CoConnect: Virtual Onboarding Simplified

This is a case study I co-wrote along with my team mates Amish Servansing, Kishi Zhou & Neelam Mohole as a submission for the Product Buds Project Jam Protothon prompt (The New Normal). I cannot stress enough that none of this could have been possible without the hard work & dedication from my team mates.

CoConect Screenflows

Overview

Working remotely for 60–80% of the workforce has become the “New Normal’’ overnight due to the global pandemic. This has forced employers to reconsider their traditional hiring practices and employees have to find new ways to navigate and connect in a remote workspace. Below is the process, my team and I went through to provide our take on a solution.

Problem

New hires face a multitude of concerns associated with social isolation and lack of informal interaction and this inability to connect with people affects their productivity and social well-being. While at the same time, onboarding has proven to be difficult, taxing the hiring manager and requiring them to dedicate more time and effort to get new hires involved.

Impact

Employees that feel a sense of belonging, achieve higher job satisfaction and productivity. Cultivating this sense of belonging starts with onboarding. A standardized onboarding process can boost new hire productivity by 62% and lead to 50% greater new hire retention. Providing the right onboarding support could prove to be a huge win for companies in terms of maintaining lower turnover costs.

In a remote-first work world, about 41% of new hires do not feel connected to colleagues and 26% of employees feel isolated. More than 90% rely heavily on regular feedback from their managers during these early stages of remote work. While at the organizational end, managers are overwhelmed with learning how to run a remote team effectively. The shift to working from home has pushed managers to the bounds of effective & regular communication with their teams. Lack of information from management and timeliness of information are two of the biggest obstacles of working from home. Communication and & sense of belonging are essential to being effective in the remote workplace.

The User

Both hiring managers and new hires face significant challenges that impact their effectiveness during the onboarding process. As a new hire, there is no platform that facilitates both virtual team integration and tasks required to be successful in their new roles; as a hiring manager, there is no platform that guides me through the task of helping my new hires integrate well within the team to help them belong.

User Personas

Validating our Assumptions

To better understand these user persona and journeys, we circulated a short survey on social media platforms and collected quantitative and qualitative responses from 53 new hire users and 6 HR managers. Through the validation process we learnt the following:

  • 72% of new hires surveyed felt disconnected from their team and did not feel comfortable reaching out to anyone with questions
  • 27% of new hire surveyed struggled to understand their deliverables
  • New hires primarily felt overwhelmed by training manuals and videos within the early stages of onboarding
  • Most new hires felt unclear on whether they were “doing the right thing” and “speaking with the right people”
  • New hires whose managers took the time and effort to conduct social events with the team mentioned no issues with the onboarding process
  • Hiring managers reported they did not think there was a difference in the standard onboarding procedure when onboarding and integrating new hires remotely
  • Hiring managers listed keeping track of all the onboarding items they are responsible for as another key problem area

User Requirements

Based on the user persona and validated pain points described above, the following user requirements were generated:

Ana’s Needs (New Hire):

  1. I need to know who my teammates are and connect with them easily, to foster a sense of belonging at my job
  2. In the early stages of my job, I need to obtain regular feedback to understand my performance
  3. I need a clear sense of what training and onboarding tasks are required by me along with the completion deadline, to avoid being overwhelmed by an information overload

Rob ‘s Needs (Hiring Manager):

  1. I need to understand how to connect new hire employees and the team in a remote setting
  2. I need a channel to obtain and provide regular feedback at a higher frequency during the onboarding phase and when working remotely to gauge new hire’s early progress
  3. I need to keep track of all orientation items to complete during the onboarding process of the new employee, to ensure timely completion of virtual onboarding items

Solution

We started by mapping out each of our user persona’s journey and listing out the key pain points. Based on user survey, user interviews and market research, we picked out the most common ones and listed them out. We then brainstormed a large list of potential solutions/features, ranging from a simple phone call/chat reminder or onboarding checklist app, all the way to a web platform or AR/VR onboarding guide. We filtered this large set of features to come up with the 20% that addressed 80% of user pain points within a reasonable timeline, while maintaining our users’ key non-negotiables: effective means to connect with the team and a feedback loop. This would be the key factor that sets CoConnect apart from other solutions in the market.

Check out our JamBoard on the brainstorming & prioritizaiton session

Solution Design

Our web-application solution caters to the new hire user needs and the hiring manager user needs in the first 3 months of the new hire’s journey.

