On this episode of Labs Live, Dan and Tobi welcome Jackie McLaughlin & Karen Liska-Evans from our OnSite team. They’ll discuss how hiring and onboarding has changed now that most companies are working remotely.

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About Labs Live

Labs Live is a stream hosted by Detroit Labs’ very own Dan Ward and Tobi Adebisi, where they bring on guests from the Labs team and our clients to talk about the latest in technology, software design and development, and whatever else comes to mind. Labs Live streams live on LinkedIn and YouTube each month.

Transcript:

Dan:

Today we’re talking about remote hiring and remote onboarding. It feels very appropriate right?

Tobi:

Yeah for the times. And Jackie and Karen will be joining us pretty soon and it’s just been how … I think for our company, we’ve always been very remote friendly and I think there’s just a lot of learners that working, especially with our on-site team, which you learn more about today a little bit how other companies have adjusted to hiring remote, or being more comfortable with doing that now, and then onboarding which is a big part of it as well. So I’ve been looking forward to this since we put up the lineup, so looking forward to hearing from Jackie and Karen.

Dan:

I like that you called it a lineup-

Tobi:

It’s-

Dan:

It’s very-

Tobi:

Awesome lineup.

Dan:

Yeah, it’s very Tobi of you. All right without anymore delay, let’s jump right into this. I’m going to start by introducing first Jackie McLaughlin, she’s our Director of on-site here at Detroit Labs. And for those that don’t know what we mean by on-site, it’s essentially kind of staffing I would say Tobi?

Tobi:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan:

But I would call it more of an integrated type program. So for companies out there that are looking to grow their teams, looking to bring in really great talent that not only are skilled, but create a wonderful environment. And, I mean, high performing teams are really where it’s at; not necessarily any one individual.

Dan:

And so our on-site division business unit … whatever you want to call it, can really help scale teams and bring in the right talent and the right fits. So we’re going to welcome Jackie to the stream. Welcome Jackie, how are you?

Jackie:

Hello, I’m great. How are you?

Dan:

Fantastic, fantastic. All right and we have another guest Tobi, Karen Liska Evans, and she is a people partner at Detroit Labs, specifically in the on-site group. And I am not even going to pretend to attempt to explain people partner, and Karen will do a much, much better job at that. Karen How are you?

Karen:

I’m good thanks, how are you guys?

Dan:

Fantastic. Please tell us about people partner, what it is that you do, and what that role’s all about.

Karen:

Yeah, absolutely. People partner is a role that’s pretty unique to Labs on-site, and it’s in place to be sort of a really important connection and relationship between our on-site team members, the people that we recruit and hire and bring into companies, and between the company itself, and between Detroit Labs.

They have all these different stakeholders and constituents, and it’s a pretty big landscape to navigate. And so people partner work here to make sure that individual team members are receiving the support they need to learn and grow in their individual journeys, as well as receiving the support that they need to make sure they’re doing the best job they can at their client site.

There’s a little bit of a coaching role, there’s a little bit of HR blend, a little bit of management. And then we also really partner with the client as well, so we’re really a partner for the team member individually and for the client for Labs to make sure that this integrated approach stays even beyond the hiring process.

Dan:

Yeah excuse me, I love the name people partner because we are a people first company. And when we say, “People.” It’s not just the Detroit Labs team member, it’s also our clients who we’re working with on a daily basis, the connections we make with them. And it’s great to see that the people partner role kind of plays across all of that.

All right, so let’s kind of set the stage here. We all transitioned to working remote back in March and after I think right after St Patrick’s Day. So I don’t know if anyone got that out of their system, but we transitioned to working remote.

And then Jackie you are out there, you are talking to clients, you are talking to potential leads. Hiring was very busy, a lot of active posts, what did you see, though, when we transitioned to going remote?

Jackie:

Yeah, I mean at the beginning of the year, we were full speed ahead and we had tons of openings with our on-site clients, tons of companies coming to us wanting talent. Lots of companies that were trying to grow and their teams and then just all of a sudden everybody was not knowing what the future was going to hold, so immediately everybody went on a hiring freeze.

Every company that we had been talking with was like, “We’re not sure what the future holds, we don’t know what we’re trying to adapt to working remote. We don’t know how to transition to remote.” A lot of companies weren’t set up, especially in the automotive space. Some people didn’t have access to the technologies they needed from … They didn’t have laptops to take home.

So I think companies were trying to adjust to being remote that they couldn’t also figure out how to keep hiring at that moment. So instantly it was like everything stopped and our freeze went with all of our on-site clients.

Dan:

And let me ask you … So and I don’t know if you got a sense of this or not but so hiring froze, but what about projects? Did projects get canceled too, kind of help with that hiring freeze, or were project so going full speed ahead?

Jackie:

Yeah, I mean, projects are still going full speed ahead. So most of our clients what I heard is projects and expectations for what to deliver by the quarter by the end of the year; that didn’t change, but the headcount didn’t increase with it.

Some client’s priorities shifted, so some of the projects did get scaled back, or the product that was going to launch got postponed. But I think at that point, companies were still having to meet their kind of expectations and what was set for them, but without the headcount that they needed.

Dan:

So it kind of creates a gap then right? You’ve got-

Jackie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan:

You’ve got projects that continue to gain speed, they have priorities, they have stakeholders that want to see things launched. Yet the inability to hire at that given time, for a number of different reasons, certainly conflicts a little bit with those goals. Have you seen kind of over time and with that gap, have you seen that lead to maybe a little bit of a thaw in hiring, if you will?

