Note: I wrote this while at my previous company, Instructure. I’ve recently joined CaptivateIQ so I’ve added in the onboarding template we’re using at the new company. 


We had remote Customer Success team members prior to the pandemic, but of course we’ve moved to a fully-remote team since. We were still hiring when we went remote, so I turned a careful eye to our onboarding process to see whether it needed change. Here’s why: when managers develop a winning culture, they build a team that’s fast, effective, and able to weather any storm—and the manifestation of a high-caliber culture starts with the onboarding process.  


So if you haven’t already, it’s time to give your onboarding process a tune-up. Here’s my advice on how. 


Work closely with your recruiting team


We have a recruiting team, but I’ve always played a hands-on role in the recruiting process. Sure, you can be direct with the recruiting team and detail what you’re looking for in a hire, but it helps to work closely with that team to ensure you’re getting the right hire. 


Communicating with the recruiting team about when you’re posting things and following up with people also helps move things quicker and make sure the candidate isn’t getting a disjointed experience from your company. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to know about candidates that aren’t interested in switching jobs at the moment so you can develop relationships and help build a future candidate pool.


Plan the first week of work for the new hire


One of the pivotal changes we’ve made to our process is to plan the first week of work for the new hire. We have it all outlined in one document (linked below) that we share with them before their first day. 


This has helped get new hires up to speed and integrated with the team faster. Here’s what we include in that plan:

  • An opening welcome that includes what lives in the document 
  • The company’s mission and cultural values
  • Onboarding goals 
  • Week 1 schedule — this is a detailed schedule that has meetings scheduled with different people within the CS team and externally that the new hire should meet to be successful in their role. (I’ve seen other leaders extend this into two weeks and beyond. I’ve also seen a manager have a checklist of “people to meet” that the new hire has to do one 15-minute meeting with within their first 90 days.)
  • An onboarding checklist for the first 30, 60, and 90 days
  • Role expectations
  • Software used at the company, and software used in the role 
  • Bridge learning courses the new team member needs to take
  • Helpful things to know about the office (if they’re to be co-located), remote workspace options, and Slack or other channels for communication and information 
  • Key meetings and workflows for the business — this could include team meetings, all-hands, 1:1 cadence, etc. 


Here’s the template used at Bridge - Instructure if you’d like to borrow from it. 


ADDITION: Here’s the template we use now at CaptivateIQ. 




We also build in blocks of time in that first week where the new hire can work on their training courses, listen to calls, and otherwise take things in. But filling their calendar, especially when everyone’s remote, helps them feel like they’re getting set up for success and that the team was ready and prepared to take them in. 


Build relationships as soon as possible


It’s harder to develop relationships when you’re not face-to-face so this has to be built into your onboarding process. For new hires on my team, I’m already running most of the sessions in their first week so those touch points are built in. 


Beyond that, I try to keep 1:1s from being status updates—they’re always about what’s new in their lives, how they’re feeling on a personal level, how their energy levels are. And in our first 1:1s, it’s all about getting to know each other. I ask how they like to receive feedback, what their goals are, what their concerns are, what work energizes and drains them, and so on. I also ask targeted questions to receive feedback from the hire early on, most of which are about the onboarding process, so they feel more comfortable giving me feedback in general. 


One more thing on this topic: context gets lost when you’re remote and chatting over Slack or email. When a team has strong relationships with each other and their manager, you can be more confident that everyone is assuming good intentions. 


Understand that everyone is experiencing remote work differently


I have four daughters. I’m working, and they’re either doing school or running around the house and I’ll be the first to tell you that working remotely can feel chaotic. Add the pandemic and the election on top, and managers need to be hyper-focused on making sure team members are getting the space, rest, recognition, and social interaction they need.



Top resources this week: 



Manager Guidance: 2020 US Election Response


“There is an incredible focus on the Nov. 3 US federal election which will have wide-reaching consequences for the global political and economic systems… This period has caused a huge amount of stress and anxiety.” Here’s a guide from Culture Amp’s Aubrey Blanche on checking in and supporting your team through the coming week.


Read the Thread  






Lincoln Murphy on Why Customer Success Matters


Here’s an interview with Lincoln Murphy on the origins of “Customer Success”, whether CSMs should be commercial, and more.


Listen to the Interview






Coaching Managers: Authenticity Over Cheap Popularity


Gilad Horev, VP of Product at Eventbrite, shares a lesson he coaches his managers on: what “cheap popularity” looks like, why it ultimately hurts the team and the company, and how to navigate the temptation to succumb to cheap popularity.


Read the Full Post






Get the CFO to See CS as a Revenue Driver


ICYMI: We released a Customer Success Budgeting Template for 2021 that was created in collaboration with a handful of CFOs and CS leaders. Today I posted a new episode on the ‘wellsaid podcast as a follow-up to that piece. Listen in to hear my 7 tips on working with the CFO to invest more heavily in Customer Success on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.




Success Happy Hour is a weekly newsletter for Customer Success leaders. Each week we feature one digestible piece of advice or a framework from top Success leaders, plus four of the best resources from that week. Subscribe here

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