Welcome aboard! How we onboard new Genesis employees during wartime



Getting acquainted with the team and the peculiarities of the company's culture is an integral stage that every new hire goes through in the first weeks at a job. We call this process onboarding. It helps the newcomer understand the atmosphere of the team and adapt more easily. If onboarding is done correctly, the person will feel comfortable working and growing with the company.


The first days or weeks in a new position or in a new company are always stressful. With the war raging, employees are also worried about their safety and how their loved ones are doing. Consequently, onboarding has become even more important than before because it accounts for the emotional comfort of employees in addition to the success of the company.


That is why businesses from the Genesis ecosystem did not abandon the usual processes, including onboarding, but transformed them into an online format. In this piece, we will tell how we help new employees adapt at Genesis, who is involved in onboarding, and what has changed since February 24th.


> What does onboarding consist of?

> Manager, mentor, and friend: People who are involved in the process

> Deep diving: How developers are onboarded

> Creatives on board: The PlantIn experience

> What did the war change?



What does onboarding consist of?


Pre-onboarding begins on the day that the offer is accepted and ends when the employee starts working. At this stage, the recruiter communicates with the person. They send the employee a welcome letter and provide administrative details: the date and time of starting work, the office address, the duration of the probationary period, a list of required documents, etc.


The first working day at Genesis is usually organizational and follows a standard pattern.



In the first few weeks, a person should learn how the company operates. The employee gradually understands the organizational structure and gets to know their colleagues and their tasks. It’s also important to learn about company values; they aren’t just words, but the principles according to which the business really develops. This is emphasized by Kateryna Yamnenko, People Partner of the Genesis board team.




"I also make sure that a new colleague learns to use our internal systems, instructions, and manuals. In the beginning, a person has many questions, and the answers to 90% of them are included in internal resources," explains Kateryna.



During (and after) the probationary period, the manager sets up regular weekly meetings, which at Genesis are called checkpoints. During them, the employee learns the manager's expectations regarding their work, can ask for advice, or simply chats with the manager. At the same time, the manager monitors how the newcomer is adjusting and helps them overcome any difficulties.


At this stage, newcomers also have an adaptation meeting with the company's co-founder, Vasyl Ulyanov. This is a regular monthly meeting that usually invites 30-40 newcomers. He gets to know the employees, talks about the market, the company's place in it, business processes and goals, and also answers questions from the audience. Such meetings have been temporarily paused, but will soon be resumed.


Within the probationary period, the newbie has their first review. This is a meeting where the employee and HR discuss the state of affairs for the past month and a half: they look at progress with goals, interaction with colleagues, obstacles that interfere with work, etc.


Successful completion of the probationary period is a sign that onboarding and adaptation have been productive. At Genesis, the probationary period lasts three months and is followed by another review with goal setting for the next six months. Several components are taken into account: work results, feedback from colleagues, and self-assessment of the employee’s progress. "Even now, I see that newcomers appreciate such meetings because they want to get feedback and a perspective on their work from colleagues," says Kateryna Yamnenko.



Manager, mentor, and friend: People who are involved in the process

The main organizers of onboarding are the manager and the HR manager. Depending on the project and the situation, a mentor and a buddy may also enter the game.


Manager


Their task: to oversee the entire process of adaptation.


If you compare the onboarding team to an orchestra, the hiring manager plays the first violin. They should open up the potential of a person so that their professional development is integrated with business goals. The manager "immerses" the employee in the team, monitors their progress, and helps them deal with work tasks.


The main tool for this is regular checkpoints. These let the manager not only monitor the success of the person in the position but also build trust. It is easier to get rid of the fear of "stupid" questions and avoid many mistakes in the future. Olena Vasiv, Head of Creative Team in PlantIn, swears by this.





HR manager


Their task: to ensure a comfortable integration of the employee into the company.


If the recruiter is the employee’s first contact with the company, then the HR manager is the first person they meet after coming to the office. The HR manager introduces the newbie to the history, projects, and culture of the company in detail, helps them fill out documents, shows how internal services work, and provides support. In short, HR does everything to make a person feel comfortable and help them learn everything that is necessary at a new place of work.



Mentor


Their task: to transfer the necessary knowledge and skills to a person.


At the onboarding stage, junior employees are the ones who usually need a mentor. As a rule, a professional of the highest level does not only share knowledge and experience but also teaches the junior employee how to apply it to real situations. With the help of a mentor, an employee gets to know a new product faster, acquires skills, and overcomes difficulties. A mentor is also involved in other cases: for example, when a person feels a lack of knowledge and skills for career growth or a change of profession.



Buddi


Their task: to become a "friendly supporter".


If the manager and mentor help mostly with work issues, then the buddy's responsibility lies in the dimension of informal communication. "They take care of the newbie from the beginning and become their guide in the company during the probationary period," explains Kateryna Yamnenko. They show how to apply for a day off or sick leave, remind them where the help desk or accounting department are, take a walk together in the afternoon, and show where to find a cozy cafe close to the office.