Jackie:

Yeah, I would say the first evidence of it thawing was that companies were allowed to backfill people that may have left. So that was kind of the first sign that, “Okay companies are adjusting, they’re recognizing that they can be productive being remote, they learned how to interview remotely or they’re starting to learn how to interview remotely.”

So the back filling piece was kind of the first time when I have clients reach out and say, “Hey, we can’t add headcount, but I can back fill.” So that was a good indicator, and now we’re getting more and more companies reaching out saying, “We’re thinking that we’ll be able to add headcount in a couple weeks, what do you need to do to work with us?” And so we’ve been seeing some positive trends that the last few weeks that have been coming up.

Dan:

You talk about hiring remotely and going through that process remotely, that kind of leads me to my next question of what do you think the biggest hesitation is? Is it, I mean, certainly budget and understanding where the market is going to be, but that aside with the assumption that budget has freed up a bit, what do you see as the biggest hesitation? Do you think it’s that whole hiring remotely process?

Jackie:

I think that a lot of companies, especially some of our bigger clients, they didn’t have a way to interview remotely and they weren’t really sure how to assess technical talent remotely. Which has been cool because Labs, we’ve had to adjust everybody else to figure that out. And I’m really proud of our talent specialists team that have put together a really unique, I think, interview process for candidates; so we’ve been able to adapt and adjust.

And one of the things I’ve talked to our clients about is how we’re able to still assess that technical talent. Because when you’re adding to your team, you want to make sure the personality fit is there, that they’re going to fit in well with the team, they’re going to all work together and be collaborative, but they still need to be able to perform technically, they still need to be able to deliver.

And I think a lot of companies, if you can’t get into ribbon whiteboard, they’re like, “Well how do we do this? We’re not sure how to make this happen.” Where we’ve been able to show through paired programming challenges or code challenges that we do, the way that we approach interviewing, we’ve been really able to adapt to doing this remotely.

And we’ve hired, even during the pandemic, I think nine to 12 really great, awesome developers the last couple of months that have been really cool to see our team still have full confidence in their technical abilities because of how we’ve adjusted to that interview process.

Dan:

Yeah, and I’m going to kind of butt in with something here. So I forgot to mention that if you are on the live stream and you have questions, please ask them. Jackie and Karen have graciously been open to answering some questions. Bt I do have a good one from J.R. Smith here that is very timely of what you’re talking about, Jackie, and that’s, “Did you have more or less applicants since going remote?”

Jackie:

Yeah, that’s interesting and it’s kind of both. We started off with less applicants. I think the first March, April, May everybody was just trying to figure out what is going on. Now I think that people are able to work remotely and have figured out how to, as a candidate and as a team member, be able to be remote, but then also companies are willing to also hire remote talent.

We’ve seen more people come in and apply because they recognize that this is remote opportunities. So we’ve actually seen our applicants … We have hired people recently, but at the beginning of the pandemic it definitely was not a ton.

Dan:

And actually, J.R., that’s a fantastic question and I do see you have a couple more that we’ll likely address and throw up on the screen as we get there. But I think this is a great segue into probably my next question here of what are the positives that have come out of this?

Jackie you talk about hiring remote and figuring out how to hire remote, but one of the things that we talked about even before coming on here is remote hires, in general, having a remote workforce. Have clients of companies out there been more open to having a remote workforce?

Jackie:

Yeah, it’s been really interesting because there’s been some clients that … Well, obviously, we’re in Detroit, Detroit Labs. So most of our clients are like, “Oh they have to be here.” But now they’ve seen that their employees who are in Detroit that are all remote are able to perform, meet production, hit their deadlines. And they’ve been really impressed with how our current on-siters have adapted to being remote, that they’re now willing to consider remote candidates that are not in Detroit and not in Michigan.

So we’ve been able to hire some former on-siters who have moved out West who are now employees again working with on-site clients. And it’s been really neat to see companies adapt and be willing to consider candidates outside of Michigan. So now you’ve opened up a huge possibility of candidates and the talent base you may not have had access to because people may not want to move from really warm places to where it snows here.

So now they can stay where it’s really warm and they can live there and still work remote. You had access to talent that you wouldn’t have had access to. So it’s been neat to see our clients adjust to being willing to consider remote people, because we don’t know how long we’re going to be remote for, but they’re recognizing people can still get stuff done while they’re remote.

Dan:

All right, we do have another question that came in from LinkedIn and I’m going to throw up on the screen. But it does segue really well into … It’s almost the outline that I had, it’s almost we posted on the internet, the questions that are coming in are helping me segue really nicely. But we didn’t actually do that, just to be clear.

But we talk about doing things slightly different remote, which has also led to a remote interview process. It’s also led to communication over Google Meet, Zoom … Maybe not Microsoft Teams, but all the different tools that are out there.

And Joshua asks this really great question, “Has interviewing remotely taught the team anything new about the interviewing process that you wish you knew before?” And I say it’s a good segue because I think interviewing over a camera, over video is an interesting … A lot of times in the past, it was phone screens, and then in person, and now it’s we’re jumping right to video. So has there been anything we’ve learned? And this is for both Jackie and Karen. Anything we’ve learned that we wish we knew before when it comes to the actual remote interviewing process?

