For the next 6 to 12 months, working from home (WFH) will continue to be the norm for most “office workers.” And even once COVID-19 is behind us, experts agree that hybrid WFH models will be more prevalent. Yet, most employees were not hired under that expectation, and this fundamental change to the work environment creates new challenges in managing your people and culture. 

To better understand how today’s organizations can maximize employee performance in this new environment, we sat down with Filip Olechowski, COO of Organization Analysis & Design (OAD).  With COVID-19, OAD has seen a spike in client requests to help understand and support the health of their current workforce now at home. The core of this work is “employee disengagement assessments,” and if you have a remote team, you are likely facing similar challenges.

 The challenge many of OAD’s clients are facing is an urgent one. Normally, a struggling economy leads employees to place a heightened value on job security to “weather the storm,” but over the past several months, a growing number of workers have resigned without even having their next opportunity in place. This is a signal of the challenges and stresses of the current environment, and while resignations are the most extreme indicator, OAD is also seeing more disengagement and discontent under the surface which is affecting employee performance today and retention over time. Clearly, some of the skills and characteristics aligned with success have shifted, and organizations need better mechanisms to watch for stress on their teams, help support current employees, and think about how different skill sets might be a part of future hiring and training in this new environment.

“At Risk” Profiles

Most of today’s workforce was hired into an office environment, which is dramatically different than working from home. Traits that once made an employee successful, may no longer be as valuable, and certain qualities that were once inconsequential may now impede their performance and productivity. 

 Elaborating on these characteristics, Olechowski flagged several “risk profiles”:

Possessing any of these characteristics doesn’t doom an employee to failure in the remote context, but they may need additional support. By understanding the types of employees who may be experiencing greater stress, you can address potential issues before it’s too late. Of course, there are also profiles that function better in this kind of environment (we’ll cover those in a subsequent article).

Take Full Advantage of Video Calls

There are a number of tactics managers can use to help their employees address the above stresses. While hours on Zoom have become an almost iconic stress point of this COVID era, video actually has some nuanced benefits for engaging with employees. Beyond the obvious benefit of video in supporting connectedness in a virtual setting, it can also provide managers with important information on their team. Video magnifies a wide range of cues –  what you say, how you say it, the way you maintain your appearance, and even your timeliness (or tardiness). Managers can keep an eye out for these signals that an employee is frustrated, stressed, overworked or disengaged. 

An easy step is to have a company norm that the team have their cameras on for all meetings. (We’ve done this at RevelOne since we founded the firm 6 years ago as a 100% distributed and remote company, and it’s one of the keys to making remote meetings and collaboration work well.) Video makes for better meetings, and in this context, will help managers discern if team members are disengaging. OAD emphasizes the importance of paying close attention to new or remote-transitioned employees during their first 90 days. It is during this time period that employees are most vulnerable, and the signs of disengagement will be most pronounced.

Go Beyond Anecdotal Evidence and Embrace a More Thorough Approach

When evaluating underperformance and disengagement, it’s critical to identify the root cause. While video meetings can reveal potential warning signs, it’s best not to “swap anecdotes in for science” explains Olechowski. On-screen behavior is an insufficient method for diagnosing underlying causes, and is often too late to inform remedial action. 

For large companies with the ability to invest in an organizational assessment, working with a partner like OAD may be a great solution, but it is not the only option. Regardless of size and resources – organizations can adopt a more structured approach to evaluating employee engagement. 

For companies that have previously completed an employee pulse survey, a “refresh” can provide valuable insight on who is struggling due to the recent changes in work setting and workload. You may consider adding several questions specifically directed at how employees are faring in the new WFH environment. 

For companies who have never deployed an engagement survey, there’s never been a better time to start. While you won’t have a baseline for comparison, you will still be able to detect who is stressed or struggling, and establish a place from which to improve. OAD suggests a “perceived job behaviors” survey, one version of which first asks employees to select the words that best describe them, then to select the words that best describe what is expected of them. This reveals potential points of friction or conflict so that an organization can respond accordingly. This, along with additional employee satisfaction survey questions, will go a long way to identifying team members who might need assistance or some changes.