Check out our CoConnect: New Hire and CoConnect: Hiring Manager prototypes

Key Features we sought to incorporate are the following:

  1. Enabling & encouraging new hires to connect with various team mates (this would be the first page they land on); enabling & encouraging hiring managers to facilitate new hire integration into their remote team
  2. Easy, timely feedback process and log between new hire & hiring manager
  3. Simplified list of onboarding tasks & resources so both sides can focus on just as much as they need to get done for that point in the new hire’s journey

For the new hire, the application is broken down into 3 sections: Connect, Feedback and Onboarding Tasks.

CONNECT enables new hires to reach out to teammates so they start engaging and collaborating with the community. This is the first page the user would land on, as familiarising with teammates is imperative to help a new hire feel connected.

FEEDBACK aims at providing and maintaining a record of manager feedback during the onboarding phase, which is vital to the new hire’s success in their role.

ONBOARDING TASKS acts as a guide to walk the new hire through just as much as they need at that point in time, without overwhelming them. Coupled together, this aims to achieve increased engagement, better relationships with co-workers (a tough challenge when virtual) and therefore higher retention and productivity.

Screens for New Hire

Similarly on the hiring manager side, the application provides the same 3 sections.

CONNECT aims to guide hiring managers when it comes to helping build and manage their team virtually, with suggestions on activities, resources and quick access to book frequent check-ins.

FEEDBACK enables managers to see how their new hires are integrating into the team and provide an increased level of feedback to support them.

ONBOARDING TASKS helps keep hiring managers on track and accountable, with all items that need to get done, while juggling work and remote team management. This brings relief to the manager since they can confidently lead and connect with all members of their remote team.

Screens for Hiring Manager

Metrics for Success

This is SaaS application aimed at the HR department at an organization as the customer, with the new hire & hiring manager as the two key user types. Since this product design is for an MVP would be in the “Innovator” or early phase, the key performance indicators we are considering are:

  • Qualitative Feedback — Is the product addressing their pain points? what are features they like vs dislike? What can we improve? Surveying users on qualitative feedback could provide useful direciton in identifing what to focus on for the second iteration
  • Customer Engagement — measure use of specific features within the application, to understand what works well for the user and what does not. This could provide very useful direction in identifying what to focus on to improve the solution offering
  • First Conversions — how did the first companies choose our product & the types of companies, their location and further demographic information.

Competitive Analysis

We provide a tailored enterprise solution to help build strong connections between new hires and the team on a single web-application.

  • ‘Team Socials’ feature that allows users to take part in social and wellbeing activities and meet other coworkers
  • Unique features such as a closed-loop feedback exchange between hiring manager and new hire
  • Tracking new hire progress while holding employee and manager accountable with regular check ins

We looked at a few competitors in this market and categorized them by their key features & strong point. The one key thing we learnt is the lack of focus on a feedback loop between the new hire & the hiring manager as well as any accountability on this front. This would be CoConnect’s biggest differentiator.

Next Steps

A few features we believe would be beneficial in future iterations are the following (prioritized by value delivered to the customer & user):

  1. Integrate the CoConnect platform with existing connectivity tools such as Zoom/Slack/MS Teams, as well as existing HR Portals to enable easy access to employee databases and onboarding information.
  2. Include simple reminders/notifications for both user personae to help keep them on track during this critical period in their journey
  3. Incorporate a reward system to motivate new hires to attend more social events to engage with the employee community.

Lessons Learnt

This project was our first case study as a remote group of four with support and guidance from our mentor, Adil Chaudhry. The process of creating a solution from scratch and taking it through the product management lifecycle was a valuable lesson for us. This was all of our first time creating a prototype with tools like Figma and Canva, and reporting it in this case study. Although onboarding is an established process, the new normal has definitely forced us to re-evaluate how best to connect new hires with their peers.

References

Buffer. (2019). State Of Remote Work. Buffer. https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019

Gartner. (2020). Gartner HR Survey Reveals 41% of Employees Likely to Work Remotely at Least Some of the Time Post Coronavirus Pandemic. Gartner. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-14-gartner-hr-survey-reveals-41--of-employees-likely-to-

Harvard Business Review. (2018). 9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work. https://hbr.org/2018/11/9-out-of-10-people-are-willing-to-earn-less-money-to-do-more-meaningful-work

Product, Data & Tech enthusiast || Product Manager — E-commerce