Jackie:

I think for me and our talent specialist team, one of the things that we’ve talked about is just connecting with people remotely is a lot harder to do; you have to be more intentional about that. And the way that we do that is with turning our cameras on.

So a lot of candidates have said, “Oh yeah, this is the first interview where I actually got to see what you look like. And I know that that can be uncomfortable for some people, but I think the way that you have to somehow make connections when you are remote, you can’t see face to face, you’re not able to read the body language if there’s no camera, if there’s no way to connect with people without cameras. So we’ve been able to think through what it means to connect with people remotely, and for us that meant having our cameras turned on.

Karen:

Yeah makes a lot of sense. I think too it’s important to think about the comfort level of the candidate. That way I think to your point, the company taking leadership and saying, “We’re going to sort of show you who we are and we’re going to connect with you in this way.” And then leaving it open an optional for the candidate.

There’s been a lot of articles lately about inclusion, and diversity, and the requirement to be on to be on camera and things that. But to welcome them I think in that way and sort of set the tone of, “Here’s who we are and here’s who what we’re all about.” And then you do what’s comfortable for you.

I think that’s important to foster that comfort level as well as to really show candidates we care about who they are. So individual it can be different and that’s okay. But I love that learn of being open to the candidates and being able to show body language and those kinds of things. And I love that they’re sort of saying back that’s really helping them.

Tobi:

I have a kind of more, I don’t know, just hypothetical question for you, Jackie, sort of related to remote work and when we’re talking about our clients adjusting to the future remote work. It seems that since the freeze and thaw, we’re making it work because there is a pandemic.

And do you feel that there’s been enough trust built in general that if let’s, hypothetically, the pandemic does not exist anymore, do you feel that companies are now just going to like, “Oh, we hire from anywhere, we’re going to remain remote.”

If you went to just kind of, let’s say, just predict in a way how do you think that … Do you see this trust been a permanently earned trust to just trust remote work and know that work is going to get done? Or do you see it’s more just temporary because of the pandemic?

Jackie:

Yeah, and I think it depends on the company. I think a lot of companies they’ve had to adjust and they’re seeing that work is still getting done. So I think a lot of companies are going to continue that just because in order to set up the office space to be pandemic friendly or COVID friendly, that it’s not possible how the office was set up previously.

But I think some companies eventually … People like seeing people and being connected. Even with Labs we’ve talked about wanting to just be able to come in and see each other, and go for walks. And down the road in a year, six months, who knows when, I think some people will want to be back in the office, but I think it’s going to become more optional.

I think it depends on the company and the industry. But I think companies have seen, “Oh, people can get stuff done when they’re remote, we’re still hitting our deadlines, we’re still being able to be productive.” So they’re definitely … There’s some companies that have said, “We’re not going to be back until at least next summer.” Some are even the end of next year.

So it really just depends on the size of the company, what their current office is set up. Everybody’s so unique, it’s hard to predict for all industries and all the companies. I only have visibility into the handful that we work with here.

Dan:

So actually we’re talking about remote potentially staying and so then remote interviews, the video interviews are likely going to stay in some way, shape, or form. And I really that the recommendation is for the company to turn their camera on because you’re very much selling that relationship.

And I think it’s important to note that in any good interview, it’s a two way street. Candidate is certainly attempting to sell themselves but at the same time, the company should be selling the company to the candidate; it’s a two way street.

No one person is, necessarily, lucky to have a job and a company should definitely be out there recruiting and promoting themselves. And J.R. Smith asked this question earlier before we went on the stream which I thought was timely for this is, “What’s the best way to stand out on an online interview?”

Jackie:

Yeah, I mean I can speak to what the best way to stand out with how we interview. So one of the ways that we interview developers is by doing technical code challenges, so we’ll have a code challenge.

And recently we’ve been having two candidates paired together. We like that because not only are you working on a project together, you’re seeing how people in a team. And a lot of development, from what I hear not a developer myself, but a lot of it is collaboration, working together, communicating.

So when we do these pairing code challenges, usually it’s not like it’s a competition between one or the other, but it’s a group. People could get hired and they both do really well. So part of how to stand out with that, from our perspective, is to over communicate too. A lot of times I think people get in their heads and they’re trying to figure the problem out and they want to have the right solution. And it’s not about solving the problem correctly, it’s about how you talk and communicate.

So are you explaining to your team member or your candidate co-buddy what you’re thinking? Are you talking to the process? Are you asking them what they think about this? Are you sharing your screen? I mean, you are sharing your screen but you only mean? Are you talking through what you’re seeing on the screen, are you asking them to type? The over communicating because people want to work with people who are collaborative and that’s what we look for is collaboration.

So from our perspective, the way to stand out with that is showing how you can collaborate. It’s not about getting the problem correct; yes or no, did you pass or fail? It’s not about that, it’s about how do you communicate and work with the person you’re pairing with?

Karen:

And with that probably leaving your imposter syndrome at the virtual door of the interview so that you don’t let that overcome you and make you think, “I have to be perfect and I can’t show my work, and I can’t ask questions, and I can’t make mistakes.”

Because as I learned from … I talked to all of our developers and more senior people, and all over the plant organizations; everyone has imposter syndrome. It turns out everyone thinks, “I’m faking it and everyone’s going to figure it out soon.” And so that can heighten even in an interview environment where you feel that pressure.

