In late 2019, JTI announced plans to hire more than 850 new personnel over 3 years for their newly established Global Business Services (GBS) center in Warsaw, Poland. As a globally recognized top employer, JTI knows how important a strong start is for new hires, so naturally have already developed a world-class onboarding experience.
But in February 2020, with the recruitment process in full swing, disaster struck in the form of the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak.
So, what happens when a global pandemic forces the entire onboarding process to move online? How do you navigate the pitfalls of a remote onboarding journey and ensure your new recruits are successfully integrated into the workplace?
We sat down with JTI Poland’s People & Culture Business Partner, Tatiana Malinina to find out!
To start, could you tell us a little bit about the JTI onboarding experience pre-COVID?
"Our Warsaw center open in October 2019 and we had to start all the processes from the scratch.
Recruitment plans were ambitious and we needed to ensure that all our efforts in attracting the best available talents to JTI were supported by proper onboarding.
We had a unique chance to design an onboarding program which fits our current needs and is at the same time engaging, exciting, and interesting for new hires.
We therefore based our onboarding program on Accelerated Learning, an activity-based and learner-driven concept in which we actively involve people in the knowledge-grabbing process, whilst leaving space for satisfaction, self-work and creativity.
We piloted the approach in our office and the outcome exceeded all our expectations."
What were your first thoughts when contemplating making the entire process remote?
"From what we could understand at the time, although we knew that we would be spending time at home, we still needed to fulfil our goals for establishing the Warsaw center. The question of remote onboarding quickly arose.
It all happened very quickly, within a week of Working From Home (WFH) mode starting.
Currently, we are continuing to hire about 40 people per month."
Could you briefly walk us through the first few days of a remote onboardee’s journey?
"The onboarding starts two weeks before the official start date when we invite all the newcomers to a virtual meeting with our JTI GBS WarsawGeneral Manager, Paulo Lopes. Then we send them the link to Talmundo where new employees can find a brief overview of the Company and our Warsaw GBS, and get familiar with some important procedures and rules , including the JTI Code of Conduct.
The second official working day is devoted to administrative procedures such as document signing, health & safety training, meeting the teams and learning how to use the main tools such as our Benefit Platform or Corporate Social Network.
The next three days are fully dedicated to our so-called "Corporate Induction" where new employees learn about our mission, vision and global behaviors, as well as our history, brands, structure, key people and the GBS organization.
We do everything online via MS teams and set a lot of practical tasks to new employees as well as giving them the opportunity to work in virtual teams on certain projects. When people present their projects it usually generates a lot of fun – I am always amazed by how talented and creative our new employees are.
Then, the so-called "People & Culture" induction starts. It consists of a series of webinars devoted to specific HR topics such as performance appraisal, the basics of Compensation and Benefits and the Code of Conduct."
A JTI onboardee in her new 'office' - home sweet home!
What were the biggest challenges in going remote with onboarding?
"The biggest challenge is to be able to catch people's attention without being able to be physically close to them. It’s vitally important to create an engaging atmosphere among the onboardees and involve them in the overall learning process.
Another challenge is the technical aspect, where the quality of connection from the individual's side cannot be guaranteed."
How did your new colleagues respond to the remote onboarding process?
"We regularly conduct satisfaction surveys after the onboarding process. Our current rating is 4.7 out of 5. We are delighted to read employees feedback after the sessions:
“I'm delighted by all the induction sessions. They are planned and executed great. I'm loving it and for me personally, it's the first time I have been given the time to get to know a company so well before starting to become operational. I consider it a great investment in time to get to know who is who.”
“I'm delighted and impressed by the organizational process. Congrats to the team who made it happen.”
"It was so good that I want to be fired and hired again.”
Another JTI new recruit experiencing the company's online corporate induction.
Why do you think onboarding is so valuable?
"You only get one chance to make a first impression 🙂.
From the very beginning, we have created a special culture that then becomes the perfect training ground for high engagement, healthy relationships, collaboration, respect and consideration.
We are a new organization but we have already achieved a lot from a good start and the resulting high team spirit."
Will remote onboarding play a role in the JTI employee journey post-COVID?
"As soon as it is safe to come back to the office we may adjust our onboarding accordingly to be ready to conduct it in a classroom environment.
The concept is ready and working and the current delivery method is only a tool. We always choose the most relevant and applicable tool for the given circumstances.
Online onboarding is another great example of how perfect results can also be achieved remotely - something that is increasingly important in a modern, flexible and fluid world."
Discovering the JTI global presence, behaviour and culture.
What advice would you give to anyone considering implementing a remote onboarding strategy?
"Just do it!"
What JTI has done with remote onboarding is a fantastic example of why committing to digitization of systems is something that's better done sooner than later.
People&Culture already had an excellent program, but with a dedicated team, some out-of-the-box thinking, and a little creativity, they were able to leverage their digital infrastructure to deliver an engaging and effective remote onboarding experience.
So, as Tatiana says, give it a try and 'just do it'!
Want build your own remote onboarding strategy? Try our free remote onboarding guide for all the tips and tricks to get started today.