Those silently struggling and disengaging due to dramatic changes in 2020 can be identified, supported and saved as productive employees before it’s too late. It’s very likely that a good portion of your team or organization are in one of the 4 at-risk profiles: extroverts, big picture thinkers, impatient types and versatile/flexible types. Knowing this, along with any other signals of disengagement, think through for each employee how the shift to working from home and any changes in their responsibilities since the start of the pandemic might be impacting their attitudes, behavior and performance. Then you can meet with each individual to discuss their specific situation.  

If you’d like to explore having OAD conduct an organizational assessment, Filip Olechowski can be reached at


About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.

Starting a new job, becoming productive, and plugging into a company culture is a challenging experience even in an office surrounded by supportive co-workers. In a remote setting, however, you are doing it sitting alone in your home through a computer screen. If not well-planned, once the first couple days of HR onboarding and intro Zoom calls have died down, you might find yourself sitting alone unsure of what you should be doing or hesitant about pinging people on Slack repeatedly with questions.

Research shows that organizations with strong onboarding improve new hire retention by 82%, productivity by 70% (Glassdoor), and engagement by 55% (SHRM). And onboarding well is much more challenging and more important in a remote setting.

We’ve run our own firm as 100% distributed since we founded it six years ago, so we were forced to tackle this challenge from the start. (On a related note, see our earlier piece on hiring remotely, How to Hire Someone You’ve Never met in Person.)

Even after we get through this crisis, the increasing popularity of remote and semi-remote models means that remote onboarding is a skill that many companies will need going forward. And even for companies that shift back to in-office work, the same investments in greater structure that support remote onboarding will make in-person onboarding more effective as well. 

This article lays out some of the principles and specific tactics that we have seen work well.

  1. Send Some Stuff Before Day 1
  2. Go Deeper on Tech Setup
  3. Invest Heavily in Documentation
  4. Build an Onboarding Plan that Goes Wide and Mixes it Up
  5. Pack the Schedule, Assign a Buddy, & Involve the Team
  6. Track Progress and Competency
  7. Loop Back & Learn


1. Send Some Stuff Before Day 1

It’s important to send employees both critical and welcoming items in advance as physical manifestations of their new job. Companies that provide computers should make sure they are ready and set up. Additionally, it’s good to send items that help with home productivity like a second monitor or webcam. You can send books relevant to the industry, role, or company culture (go physical, not Kindle). A care package or gift basket of some kind can be a nice touch and some companies send a Postmates gift card to buy lunch on your first day. Finally, company swag like a mousepad, coffee mug, or a hoodie can also bring a little of the team’s identity into the home.

2. Go Deeper on Tech Setup

Most companies have some kind of basic tech checklist when it comes to setting up email accounts and core SaaS tools, like HR systems or the company’s CRM. But in a remote environment, the pile of SaaS apps we throw at our employees aren’t just supporting tools, they are literally the medium through which the employee experiences their job. So the details matter and it’s worth going a couple levels deeper to avoid employees spending weeks discovering various gaps and settings ad hoc.

First, make sure you cover ALL the tools they will need for their job. This could mean a secondary SaaS tools like a niche campaign management tool or research database that only some of the team uses. Develop a comprehensive list of all the tools that ANYONE on the team uses and then you can edit it down to the subset for each person. Also, using a password manager (Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password) is a great way to manage setup and access in a smoother and more secure way.

Next, go one level deeper on providing details around settings and configuration. This may sound dry, but these become friction points that make getting started more complex and puts the employee in the awkward situation of repeatedly asking teammates for help which can feel more like an imposition in a remote environment. 

Just to get specific, here are a few examples:

3. Invest Heavily in Documentation

In many companies, after their “Day 1” HR setup, the employee is just dropped into their group where the rest of onboarding becomes some mix of apprenticeship and osmosis. This might include a few intro sessions followed by initial tasks, attending meetings, and being around people as they do stuff.

In a remote environment, companies need to capture the processes and activities that make up the job in more detail. You want to capture as much of the tribal knowledge that lives inside people’s heads or in norms that new hires just “just pick up.”