So I always advise people when I’m working with our on-siters after they’ve been already hired to start working through that. And we do a couple lunch learns on the topic, but I think leaving that at the door and recognizing just what you said. They’re there to show what they know and how they process things, not there to be the perfect programmer who knows everything all the time. Because we hire teams; we don’t hire star individuals who are going to individually rock something all by themselves. We hire people who can be amazing together-

Jackie:

Yeah, it’s okay if you have to Google something in an interview. You Google stuff during work days, so why not Google stuff in an interview? But people don’t want to seem like, “Oh I don’t know the answer, so I just want to …” Because then if you make up an answer that’s not going to be helpful. People know that you’re making it up, so just be real about what you know, what you don’t know because people would rather hire someone who’s honest about, “Oh I’m not actually sure, let me look this up, is it okay to do that?”

Dan:

I like that. That alone is a nice little tagline, “It’s okay to Google in an interview.” I that. All right, I’ve got one more for Jackie then we’re moving your way Karen. And I want to talk about platforms in general.

We mentioned video and all the different way from a communication standpoint when it comes to an interview. But I was talking with a different Labs team member yesterday, and we were talking about how interesting it is to see the tech platforms that have done well since we’ve all been home, and the tech platforms that have struggled a little bit.

And one of the ones that he brought up was Discord, and Discord is largely been a platform for gamers. But you all implemented that with Colabs, which Jackie I’ll let you explain both what Colabs is and maybe talk a little bit about how we use Discord there.

Jackie:

Yeah, so I’ll start with Colabs. Colabs is our community for developers and technology people who just want to stay in touch and learn and grow over time. We found early on we interview a lot of candidates for a position that there’s one or two positions, and we talk to 20 people, and then we have 18 people. What do we do just forget that they exist? We wanted to keep up with people and not forget who they were and stay in touch and Labs is really all about learning, and growing, and developing.

So could we have a community that gets together that gets to know each other, hangs out together when we used to hang out in person, go to happy hours; all of that. So Colabs was created out of that idea of connection and getting to know candidates over time. And maybe in a year there might be a better fit for them, and kind of just building those relationships over time; so Colabs is what that is.

And we started doing these events we call study halls. So study halls we do once a month and they’re for people to bring their projects to a study hall night, and then we have our Detroit Lab team members will come and kind of mentor. So we have a handful, I’d say probably six or seven regular Detroit Lab team members who show up in different platforms. So we have Android, iOS, JavaScript that will be there as mentors. And then we’ll have collaborators that will come and bring their projects together.

And then they can get feedback, they can give presentations, they can ask, “Oh I’m stuck on this, well how would you do that?” So it’s been really cool to see the community come together. We had to, obviously, adjust to that and being remote we had to figure out, “How we’re going to do this?”

So one of our talent specialists had mentioned Discord which I’m not a gamer, had never heard of it this is. And it was actually really cool to see how they were able to use it for study hall. So I will explain how we’re using it because I’m sure it does about 5,000 more things and what I know.

But right now we’re able to have different rooms so per platform, we’ll have an iOS room, we’ll have an Android room, we’ll have a JavaScript room. So people can join whichever rooms they want to be in for the night and then they can share their projects in that room.

So Discord is cool because people that aren’t the admins can share their screens. A lot of tools like Zoom, I think you have to be an admin or only certain people can share their screens. But with Discord, anybody can share their screens, you can have video on or off, there’s a chat feature. So you can have a main channel where someone’s in the main channel kind of facilitating, and then they can put people in different channels.

So we’ve been able to adapt and use Discord for our study hall nights and they’ve been really, really good. And I’ve been impressed just to watch and jump around the different channels, and I feel very techie when I’m in there because it’s all black screen and white font and very technical, it’s very exciting.

Dan:

It’s Jackie’s version of the terminal Tobi. 

Tobi:

It’s a great tool. I was in one of the study halls and just the way even you could jump in from one room and go into another room, and it’s just very similar. So I feel like in other platforms you get in a breakout room, you’re just kind of there. But this code just felt more real like how you study how to be in person. So yeah… great.

Jackie:

Yeah I’ve been on a couple Zoom calls with some other networking groups that I’m in and they have different room capabilities. But you get put into the room and you don’t know who’s going to else be in the room with you, and they just magically put you there and then you’re in this room. So you don’t get to choose which room you go into the leader assigns you.

Where with Discord, you can decide, “Oh I want to check out what’s happening in Android room.” And then you can see what’s going on and see your presentation and, “Oh, that’s boring, let me jump into iOS.” And so you can-

Tobi:

Yeah.

Jackie:

Run on your own and I think that’s pretty cool that you’re not stuck but waiting for an admin to move you, so.

Dan:

Awesome. Well, I mean, kudos to the specialist group for figuring out that Discord was not just a gaming platform, but would work well for our study halls. And it’s been it’s been fun trying to embrace some of this new … I mean, we’re always using new technology, probably sometimes even to a fault, but it’s great when we actually find something that works well.

And I think the theme so far, of what I’m hearing, is the importance of connection. Of being intentional with our communication, of being intentional with creating a connection, understanding the physical limitations, and utilizing the tools that we have to make sure that we get to know somebody and they get to know us.

And once they’ve kind of gone through this entire get to know Detroit Labs, we get to know them, they go through the hiring process, then it comes time to onboarding. And remote onboarding is its own thing, its own challenge. And so Karen, you want to talk a little bit about onboarding the importance of it?

