additional tool to support managers during coaching conversations. In Udemy’s Career Navigator coaching program, we introduce the GROW coaching model (Goal, Reality, Options, and Will). Based on requests from managers throughout the company, we updated the coaching questions to fit the work-from-home canvas. This way managers can continue to support employees whose basic needs have been met and who are ready to engage in career development conversations.

What are some of the ways you’re supporting employees during this time?

We asked our audience how they’re supporting employees during this time and they shared a number of great ideas, including:

Reflecting on the past few weeks, we’ve already learned some important lessons. Dwight has found that just because a person is physically in a classroom, that doesn’t mean they’re actually learning. In fact, he’s discovered that virtual training can promote greater interaction and insight into the new hire learning experience.

Here at Udemy, we believe it’s critical to consider both personal and professional challenges and opportunities when supporting working from home. Any point on Maslow’s hierarchy can be an obstacle to performance, so it’s important to widen your scope of insight at times like this. Managers need clear, specific tools to drive effective coaching. And finally, it’s important to pair online learning with these tools to drive the most effective behavior changes.

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Page Last Updated: April 2020