This documentation then becomes the foundation for a detailed onboarding outline that maps out ramping into the role. It should cover roughly the first three months for the employee, break out the different parts of their job, and assign training and partnering roles to other team members.

This agenda provides a clear reference point of expectations for the employee and greater emotional comfort that their time and activities are mapped out. For the rest of the team, it creates accountability on who’s doing what and visibility on what context the employee does or doesn’t have so far.

From a tactical perspective, we use a multi-tabbed Google Sheet for this. The first tab covers the day 1 Admin, HR, and tech basics and then subsequent ones cover first weeks and months with sessions broken out by subject, goals, links to docs, and participants. You can use other online tools like Asana or Trello as well, but the more online and flexible your documentation is, the better. 

Most organizations use some form of modern cloud-based document tool (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Sharepoint) which all have advanced search and URL links to each file, allowing you to create nice cross-links and a “table of contents” to organize key docs. You get greater transparency and access to information for everyone and you save the new employee having to ask people for docs repeatedly or go on archeological digs through messy directory file structures. This also gives a new employee options for reading and exploration when they do have quiet time. You’ll need to assign someone to organize and curate these docs over time as things inevitably get messy over time if left alone, but it’s worth the investment for both onboarding and productivity of the entire team.

4. Build an Onboarding Plan that Goes Wide and Mixes it Up

Think through “a week in the life” of a role and the various workflows, activities, and deliverables. Depending on the role, this includes activities like analyses, presentations, sales calls, product deliverables, campaign optimizations, internal meeting prep, reporting, etc. Think about both the regular and ad hoc activities that go into each role. You’ll never capture everything and roles change over time, but you should be able to outline 90% of what typically happens. 

It’s also worth thinking about what kind of context and foundational knowledge is needed to lay the groundwork for these activities. Company introduction, including history, mission, values, org are all key. Then you can ladder down to areas like industry context, customers, competitors, your own products and go to market strategy. These are the kinds of topics that are often learned “around the office” by dropping in on conversations and meetings, but you need to design for them explicitly in a remote world. 

It gets dry and tiring to learn everything by having it told to you in many training sessions (especially over Zoom). So it’s good to vary the formats and settings in which all this information is delivered. This could include:

5. Pack the Schedule, Assign a Buddy and Involve the Team

Once you have your detailed outline, be aggressive with filling the new employee’s calendar. In person, dead time can be filled by looking over someone’s shoulder and colleagues can see you’re just sitting there and pull you into a meeting, but it’s easy to feel isolated or adrift when at home alone. So overcompensate on planned sessions and even in between, you can assign lists of specific documents to read as part of training. 

Assign one person to be the new employee’s buddy or “onboarding coach.” They are the owner of the overall onboarding plan. This could be their manager or a peer depending on what makes sense. This provides a first point of contact for questions and can help adapt the plan and fill in gaps as well.

Another nice tactic is to split up the onboarding duties across the team. It’s an organic way to meet more people in the company and have people exposed to new team members right up front. In a remote environment, people may not collaborate or be on a project together for a while, so months could go by without a chance to really connect.

People also have different learning and communication styles, so hearing about new subject matter areas or training topics from different people can be a better way to absorb knowledge. Finally, it can be a nice development opportunity for team members giving the training. 

6. Track Progress and Competency

The onboarding outline should track progress and have accountability. Have a checklist against the core abilities and activities. Rather than just showing them once and hoping that they got it, you can track proficiency with a little more structure. We use a matrix something like the following: Introduced/observed, Can do with partner, Can do Independently, Can do Proficiently. This is great for the employee in understanding what is expected of them and creating a sense of progress and success in their onboarding. Equally important, it sets expectations among the rest of the team as to what the new employee is capable of and their readiness to contribute in each specific area of the job. 

7. Loop Back & Learn

It’s important to think across multiple time horizons beyond the typical “week 1 setup.” The onboarding plan discussed above gives you the structure to think about the first weeks in great detail, and expand to follow ups and check-ins over the first few months.