Karen:

Yeah, absolutely. I think onboarding has always been important. There was a great study back in 2012 from BCG, The Boston Consulting Group, is that it’s actually the second most influential factor in whether someone leaves or stays. And turnover is really high within the first year of employment for a lot of people. They just decide if they feel welcome and belonging or not.

And now that becomes more important when … I was talking to one of our new on-siters today and they said, “You know, this doesn’t feel a new job in a lot of ways. It just feels I’m on a different project with different people, because my context hasn’t changed. I get out of the same bed, I go to the same desk as I did before.” And because of that, it’s so much more important to instill that sense of belonging and that sense of connection.

And I think one really important thing there is remembering that this is a new person. The more that you’re with a company, the more you get embedded in the lingo, and the stories, and the in jokes. And that’s always been something we really have to watch out for, but especially now in a remote environment where an in joke might be a little thing in a Slack channel, or you might forget to explain to someone what your job is.

I had to write down whenever I meet with someone new for the first time, the first part of the check-in has to be, “Let me clarify what we’re doing here, and what this is, and what didn’t check-in even is.” Because I do them all the time with 30 people or whatever; this person is brand new, they don’t know.

So you have to remember what it was to not know anything and start there as far as company culture goes. So I think that connection and belonging is really important and being mindful of how much you know versus how little the new person knows, and bridging that gap right away is really important.

Dan:

What are some of the ways that you can create that connection so early on?

Karen:

It’s really important I think to give the person connections within the company. So making even virtual introductions to people that are in their same tech stack, or people that have their same hobbies or, “Oh you’re a parent come join the parenting channel in Slack.”

We personally and very intentionally set everybody up with a buddy, and we make a lot of … We put a lot of attention into picking out who we want that buddy to be for that person. And so it’s just another on-sider, maybe not even on the same project, who just checks in with our person pretty consistently over the first couple of weeks to give them another connection, help with that sense of belonging.

We do virtual events that we create like happy hours, lunches with other people within the organization for them to get to know, coaching lunches on a specific topic just we use to virtually bring everybody together.

And then a really important thing that we do is been our talent specialist Nicole created called day zero. And it’s sort of the orientation to the organization, it’s day zero because it comes before day one, but also it’s the software terms so it works out in a lot of ways.

And with that, we’ve had to be really intentional about how do we use that day to introduce company culture, to get to know them a little bit, to let them get to know us a little bit? That day is a really important element of that.

Dan:

Yeah I can … Well first of all, Tobi, have you been a buddy before? Because we used a buddy system across the entire company which was-

Tobi:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan:

Really important thing that we implemented years ago as we were trying to figure out this onboarding thing. Wasn’t always a strong suit of ours and, obviously, we’re always learning. But Tobi, were you ever a buddy?

Tobi:

Yeah, yeah. I was going to say I’ve been a buddy several times. Because actually I was going to mention this too when you were on-site. I was on-site for three years or three and a half years on iOS role, and that’s when I first got the first hand experience with the people partner role. And that is when you were trying to say it’s kind of like staffing but is different. And I think these are the things that make it different.

Tobi:

Because as a developer who is working at this company, it didn’t feel like “I’m just a resource.” That is just going somewhere. There was a continuous relationship with Detroit Labs as a company even just beyond on-site, and being able to touch base with other people and other projects, and learn new things both technical things and just hobby stuff. Other people that play chess for example and things that and it makes a big difference.

But yeah I love being a buddy. It’s a good way, as Karen said, to kind of remember how it was on your first week. What didn’t you know, what would you like this person to know, how can you set them up for success?

And also beyond that, it’s just a great opportunity to make a new friend. I feel at Labs one thing that … I think a lot of places say this, but I think I’m saying this from personal experience. I’ve really experienced people who work with at Labs feel like family, feels a lot of my best friends are from Labs as well.

So it’s an opportunity to meet someone new and build a relationship. So anytime I get an opportunity to do that, I always just say, “Yes.” And jump at it. So it’s been fun and Jackie, and Karen, and the rest of our on-site team I think they do that great job of explaining what you said, or leaving out what you said. When you said like, “What is on-site? It’s kind of staffing but different.” And it’s all this connections and engagement that kind of makes it very different.

Dan:

So Karen I want to jump back to day zero. I think I can talk from personal experience. Nicole got me involved in day zero probably two years ago now Jackie? A year ago?

Jackie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan:

I don’t know what time is. But it’s an opportunity for me, personally, at least to come in and introduce myself but, more importantly, meet new on-site team members. And one of the things that I really like is … And this is largely when I come in, is the focus on making sure that that baseline information about Detroit Labs, talk about a little bit about the story, talk about our values and what drives us.

I think that’s a great opportunity during that day zero to really communicate that stuff, and oftentimes that’s stuff that maybe is slightly out there in the public space, but you don’t get those, to your point, the old historical conversations. It’s an opportunity to kind of get that baseline information out there.

Jackie:

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s just a nice way of intentionally letting people know. Especially when you come and when other people from our team come to, even if it’s coming into the virtual realm, to get to know people and to say, “I know we all are all busy, but you, this new person, you matter.” Because that continues to be the culture once they come into the company, we want them to feel that from the beginning is that they, as an individual, matter to all of us.

