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Over-Worked From Home –– Rescue Your Remote Teams from Cognitive Overload & Learner Fatigue

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It all feels like background noise now: a bombardment of messages and to-dos from Slack, Email, Zoom, Outreach, Salesforce and even texts. Which one of these did you forget to check in the last 3 hours?

“Since transitioning to a fully distributed workforce, we’ve felt the challenges of cognitive overload in every part of our organization. Everybody was struggling across the board, getting bombarded with a tsunami of messages and growing their endless to-do lists,” admits Petek Hawkins, VP of Learning, Enablement & Development at Fivetran. You’re not alone—learners all over are suffering from cognitive overload and are fatigued by remote work. 

None of this is intentional. Before work-from-home can make employees productive, companies are challenged to remove distractions and help teams hyper-focus on the things that matter. Fivetran’s Enablement Team tackles this challenge by revamping their onboarding program to build and scale the newly distributed teams–setting them up to thrive in the new remote environment. 

A North Star to Anchor Your Team 

Fivetran finds success in transitioning to remote work with #OneTeam #OneTheme. Each week, the leadership team picks a global theme for the company to focus on, starting with a personal note from the COO on Sunday to drive the #OneTheme for the week. All the teams then rally as #OneTeam to make sure that only the activities and programs that align with the focus are prioritized. This allows employees to feel connected to the larger company mission and find clarity and purpose in what they do, which results in critical and tighter cross-functional alignment across business units.

Since rolling out #OneTeam #OneTheme, we’ve made a huge difference in boosting morale and making this transition to remote work less overwhelming. It’s such a good feeling to be connected and aligned with the entire company,” explains Hawkins. This new framework keeps employee morale high, allows teams to focus on what matters and provides structure and clarity on individual and team expectations. Fivetran’s ability to stay agile and implement a new company-wide structure enables a highly nimble remote onboarding.

Keeping the tenets of the #OneTeam #OneTheme philosophy in mind, let’s explore how to set up a successful remote onboarding program.

Pre-Academy: Setup New Hires for Success

Newly minted employees are onboarded in cohorts during the Pre-Academy, a two-week period of “pre-homework” before weeklong training sessions. “First impressions are important, so it’s about the experience that you create for the new employees,” explains Hawkins. “When you’re part of the same cohort, the same Slack group, having the same conversations, helping each other…people feel that belonging and #OneTeam right away.”

The first step is to create structure. What are some things your employees absolutely need to know within the first 15 days? Each Pre-Academy differs slightly per department, but the basic outline remains: an introduction to the competitor space, customer profiles and case studies. Structured observations with a seasoned buddy mentor begin to extend the idea of #OneTeam past their onboarding group. These “shadow sessions” are subsequently recapped for specific key takeaways and feedback conversations. FiveTran plunges their onboarders into the workplace culture by welcoming them to #OneTeam and having mentors reiterate the company’s mission.

Fivetran’s Onboarding Academy

The Academy consists of weekly live training sessions held via Zoom. Hawkins notes that “[FiveTran’s] satisfaction scores, believe it or not, have actually gone up since in-class training with work-from-home and virtual onboarding.” Thanks to breakout rooms that give individuals the chance to both speak and be heard, engagement throughout onboarding is at an all-time high. Employees immerse themselves in the company, its culture, key methodologies, and understand what’s needed in the first 30 days. 

The Academy outlines what skills, behaviors, and core competencies are necessary for success. Once the onboarders’ personal strengths and areas for improvement are identified, FiveTran implements growth and team-building exercises through Zoom to empower reps, highlight their roles and model what success can look like across departments. Clarity around expectations is foundational for #OneTheme—employees know what their roles are, and can tap into an arsenal of resources to accomplish given tasks. This sets the stage for FiveTran’s final onboarding phase.

Meeting the Learners Where They Are

The ramp-up period meets the learner where they are for 90 days. This is where the “real learning” takes place. Hawkin loops back to the potential cognitive overload and emphasizes that “…number one, you want to look out for your team’s bandwidth and think about who your audience is.” While it’s important to give autonomy to the learner, Hawkins finds that it is essential to enforce structure where you can. “Set the expectations with the groups, and make sure the outcome and the what’s-in-it-for-me is even more crystal clear.”

Wary of information overload, FiveTran sticks to bite-sized learnings and must-have skills during this period. Hawkins stresses the importance of building morale during this time by structuring “wins.” Ownership is given to management so they’re empowered in achieving development for their own reps. Aligned methods of communication ensure that everyone feels confident knowing where to go for help; clarity builds confidence from top to bottom, from managers to the reps themselves. With morale up, FiveTran feels like #OneTeam. 

Building Your Own Dynamic Remote Onboarding

Engaging and dynamic remote training should “exactly fit the needs right now. Show [your employees] directly what’s in it for them. And make it fun!” Hawkins laughs. “Brand it, make it engaging. Reiterate the importance of training and ask the team what they want to walk out of that training with.” Whether you’re hiring now or thinking about hiring again, there’s no better time than now to reimagine a remote-ready onboarding. 

By lessening cognitive overload, leveraging technology, and providing space for your employees to interact and give gratitude, your workforce-from-home will be fully equipped for a successful transition. Join the discussion with Petek Hawkins, Global Head of Learning, Enablement & Development at Fivetran.