How Cutover has grown and engaged our team remotely during COVID-19

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Alex Duell

October 8, 2020

2020 has been one of the most challenging years on record for most of us, with public health terror, rounds of mass redundancies, and a looming global recession never far from the front pages of our news apps. 

Fortunately, here at Cutover, we’ve been in a position to continue our rapid growth trajectory during this torrid rollercoaster ride of a year. In addition to dealing with the much-reported craziness the world has been experiencing, 2020 has provided our People Team with a set of fascinating challenges relating to one big question: 

How do we increase our headcount by around 50% during the first fully-remote six months of a global pandemic (without the wheels falling off!)? 

As in many growing companies, many of our early-stage processes at the beginning of the year revolved around us being physically together in an office: relying on whomever was nearest to help out when something didn’t go to plan (a new hire’s line manager gets pulled into a last-minute client meeting on their first day? No problem! We’ll club together as an office group and make sure the new hire is looked after). With the full company working from their home offices, kitchens, and bedrooms, this collective physical safety net evaporated, leading us to focus on building (and further honing) remote-optimized processes relating to three key pillars:

  1. Our hiring processes
  2. New hire onboarding
  3. Establishing a solid feedback loop
Remote-optimized hiring process

First, it’s key to choose a recruitment tech stack to enable you to execute a remote hiring process successfully. We’ve found success with a small, but well-integrated, toolkit:

  • Greenhouse ATS - our single source of truth for all of our recruiting data
  • LinkedIn Recruiter & Hired  - two excellent platforms to advertize roles and proactively reach out to passive talent
  • Zoom Pro - user-friendly, feature-rich, and no cutting out after 40 minutes like the basic account to enable less pressurized conversations
  • Calendly - a lifesaver for recruiters and candidates alike when trying to book times in each other’s calendars

Second, it’s crucial to set clear expectations with all of our candidates; being as transparent as possible about the upcoming process has lessened anxiety all round. Ensuring we have a small, but well-informed, panel of interviewers for each role has also paid dividends. Knowing we have a reliable group that understands their role in the hiring process, knows how to use our recruiting toolkit, and are keen to give candidates a great experience has made processes flow smoothly. 

Third, we’ve taken plenty of lessons from the way we’ve tried to communicate internally during this fully-remote period (e.g. “there’s no such thing as over-communication”) and applied them to our hiring process. We’ve ensured our talent team and hiring managers are checking in with candidates more often. Even a casual ‘good luck’ or ‘how did it go?’ e-mail can make a virtual process feel 10 times more human, especially during a time where stress levels are at a global high.     

 

Fully-remote new hire onboarding 

I wish I could tell you that there was a silver bullet solution to automate fully-remote new hire onboarding and make it feel human, but there really isn’t. A combination of good old-fashioned hard work and an empathetic mindset has been the secret sauce to us providing a human experience for the 35+ people who have joined Cutover without ever meeting a future colleague in person. 

There’s obviously been a huge logistical effort shared between many teams (procuring laptops, background verification, scheduling, etc.) to ensure our new hires have what they need to get up and running on day one, but the real work starts once the new hire - virtually - arrives.

Some things we’ve done to make new hires feel welcome:

  • Organized cross-functional departmental introductions in new hires’ calendars ahead of their start dates; each group of new hires gets to meet key people from across the company for informal, informative sessions during their first week (“Launch Week” as we call it). No first-day death-by-powerpoint here. 
  • Developed a robust “Mission Control” section to our intranet (hosted on Confluence); we’ve done our best to centralize all information a new hire might need on one landing page. “If in doubt, check Mission Control” is our message!
  • Centralizing key company goals and performance on public dashboards (hosted via Domo); from day one onwards, a new hire has all of the company performance data they could ever want to see fully accessible to them.
  • Not forgetting the fun factor! Now that the global epidemic of the “Zoom Quiz” has passed us by, we’re always trying to find fun ways to heighten ad hoc, casual conversation between our teams. We use a Slack plug-in called Donut to provide randomized meetups for virtual coffee sessions across the business to help foster cross-team relationships.
  • We’ve not forgotten the importance of safeguarding the mental wellbeing of our team. We partner with an amazing startup, The Circle Line, to provide fully-subsidized online therapy sessions for our team. All new hires have access to this from day one. It’s so, so important to talk - and equally important for our team to know that confidential professional help and counseling are just a couple of clicks away.



Feedback loop

Marching blindly forward without gathering feedback is never a good idea. Especially in these challenging times.

A huge benefit to us this year has been our partnership with Culture Amp (a leading employee feedback and sentiment analysis platform). Ensuring that we are surveying new hires on how we can improve our onboarding experience has shone a light on numerous areas for development that we otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the engagement and satisfaction levels of our newly-joined team has been game-changing. 

As well as asking for reactive feedback, we’ve learned to be more diligent and proactive. One thing that has become clear to us, is that it’s naive to assume that all incoming new hires will have the same proficiency levels on our core collaboration toolkit (Google Suite, Slack, Confluence, etc.). In a “normal” office setting, it’s easy for new hires to casually ask for help with unfamiliar tools from whoever is sitting next to them: which is not possible in a fully remote world. Nobody wants to feel like “that person” who doesn’t know how to use the “basic” company-wide toolkit. So, asking new hires ahead of time about how familiar they are with our core software services has enabled us to reduce friction (and potential anxiety!) for our new hires. Sending FAQ sheets and orientation guides on our standard tools links to new hires in need ahead of their start date has been hugely beneficial.   

 

In summary, there’s no magic wand approach to running a great fully-remote hiring and onboarding process (and there’s no substitute for extra passion and hard work from your People Team and a company-wide effort to welcome new hires to the team!). This said we hope that some of the above reflections will be useful to other businesses looking to scale up quickly in these unprecedented times.

 

Cutover is still hiring! Take a look at our available roles here

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