And it’s made us get a little bit creative with how we do a day zero presentation and what kinds of things we talk about. And my partners and I in the Google partner role have thought a lot about keeping it light, but also making it interesting, getting to know each other.

We ask silly questions like, “Hey, what’s everybody’s quarantine purchase? What’s the thing you splurged on, or paid a lot more money for than you normally would have?” And then we have like, “Also here’s what we do and here’s what we can do for you.”

We bring in specific examples of things from our engagement survey that people have said about our role as a way to give context. Because, again, we’re trying to be really mindful of … And give your whole presentation for a first day is all acronyms, and in jokes, or inside lingo.

The person is going to feel detached right away, so how do you open up those doors and bring them into your language as well get to know them? And that’s a really useful use of that day and of that time. And then when they start, they already have this background with them.

Tobi:

Was it challenging to switch to remote onboarding?

Jackie:

It was a little bit, especially because before a lot of our practices, and a lot of how we did all of our relationships socially was onboarded involved going to the physical place with them, and meeting them sort of on their turf or in their context. So we would go to Ford, or we’re going to go to one of our clients sites, and we would be there in person and bring food. I mean, food was a really big part of our –

Karen:

I was just going to say, food is what I miss the most, because that was a huge part of Colabs, check-ins, food; lunches piles of food.

Jackie:

Coffees.

Karen:

Coffee, baked goods. The with that is not just the deliciousness of the food … Let’s think about that for a second. But also you lose the little … I was this woman yesterday, you lose the little mini interactions that come up. If someone is getting the food, and they’re like, “Oh I’m not going to get that piece of the taco bar because I’m vegan.” Oh all of a sudden, you have the opportunity to learn something new about someone that they might not volunteer about themselves.

If you’re in line with someone at Starbucks and you’re just chit chatting about the weather or you see a newspaper headline and you both have a reaction to it, now the context for that relationship is richer. And we lose that when all of our interactions have to be so much more intentional and formal in a way. I think outline is formalized a lot of things.

So we had to sort of break that down and say, “Well then how can we begin other opportunities for a more informal stuff to arise?” Because that really weaves the fabric together, and for someone to feel a sense of belonging, it can’t just be the formal buttoned up stuff, it needs to be that.

You need to know how do you ask for time off? But you also need to just know each other. It’s we’ve had to be really intentional. Your point’s going to be about baking in the silly quarantine question or, “What’s your favorite topping on a hot dog, or a carrot dog, or a turkey dog; whatever you’re eating, what do you put on it?” It keeps it light and fun, but it also again goes back to instilling that sense of belonging, that’s really important.

Dan:

Tobi’s big quarantine purchase was a juicer recently. His new hobby is cleaning the juicer.

Tobi:

That’s what I did all yesterday.

Dan:

Yeah, I know; that’s your new life now. Use the juicer once, clean for a month. All right so I think we’ve established the fact that this is all new territory for a lot of folks. As a company, what should they keep in mind?

Karen:

They think a company should keep in mind is one two … I think within right letting go of some of the fear and building to try new things in a way that it’s partnering with the people. Being really mindful that, you need to provide a really high quality experience to your prospective employees and as you onboard. So you’re not going to try new things and use them as guinea pigs.

But still being willing to take some risks or try something new, and sort of own it if it’s not working as well, and figure out a way to make it work better right in the moment, and then learn from it later. I think that’s really important to keep in mind.

This topic of remote working has always been so full of I think a little sense of fear for a lot of people, and so it’s sort of forcing all of our companies to think about new things and think about new ways, and I think also think about beyond onboarding.

I think onboarding always has been a longer process, I don’t think it’s ever been just orientation and then hit the ground running you’re part of the team now. I think it always needs to be a more ongoing and thoughtful process. And even more now because you’re not going to run into that person at the kitchen or the water cooler and see that they’re not doing well.

You’re not going to go to their client site and see them working alone in a corner and no one’s talking to them. You’re not going to get those visual cues that maybe something isn’t working out as well as it could be. So you have to be really intentional and mindful about following up with people as they’re coming into the company, giving strategically timed reminders about things that you said during orientation.

Because there’s a lot of information; it needs to be, but there’s certain things you need to highlight later. There’s certain things that don’t take effect until 30 days after hire. So yeah, you’ll mention them orientation, but in 30 days follow up with them and make sure to remind them in a really kind way.

Don’t assume that everything was retained right away. And do surveys, check-in on the efforts that you’re putting out there to make sure that they’re working for you. Whether it’s pull surveys, whether it’s check-ins, find ways to learn what’s working and what’s not and be willing to iterate quickly on those types of things.

This is not the time for, “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Because you can’t do it the way you’ve always done it anyway. And particularly if you try something new that is … It doesn’t have to be your new thing; don’t be married to it. Try it. If it works, keep doing it, figure out why it works. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it and figure out why it didn’t work and iterate from there; I think that’s really important.

Dan:

Yeah, I like that. And I had a question coming up here, but I think you kind of hit on it and that was, “What do you do to make sure that it doesn’t end after onboarding?” You mentioned a little bit about surveys. And I think even earlier in the show today, you talked about the importance of one on one, check-ins right?

Karen:

Yeah, absolutely. And then to make sure that onboarding day zero isn’t the last thing you do. Having really intentional one on one check-ins with new people and give them the permission in that space to be really honest with you about how things are going if that’s what you’re curious about.