Checking in is even more important in a remote setting. You won’t see the new employee looking confused, busy, lonely or whatever they are feeling at the end of the day. Build in touching base on how it’s going — we assign a check-in at the end of every week. It’s a good time to calibrate and tune your plan. Are there too many meetings, not enough? Are there specific questions that have come up? Some could be quick answers during the check-in, or might lead to adding a follow up session to the plan. 

In our onboarding plan, we have the first 2 weeks mapped out an hourly schedule level. Then the rest of month 1 with more space as people join in to regular meetings and activities. Then month 2 and month 3 ramp into a lighter formal schedule with weekly and monthly milestones.

We also try to build in some repetition and recap on key subjects. No one remembers everything after hearing it once and the same topic means more after some additional context or seeing it happen “live” in meetings, customer interaction, or hands on execution. Each organization can assess which fundamental topics are worth that repetition.

Finally, use each onboarding experience to gain feedback and iterate. No matter how much time you put into the initial plan, there are topics and sequencing that will get missed.

We target three months as the milestone where people should be up to speed. At that point, we’re asking employees how it’s going, confirming that they feel ready, and if there are areas they don’t understand or where they want more time. 

Then, about 6 months in, when someone is up to speed and fully rolling with their job, it’s a good time to get retrospective feedback on their onboarding. Now that they are up to speed, looking back, what would they do differently in their onboarding? We’ve received good feedback that’s led us to invest more in certain areas, less in others, and even change the sequence in which we cover topics. 

In summary, the same tactics and principles that make for strong onboarding in a remote environment will serve you well in general. The most recent generation of productivity and collaboration software provides a more flexible toolkit for developing documentation and workflows. More broadly, we’ve found that being forced to break apart a job’s components have led to insights around role definition. By thinking holistically about what a new hire needs to succeed, you can develop an onboarding program that delivers the training they need, and does so in a way that introduces them to more colleagues and makes them feel a part of the team culture.


About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.

As many companies face a rapid transition to working remotely, teams are learning how to collaborate, make decisions, deliver feedback, and remain connected at a personal level despite not being physically together.

And then there’s the challenge of hiring. It’s the most common and important question we’ve been getting from clients:  How do you successfully hire someone you’ve never met in person?

Companies will need to develop this skill as just waiting to hire might leave you flat-footed when the recovery comes. Also, no one knows how long this situation will last and some limitations are likely to be around for a while. So whether you are moving forward with strategic hires or pausing for the immediate term, it’s worth building this capability now.

It’s important to think through what gaps we’re trying to address for both sides in the relationship:

We’d like to share what creative approaches and best practices we’re seeing in the market with regard to both the psychology and process required to hire great people. This article focuses on the personal, cultural, and behavioral elements of the process as that’s where people feel the greatest gaps around not meeting in person.

Psychology & Expectations Setting Up Front 

Acknowledging concerns and trepidation up front are important to getting people on board and ready to execute the process you put in place. The hiring manager and team will want to know how they can get to know the candidate well enough to make a decision. The candidate will need to see a path to making this big decision in a new environment. When expectations aren’t addressed well upfront, we’re seeing that hiring managers can hesitate and waste time, and strong, interested prospects can withdraw.

Tactically, the first interview round may not change much as many companies start with phone or video screens already. In fact, by not having to get the person situated in your office physically (coffee, bathrooms, etc.), you will save valuable time that can be used to get to know them better.  For this first interview, we continue to recommend the “top grading” style interview methodologies – where you deeply probe their previous experience in precisely the areas that align with the objectives of the role.  

Tools & Techniques to Really Get to Know Candidates

Next, you’d typically be moving to in-person meetings onsite.  Having done thousands of zoom interviews over the past few years (and as a remote team ourselves), we believe you can assess a candidate’s skills almost as effectively virtually; however, you get only a fraction of the cultural, behavioral, and personality characteristics you would in person. Rather than just porting what you would normally do straight over to video, here are some ideas on how to get to know a candidate, assess fit, get your team comfortable with a hire, and ultimately get the candidate ready to join.  

1. Collaborate on the Process

For senior candidates, consider sharing your modified remote interview process so they can become comfortable with what’s coming, and see if they have ideas for interactions they think would help. For these candidates who will be managers themselves, you’ll get a sense of how they think about culture and communication. You’ll also have a live opportunity to see how they problem solve, think creatively and work with you in a real situation.

