Joining a new firm can be a deeply personal undertaking; not only are you taking the next step in your career but you are investing in yourself and betting on the opportunity that the company has to offer. I can only draw a parallel to an experience most of us have had at one point or another; the first day at a new school - you are quickly assessing your role and expectations, learning the culture, meeting your colleagues, and adapting to a new way of operating. It can be nerve-wracking even under the best of conditions.
I recently joined NTT DATA amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Like many individuals going through a period of transition in their careers while the pandemic prompted mass economic volatility unrivaled since the 2008 global financial crisis, the ability to solidify an offer and start a new job was incredibly bittersweet – I was so thrilled to get one of many fleeting opportunities for employment during turbulent times, yet was unsure how this process would be affected by the current environment. I pride myself on being adaptable, but how does one join a company without ever physically meeting anyone? Needless to say, I was apprehensive about how the virtual onboarding process would go and my ability to find my place; after all, it is just as important to build a reputation internally within your company, as it is externally.
To my welcomed surprise, the virtual onboarding process was surprisingly plentiful and smooth from the very start. The time-honoured cornerstones of the classic assimilation sessions were still very much intact, albeit virtually, such as corporate sessions and events for new joiners. Yet, unlike any of my previous experiences in the traditional onboarding setting something was undeniably different; from partners to other recent hires, everyone went out of their way to include me in social opportunities, engaging me to develop meaningful connections from the very first day. Often times in a traditional setting, such emphasis is not placed on relationship building from those around you – ultimately, it’s an individual undertaking. Sure, you may be invited to a networking event, but how often do you have the entire firm, not limited by borders or geographies, at your disposal? That connection alone is a critical benefit of the technology diffusion perpetuated by virtual onboarding. In my case, I was able to benefit from this extra emphasis on connecting with those around me, resulting in a digital experience that was very likely more enriching than it would have been in a traditional setting. This is but one qualitative account of the culture and environment that can radiate through a virtual onboarding experience, even through times of uncertainty.
Digital Environment to Build a Sense of Community
More than simply setting introductory sessions with my immediate team as is precedent in conventional onboarding, senior leadership within my practice created an ecosystem to nurture community-building. I was quickly introduced to a variety of women who had held my position previously in order to connect and learn about their career progression. With women only making up 24% amount of total STEM core positions in the UK, it was monumental to have this support network established within my first weeks. Alas, I quickly found that this unmatched commitment goes beyond the bounds of gender – in my early days, I was also introduced to the firm’s FinTech projects by senior leadership, the core team immediately recognizing my background and interests, and placing me within an internal firm initiative where I can contribute productively. With an influx of virtual initiatives, the emphasis placed on generating a sense of community can be readily attributed to the current circumstances; when we are not physically together it is that much more important to connect with one another. Again, I must echo that this experience would likely have been vastly different in a traditional setting, and I am confident that I will only continue to benefit from the conditions set to create an enriching digital experience long after the pandemic subdues.
What Can We Expect?
What does my individual experience say about the future of work? I can’t speak for an entire corporate ecosystem, but we can draw some key parallels. Before Covid-19, over 70% of companies had digital transformations on their agendas, but this pandemic has accelerated the implementation of initiatives by over 5 years in the UK. As per industry standard, people transformation is one of four key subsections of most corporate digital transformation frameworks, meaning that both as employees and employers operating in a post-Covid-19 environment, the time to adopt a positive paradigm shift towards digital-friendly work is now, and this virtual onboarding experience for me, was just the beginning. My Personal “So What”Although this is but a qualitative account of what my personal experience has been, it is clear that this pandemic has forced us all as professionals to question the limitations of virtual business for our respective industries, companies, and at an individual level.
Ultimately, the environment of openness that is facilitated through a digital experience is unmatched to the long-established alternative. In my experience, NTT DATAs' culture has protruded far beyond the bounds of traditional office environments; their commitment to developing an unmatched employee experience has only been amplified in a virtual setting. I hypothesize that the virtual experience facilitating unprecedented levels of connectivity can be an asset for all companies and employees; a positive spillover for which I have been lucky enough to experience this first-hand.