Deep diving: How developers are onboarded


Onboarding for developers versus non-code professionals is not fundamentally different, but programmers need a little more time and resources to get into all the features of a particular product. Andriy Tovstonog, Tech Team Lead at GMEM, told us about the developer onboarding experience.




"On the first day, we get to know each other: I talk about myself and the team, then I ask my new colleague to do the same. A preliminary impression is formed by the end of the interview and during first days I learn more about the person – what their hobbies are, whether they have a pet, etc.


Next comes an introduction to values ​​and processes. At this stage, we reveal the principles by which the developers in the technical team work. First, the newbie is added to all communication channels and informed about the rules for using them. Then they schedule meetings and discussions and provide documents and instructions for familiarization. It’s especially important to set up communication nowadays, when the team has gone from office to 100% remote, and the volume of online communication has multiplied.


While the second stage is about more general things, then the third involves a deeper dive into the development processes. It can last more than one week. I call it "deep diving." At this stage, the newbie already has access to development repositories and infrastructure services. My task is to help a person immerse themselves in the product.


I emphasize two aspects:


1. Business processes – what departments are there in the company, how the product is monetized, how tasks are formed, who sets them, etc.

2. The technical part – I describe the infrastructure, services we use, and content creation mechanisms.


In the last offer, I wrote three main things that I expect from a colleague after the end of the probationary period: an understanding of the development process, the technical components, and the business components of the product.


I monitor progress at checkpoints. Where necessary, I explain, guide, and give advice. Over three months, the newcomer learns and adapts to processes and communication. During this time the team also adjusts to their new colleague. At the end of the probationary period, there’s a review with new goals and official congratulations awaiting the employee."



Creatives on board: The PlantIn experience


Sometimes a mentor is appointed to help a newbie. This figure watches the employee’s development and helps them learn new skills. Here's what Olena Vasiv from PlantIn says about mentoring.


"About a week before the start of the war, a new creative marketer joined our team. The first stage of onboarding — getting to know the manager, mentor, and team — took place in the office. We managed to meet in person, get to know each other, and chat.


In the office, we pay attention to where the new employee will sit. When they are close to a mentor or colleagues with similar responsibilities, communication and adaptation are greatly simplified. So the "oldies" periodically change places.


We maintained the key stages of human adaptation in the current conditions and successfully transferred them online. This applies, in particular, to studying the FAQ and the knowledge base of the team. Each position has its own materials – so-called "cheat sheets" for work.


For example, a new creative marketer received a manual containing our best creatives, advertising concepts, and video scripts. There are also links where employees can view finished works, as well as access all necessary services.


Within the team, we work according to the OKR system ("Objectives and Key Results" — a goal-setting system that helps form goals both for the individuals and for the entire company. The system also includes key results that show that a goal has been achieved). So, at the beginning of the trial period, the newbie has a plan and one level of goals for three months. After completing the trial, I set new goals and write down four levels of goals — for the new employee, the department, the team, and the company.


I do not lower the bar or requirements, but I keep in mind that the adaptation process may be longer. Our team has good results now; the processes have not suffered at all. From previous experience, we cannot say that it was onboarding that had a significant impact on achievements and difficulties."



What did the war change?

Thanks to the prompt relocation of employees to safe places, companies from the ecosystem were able to restore all processes in two weeks. “We now pay even more attention to the onboarding of newbies, so that a new employee is not left without support,” says Olena Stakan, HR People Partner at GMEM.




"Even before starting work, I write down a plan of action for a person that awaits them after joining the company. We prepare equipment in advance, provide access, and organize logistics. The newbie's day starts with a video call with the HR Business Partner, where I share information about the company, the project, our products, and our achievements. I devote a lot of time to the structure of the team so that people know who they can turn to with questions. In all online conversations, we ask them to turn on the video in order to maintain the effect of in-person presence," Olena Stakan says.


During the pandemic, all processes were perfected online, so onboarding has not fundamentally changed. However, there are several "pitfalls" that slightly complicate the process of adaptation for a newbie. Here is what Olena Vasiv from PlantIn faced:


There is a fear of imposing. Asking verbally is much easier than writing several messages in messengers, so people sometimes find it difficult to do this. However, there is nothing wrong with clarifying or checking your actions. It is better to ask than to remain silent and not understand the problem.

Problems are solved more slowly. It's harder to assess progress, answer questions, and correct direction online than when you're sitting a couple of desks away. Having weekly checkpoints and a mentor can help, but in the office, we could have incorporated the work of the newbie more quickly.

It became more difficult to communicate. This is the problem of remote onboarding: a person joins a team that has its own vibe, jokes, memes, and slang. We have all been in different places for two months now and the newbie seems to be cut off from the atmosphere. In addition, they have not yet gotten to know each other in person, and the employee may misread the intonation of a message. That's why we activated our informal chat, where we drop news, memes, funny tik-toks, and just words of support.


HR People Partner Olena Stakan also notes that another change in the onboarding process is related to communication. Communication about the company's work during wartime was added to the discussions of goals and strategies. "We want employees to know that the company and the project are doing everything possible to ensure people's comfort and safety. We help financially, support each other, and support the Armed Forces and the country's economy. It is important that every new (and old) employee knows about this and feels stable," she concludes.


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