All aboard! Hiring and onboarding 50 people in lockdown

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At the start of 2020, we had a very ambitious plan to scale BNZSA, which meant that as a recruiter I was on track to have a very busy year.

In January I sat down with our founder, Brahim, to map out how each team would grow and how we would build entirely new departments. Then in March, like everyone else on the planet, we had to rethink but we didn’t want to sacrifice the momentum we’d built or lose the opportunity to expand.

After a brief pause during Spain’s super-strict lockdown, we resumed hiring and continue to recruit top talent from around the world to join the BNZSA adventure.

Whilst in Madrid many companies have resumed office-based working, around 80% of our team are still working from home – although we know this is the best thing for the safety of our employees during this pandemic, it does present a lot of challenges in helping new starters feel engaged.

Read on to learn how we adapted our onboarding process over the past few months!

Here are the stats:

  • Since March, I’ve conducted 174 interviews with prospective candidates
  • We’ve had 48 new starters join BNZSA since March
  • Our new starters speak 8 different languages
  • We helped people relocate from Belgium, Finland and the UK to join us – that’s right, even in a pandemic!
  • We’ve recruited roles in tele-marketing, data research, software development, communications, design, project management, quality control and more
  • 3 people who started since March have already grown to take on management positions

The challenge – onboarding in a pandemic

A huge part of BNZSA’s success is our company culture. We recruit people from different backgrounds and cultures, across a range of ages. Some don’t even speak the same language – we have 25 nationalities amongst our employees.

On paper, no one has anything in common, but somehow it all works because everyone buys into our core values: delivering high quality, going the extra mile, changing the industry and of course, believing in people.

How could we recreate the BNZSA spirit with 80% of the company working remotely?

David Arroyo Lopez in the empty office

Messing up and starting again

We messed this up big time for the first batch of new starters in May – Kjell, Marta, Ivan, Eva thank you so much for bearing with us!

We did everything possible to make the the office safe for people to come in – we’d rearranged all the furniture for 2 metre distancing, added sanitising stations and retained Mati our cleaner to be there full-time. We’d thought about the physical stuff but not enough about the overall experience.

We packed the schedule so they’d be occupied all day, but didn’t include enough breaks so they could bond with each other and absorb everything they were learning. They ended up feeling really disconnected because we didn’t arrange for them to speak to their own Team Leaders or wider teams. With back to back calls all day, they never got a chance to speak to other colleagues who were in the office with them.

At the end of the two week period, we ran a short survey and are so grateful for the honest feedback to help us do better! It’s an ongoing process, but we’re very proud of what we’ve implemented so far.

So what did we improve?

  • Bigger batches of new starters – since they might not have the chance to meet many of their colleagues in person right away, it’s really important that they feel connected to their cohort and have ready-made internal network of friends and colleagues across teams.
  • Being more realistic about the schedule – you can only absorb so much over video call, so now we have shorter training sessions and more down-time for coffees and chats with people across the company.
  • More support available for all tasks – we have a team member available to support for all tasks, whether that’s reading our internal handbook, the Blue & Yellow Book, or making initial attempts at tasks related to their specific roles.
  • Longer time in the office – we realise that new recruits prefer the structure and support available in the office, so the on-boarding process has been extended to four weeks (from our initial two week programme). Once the month is up, they can choose if they’re ready to work from home or come to the office.
  • More in-person meetings – whilst we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable to come to the office, we encourage Team Leaders and coaches to come in at least a few times during the four-week onboarding so that everyone can meet properly in real life. It’s much easier to ask for help from someone you feel like you know.
  • More sessions with leaders like Brahim and Cristina – from formal training and Q&A sessions to ad-hoc coaching and chats at the coffee machine, we share the BNZSA spirit via the people who were here on Day 1!
  • Extra personal support – several of our new starters relocated from other countries to join us and can get lost in the crazy Spanish bureaucracy, which is even more impenetrable these days since you can’t go to any government offices without an appointment. We offer much more support with paperwork, especially for people who don’t yet speak Spanish.

How have you overcome your onboarding challenges?

I hope this insight helps you with onboarding in your organisation! If you have tips or recommendations for us, please comment below or drop me a message.

Right now we’re focusing on the most pressing issue of all….how on earth do we recreate the famous BNZSA Christmas party in remote?