2. Leverage a Personality and Behavioral Assessment Tool

While in-person meetings, working sessions, and dinners certainly help with evaluating personal fit, people actually bring biases to all those interactions and are notoriously bad at assessing underlying behavioral traits in a consistent, relevant manner. Fortunately, there are sophisticated personality and behavioral assessment tools that don’t take long (10 minutes) and can provide actionable insights. Many companies use them today already and they can play an even larger role in a remote hire.

For example, RevelOne uses OAD, a leader in this space, whose assessment can help with topics like:

In a small percentage of cases, these assessments may flag a mismatch for the role, and you’ll be glad you caught it. Most of the time, however, they provide a roadmap for a more productive conversation focused on insights into the candidate’s working style and it’s empowering to have greater depth and nuance in your understanding of a new hire and how you’d assimilate them productively into the team and organization. It will also provide a more structured, consistent basis of comparison across individuals your team met only via Zoom.

3. Have the Manager & Candidate Talk about their Assessment Tool Profiles

An additional step you can try when using an assessment tool is having the hiring manager or other team members of the team discuss their own profiles with the candidate. Most assessment tools include insights on how different types of people communicate and work together and in a remote process.  It’s another way to add more depth to both sides getting to know each other. (Note: it’s worth syncing with your HR team as they may have guidelines and rules around what level of detail can be shared)

4. Doing a Case, Workshop, or Brainstorming Session with a Group Over Video

If you do a case or give “homework” in your interviewing process, then use a video call to talk through it or do a sample workshop or brainstorming session. You’ll see how the candidate interacts in a group setting and it allows multiple team members to interact with them as well. Make sure to structure the session to have interaction or group discussion. That could mean multiple team members asking follow up questions on the homework, or teeing up a few new example topics in the business for the group to explore together. For whiteboarding, there are several online tools to use, though you can also just keep it simple and work together in a shared Google Doc.

5. Giving a Brief Presentation Over Video

To see candidates communicate in a different form than an interview conversation, have them prepare 4-5 slides on a company-related topic or a public presentation/deck they have used in the past. If you want to get creative (and this fits with your culture), have them present on a completely “irrelevant” non-business topic that you or they select. You can see how they think in a different context and react to an offbeat assignment.

6. Blind Reference Checks 

Cold reference checks can be an even more important tool with candidates hired remotely, but they, of course, have to be done discreetly and only with trusted common connections for situations where a candidate is still employed by his/her current company.

7. Extra Zoom Calls to Fill in Gaps

Consider including a few additional peers or team members who normally might not have been in the interview loop. A few extra conversations are especially important near the end when trying to close candidates. Just be careful that people are clear on roles and expectations so you don’t end up with vetos or left turns late in the process. You can include extra calls with the hiring manager, founder, or key execs. Set the agenda based on open questions from the candidate and assign different topics to each team member to make sure you use the additional time to cover more ground.

8. Video Happy Hours with Candidate 

Since candidates can’t come by for lunch or happy hour, try it virtually on Zoom. It could be a 1:1 with the hiring manager over wine, beer, or tea at the end of the day to create a different vibe, or perhaps with a small group of team members. It’s working well for friends and family who have been adopting this and you can adapt to what fits with your culture.

9. Set the Stage for the Close

The above ideas are all meant to provide incremental engagement and fill in gaps relative to the usual in-person meetings. As you gather enough context to get to an offer with a strong candidate, you want to frame the close together as well. 

It’s good to acknowledge the situation, recap the steps you’ve taken, and ask them if they still have gaps or concerns and troubleshoot how to fill them together. At this stage, it’s nice to position it on a positive note: if this feels like it’s a strong fit for both sides and might be a no-brainer in “normal” times, let’s work together and do whatever we need to do to get comfortable and not miss this opportunity.

We’ll continue to add ideas as we see them and let us know if there’s any way we can help.


Also, check out our article How to Interview Marketers (who are often good at marketing themselves).


About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.