And so a customer in the Midwest, someone goes, “Hey how are you?” You say, “I’m fine.” You say, “I’m okay.” You say, “How’s it’s going?” And someone says, “Oh it’s going.” Oh that means something terrible has happened. And that’s it, that’s like in the Midwest.

Dan:

Yeah-

Karen :

S0-

Dan:

That’s true.

Karen:

You need to give them the permission say, “Hey, how are you, but how are you really?” And make sure that that is really clear that it’s an open, it’s a true, if it is, open door. Make sure it feels like an open door, make sure it feels like an opportunity to provide feedback in a non-defensive way.

Nothing that someone says about the onboarding process is going to hurt me personally; I want to learn about it. So make sure that you’re really clear that that’s your intention, and make the atmosphere really welcoming, and do those one on one check-ins, don’t wait for people to come to you.

Dan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen:

It’s your job at the company to make them feel comfortable and welcome.

Tobi:

That kind of segues into a question as to kind of curious about. Because I know that people partner role. Even one of the things they do is when someone is at a client, and there’s maybe miscommunication or things that need … Not every time things go smoothly. So when things are not going smoothly you kind of step in to kind of collect feedback and navigate the situation to make it a harmonious relationship. And I was just kind of curious now that things are remote, in having difficult conversations that, how’s your experience been compared to when it was in person?

Karen:

That’s a great question. I think the remote environment makes it a little bit easier for everyone to try and avoid having the difficult conversations or the crucial conversations when they return here. It feels easier to avoid them. You can’t come to someone’s workspace and see them.

So creating the environment for that conversation has been something that requires a little bit more proactive activity. But then also just sort of making sure that you’re really almost over communicating in a way, that you start the conversation with, “Here’s the intention.” Or, “Here’s what we want to figure out.” Or, “Here’s what the goal is.”

And that’s true whether you’re receiving the feedback from someone and it’s difficult feedback to receive, or whether you’re having to provide some difficult feedback. Making sure the environment feels as safe as it can, and that people aren’t going into it wondering what’s going to happen. It’s not going to Slack someone say, “Hey, I need to talk to you.” And saying nothing else, because that will make anyone feel like, “Wow, I’m getting fired.” That’s what happens.

Especially with someone that has perceived authority or power, just Slack them, or just text them, or email them and say, “Hey, we need to talk.” Or, “Hey let’s set up a meeting.” Or just to appear on their calendar. They’re like, “What is this person doing on my calendar, what’s going on?” I don’t want them to say, “Why is Karen on my calendar?” I want them to know, “Here’s why we’re meeting in advance.” And then I want to have that conversation and make it feel safe.

And then I do like when we can have video when it’s possible and comfortable. But if that’s not comfortable for all of our people, especially some of our female team members at certain companies, just feel like it’s just easier not to.

And so then we have to think a little bit more and then maybe that’s a phone call. It’s great to have Google Me and these other technologies. But maybe sometimes it’s a phone call and that’s an easier place for people to have the conversation.

And then making sure that if you’re going to have distractions in your background, because we’re all at home, and we all do. Just acknowledging it and making it safe for them to have it too. It’s like, “Oh I’m sorry my kid just said something.” Don’t be sorry right and then you’re the same. Now’s the time to say, my kids are here today they might pop in or, they might be loud, and start … Just acknowledging what the environment is and then going forward is really important.

Dan:

Awesome. All right, I’m going to kind of give a little statement here for anyone watching. If you do have questions as we kind of getting ready to wrap it up here, but if you have any questions for Karen and Jackie, please post them in the chat and we’ll we’ll ask them real quick, but whether that happens or not I do want to kind of wrap it up on a story that Jackie told me the other day. Yeah Jackie, this one’s for you.

I think we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the compromises that come with being remote, and I don’t think we’ve spent a lot of time … When I say, “We.” I mean the global we of everybody that’s putting out content, that’s having conversations.

I don’t think we have spent time talking about the positives like what you can actually do with remote that you couldn’t do with in-person. And Jackie, you attended an event I think within the last week, maybe you want to tell us about it, that it could have only happened remote.

Jackie:

Yeah it was very exciting. Mary and I, who’s on our biz dev team, we attended a virtual cooking class remotely with a private chef. And we can’t afford to have a private chef come to our house, so this was something that we were really excited about. Because it’s a chef that’s traveled the world and been in lots of places, and he’s now back in Detroit and cooks for very fancy people.

And this networking group that we’re a part of put on this event that was a remote friendly cooking class with him. So there was … They emailed you the couple days before the list of all the ingredients, which you could also just have delivered to your house. I went out trying to find these fancy peppers I’d never heard of.

But found all the things, brought it home. It had all the steps of, “Prepare this before the class starts. Cut up all these things. Dice up all this stuff.” And then he walked you through. There were three or four different things we made. So he’s like, “Okay, now we’re going to cut an onion. This is how you cut an onion.” So he showed us, on camera, how he cuts his onion and then we all cut our onions.

So some people had their cameras on, some didn’t. But it was kind of cool to get to know the chef. You could ask questions. He goes, “Okay, put it in the pan.” And so it took probably about an hour, hour and a half, and we all made a meal together. And then we were able to all eat kind of together; I turned my camera off for the eating part. But it was just-

It was a cool event that I don’t think normally I’m not sure I would have attended that in person, it just seems like a lot. But to have something to do with these group of women that I hadn’t connected with before, it was a kind of a cool networking opportunity. And then also with the chef, that is just amazing. The food was … Now I have four really fancy recipes that I can make for a future me. So it was a cool opportunity.

