Onboarding in the New Normal: Drift’s Guide to Creating a High-Touch Employee Experience in a Digital World

It’s been just over eight months since the Drift team made the move to WFH, and we’ve made some great strides in getting comfortable with our new normal (and yes – we’ve even managed to have some fun along the way).

The way we come together as a team has certainly changed, but we’ve also had to shift our approach to the way we hire and onboard new Drifters. Last time around, I shared Drift’s approach to virtual hiring. But what happens to these candidates once they actually get the job?

When I think back to my first day of work at Drift just over a year ago I remember picking out my outfit the night before and the jitters I felt while sipping my morning coffee. I think about how I felt riding the elevator up to the sixth floor of our Boston office and being so relieved to meet the greeters and find friendly faces to sit next to during orientation. These feelings were followed by a flurry of information, introductions, and, at the end of the day, that satisfying feeling of exhaustion 😅

At Drift, our onboarding team has worked hard to create an orientation that aims to recreate that experience virtually, an experience that welcomes our new hires to Drift and still gives them that feeling of belonging – even if they’re in their kitchen-turned home-office. We want every new hire to feel like they have a strong understanding of our culture, the company, and their role on day one. We want them to feel supported and know that we care about their employee experience.

Since March, we’ve onboarded 120+ new Drifters and we’ve kept all of that in mind every step of the way. Here’s how we’ve done it.

The Drift Deep Dive

From the moment a candidate is hired, they become part of the Drift family. We of course send our new hires their swag package (who doesn’t love swag?), necessary tech, and materials to brief them on what to expect on the first day. But beyond these normal steps, we want to make sure the person really gets who we are at Drift and what we value as a company.

One of the hardest parts of remote onboarding is navigating how to convey our company culture to new hires. It’s easy to get a sense of what a company cares about and who your coworkers are when everyone is in the office, but it’s much harder when we’re all working from home. We pride ourselves on having a unique, strong company culture, and we want new hires to feel like they are part of it from day one.

Drift’s Leadership Principles

Our Drift Leadership Principles are the number one way a new hire can get a sense of what makes us tick. Everything we do within our (now virtual) four walls of Drift circles back to these principles.

On the first day of orientation, David Cancel and Elias Torres, our founders, (via video) walk new Drifters through our mission, our vision, and these principles and explain how we use them in practice.

Some of our principles, like “practice extreme ownership,” have become even more important during the pandemic, because our successes are much more reliant on what we put into our work each day without our team physically around us.


Another way we offer new hires a chance to deep dive into our culture is through what we call “Driftmates.” We pair each new employee with a Drifter that they get to meet digitally right after they are hired. A Driftmate is a peer who can help answer any questions about the company related to culture, introduce the new hire to more Drifters, and be a connection outside their department.

Driftmates Nick and Matilda are big fans of the program 👍

Every department and team at Drift is very interconnected. So while it might be easy to fall into a pattern of only getting to know direct teammates, we think it’s really important that new hires have a network beyond their day to day contacts. That way they can be exposed to the entire Drift ecosystem.

Weekly Rituals

New hires also start and end their week with two very special Drift rituals – Monday Metrics first thing Monday morning and Show and Tell on Friday afternoon.

Monday Metrics is an all-hands meeting where we reflect on the previous week’s progress, align on our goals, and share positive customer feedback and inspiration to get the team pumped up for the week ahead.

On Fridays, we end the week with Show & Tell, another all-hands meeting where a representative from each team presents something they’ve worked on, with the goal of sharing how this work impacts our customers.

Drinking from the Fire Hose

It’s no secret that onboarding at any job can feel like drinking from a fire hose. We have a few ways to make onboarding more effective (and more fun).

Drift Insider

At Drift, we give all our new hires access to our Drift Insider online learning platform right before their start date. This gives them access to all company learning modules and allows them to get their feet wet…or jump right into learning before their first day.

Our onboarding programming features training from Drift leadership and subject matter experts. Learning directly from these core team members is the best way for new hires to get up to speed on all things Drift – our mission, vision, culture, products, customers, and more.

Every video and training from orientation lives on Drift Insider, so new hires can always go back to reference something they learned in the early days of onboarding. It’s an amazing, uniquely Drift resource that allows our newest employees to interact with our community, learn a lot, and feel more supported throughout their early days at the company.

The 30-60-90 Plan

Each new hire can expect to get their 30-60-90 expectations from managers within the first week. This is an outline of what is expected of them in the first 30, 60, and 90 days of their employment to help manage expectations and set a clear road map for success.

They are also set up with team/position-specific training to make sure they are successful in their role.

Breaking the Ice with Video

We’re big fans of using Drift Video to start conversations with prospects and customers, but we also use it internally on every single team at Drift. Everyone gets access to Drift (our product!) and they are sending Drift Videos in their first week.

We even ask new Drifters to send out a Drift Video to the entire Drift team to introduce themselves via Slack on their first day, which is a great way to break the ice and offer the whole company a chance to get to know you virtually. Bonus points for anyone who shows off a cute pet or mentions a fun hobby in their video – new AE Chad got the memo 🐶

This practice immediately gets new hires comfortable with our product and gets them interacting with the team right off the bat.

Always Be Shipping

We also start shipping fast – no matter what your department is.

Beyond the videos, developers are pushing code their first week. Sales representatives are making their first calls. Marketers are drafting copy.

And me? I sent an all-company newsletter my first week 🙈

Each role has accomplishments and milestones to hit right off the bat, so even our newest employees will get to “show their work” in their first days at Drift.

By sharing what we are working on along the way, you are never too far along in a project to pivot or change directions based on feedback from your team.

Some companies want to wait until new hires are fully ramped and comfortable before giving them real work, but if you were hired at Drift, we know you have what it takes to produce good work, and we are eager to have you contributing as quickly as possible.

What Next?

Once onboarding ends and new hires are settled into their weekly routines, we want to make sure they still feel supported by the onboarding team and the Drift community as a whole.

We always host new hire happy hours for the cohorts so they can see their peers in a relaxed environment and talk about what they’ve learned, and ask additional questions they may have.

We also host routine check-ins to keep up that momentum we gained in onboarding and make sure no one feels as though they’re falling behind. Each cohort also has its own Slack group where we celebrate team milestones like our work anniversaries, first deals closed, a great Show & Tell performance (because everyone at the company will eventually present at Show & Tell), and more. It’s a great way to ensure cohorts stay connected.

Finally, our new hires can become Driftmates for future new hires. We offer all our new hires who have completed onboarding the opportunity to sign up to help welcome the next set of newbies to the company, creating a nice full-circle experience.

Although it might not be the traditional first day of work experience, we’ve been able to create a high-touch onboarding experience for our new hires that makes our new teammates feel welcomed and like they’re already part of the crew.

How has your team shifted onboarding in this digital world? What tips and tricks have worked best for keeping your team close, even as it grows remotely? Let me know here

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