And it was also cool to see how this organization turned something that trying to figure out how to connect with people remote and virtually, this was really interesting, it’s not just another Zoom call. It was really delicious, very … But it fed it wasn’t just another zoom call that we were just having another speaker give a presentation; because we’ve kind of been there done that for the last six months. So this was another way to have an interesting way to connect with people over something that was really different.

Dan:

All right, we got a couple questions that came in. One for Karen as a people partner, “Is the people partner always trying to help no matter what, or is there a point where you say, ‘It is not a good fit?'”

Jackie:

That’s a really great question. I think help can sometimes be saying, “This doesn’t seem to be a great fit.” People partner role is, like I said before, a blend of HR so it can involve helping someone separate from the company if things are not working well, or if there’s disciplinary measures that just need to happen. So it’s certainly not, “I’m your best friend no matter what.”

I feel I’m your work best friend and sometimes that means having a hard conversation or helping you find sort of the next step if what you’re on right now isn’t a good fit for your skill set, or for your personality, or whatever the situation may be. That’s a great question. It’s not being a yes person, it’s definitely helping people on both sides; the client and the team member. Helping everybody navigate that relationship so the best outcome for everybody.

Dan:

Awesome, we’ve got another one here, “While interviewing remotely, are there any standout things candidates have done to standout and help make that personal connection? Interviews can feel a lot more formal when separated by a screen.”

Jackie:

Yeah, that is a really good question. And I would say that I feel like that’s the responsibility of the interviewer is to make the connection with the candidates. I mean you want, as a candidate, to show up, and be personable, and try not to be too formal, and be yourself. But I think, hopefully, the environment that is created for you is an opportunity for you to be able to do that. So it really depends on how the interview is structured, and that’s the responsibility of the interviewer.

I think if you’re in a situation where you are doing a technical challenge like we mentioned earlier, really communicating and sharing your thought process is, like I said, more important to do that than it is to get the question right or wrong.

So I think overall, though, I feel like that’s the responsibility of the people interviewing is to make a space where you can be yourself and share those kind of personal connections. But it needs to be the right format, you don’t want to overshare. If they’re asking you a specific question and you share about your dog, it may not be the right time to do that, so it kind of just depends on the format.

Dan:

Speaking of dog, I do miss the fact that yours is not barking at every movement outside at all times.

Jackie:

She’s not here today, she’s grounded from the house, it would have been very distracting for all of us.

Dan:

All right, if there are no other questions, I think we’re going to wrap it up. Tobi anything left that you want to talk about?

Tobi:

No, I thought this was great. I little echo, just echoing what Jackie which she said about interviewing. Being part of a few interviews and I think the candidate already has a lot of pressure on them, and as the interviewer whoever if you listen and you do interviews, to just be more intentional about making them comfortable, and making that one less thing to worry about.

Tobi:

And once the candidate is relaxed, you should be able to evaluate what they can do. So, yeah, just wanted to echo that and just thank you Jackie and Karen for answering all the difficult questions, and even the ones you just live that. So thank you for doing that and sharing your thoughts with us.

Jackie:

Yeah, of course, my pleasure.

Karen:

Yeah it was fun.

Dan:

All right Karen, Jackie thank you. Well I’m going to send you backstage. If you want to hold on and we can chat after the live stream; no one will know what we talked about then. But, Karen, Jackie, thank you.

Jackie:

Thank you.

Dan:

Tobi that was wonderful, was it not?

Tobi:

It was, it was great, it was great. And it was just … Like on-site has a special place in my heart because I was on-site for three years, so it’s great to hear from Jackie and Karen.

Dan:

Well I appreciate that too because you can share some firsthand experiences. Obviously, I’m of no help when it comes to real world experiences there. And it was really great because this was very much a learning opportunity for me seeing how we do remote hiring.

Tobi:

Yeah.

Dan:

I loved hearing about the fact that, as a company, you turn your camera on to create the connection.

Tobi:

Yeah.

Dan:

I like that we’re using Discord I just … There’s a lot of really interesting things and I do know also that the people partners work very hard to keep that connection with team members and make them feel core part of Detroit Labs, because that is not always an easy thing.

Dan:

So if you are watching this and you’re thinking about hiring, let us know we can help you. It does, potentially, seem a little scary but we promise you it’s not, it actually opens up many more opportunities now than ever before.

So thank you for tuning in. Don’t forget to follow us on all the different social channels. We have content pretty much everywhere right Tobi?

Tobi:

Everywhere and also once Dan and I do our cooking class, we’ll make sure it’s also live. So 

Dan:

It’s going to be quick grilled cheese that is. We butter it, we throw it on the little pan, little cheese-

Tobi:

With some juice?

Dan:

On there. Well yeah, you can bring the juice. Sometimes I throw a little turkey on my grilled cheese.

Tobi:

Oh I thought you said, “Throw a little turkey in your juice.” I would have just fallen out of my chair.

Dan:

A little protein in my drink. Though sometimes we’ll make a grilled cheese spice it up a bit. Anyways, thank you everybody for tuning in. This will be available forever because it’s the internet. Share it out with friends and we’ll talk to you later. Bye.

Tobi:

Bye.