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Not Seen and Not Heard: Onboarding Challenges in Newly Virtual Teams

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Abstract

Virtual teams, in which the members work from multiple locations, have become a common feature at many global organizations. In spite of this new reality, collocated teams experience difficulties in adapting their established processes and practices for a newly virtual working environment, greatly impeding their performance, productivity, and morale. In this paper, we present findings from a qualitative case study of five software teams that hired and onboarded their first remote team member. Our analyses focus on three underappreciated aspects of the virtual onboarding process: trying to learn team practices as the team changes them, building and maintaining social relationships with physically remote teammates, and evaluating and managing expectations of performance from afar. From the results of our analyses, we pose seven propositions about virtual onboarding that should be explored in future studies.
Not Seen and Not Heard:
Onboarding Challenges in Newly Virtual Teams
Libby Hemphill
Department of Humanities
Illinois Institute of Technology
Chicago, Illinois, USA
libby.hemphill@iit.edu1
Andrew Begel
Microsoft Research
Redmond, Washington, USA
andrew.begel@microsoft.com
Abstract
Virtual teams, in which the members work from multiple locations, have become a
common feature at many global organizations. In spite of this new reality, collocated teams
experience difficulties in adapting their established processes and practices for a newly virtual
working environment, greatly impeding their performance, productivity, and morale. In this
paper, we present findings from a qualitative case study of five software teams that hired and
onboarded their first remote team member. Our analyses focus on three underappreciated aspects
of the virtual onboarding process: trying to learn team practices as the team changes them,
building and maintaining social relationships with physically remote teammates, and evaluating
and managing expectations of performance from afar. From the results of our analyses, we pose
seven propositions about virtual onboarding that should be explored in future studies.
Introduction
It has become commonplace in many industries for collocated teams to transition into
virtual teams through strategic hiring and retention, flex work, contracted work, or offshoring.
Although they are common, however, these transitions are rarely easy or seamless. Newly virtual
teams face personal, social, structural, technological, and operational challenges during the
transition. Remote team members who join primarily collocated teams face similar challenges.
Reduced informal communication and team member “invisibility” are especially detrimental
during these transitions.
1 The work described in this paper was done while the first author was an intern at Microsoft Research.
Reduced opportunities for informal interaction impact the team’s work and social
relationships. In teams with more collocated members than remote ones, it is not unusual for the
collocated members to ignore, leave out, or simply forget to include remote team members in
interactions, whether informal and spontaneous, or formal and planned. During onboarding,
everyday informal activities that new employees normally experience with collocated
employees, such as smalltalk before a team meeting, visits to another employee’s office for an
impromptu question or chat, or excursions for food or a movie with the team, occur much less
often, if ever, in virtual teams. This reduction of informal communication within the team
negatively impacts social relationships and disrupts onboarding.
Members of virtual teams members find it difficult to stay aware of what their remote
team members are doing, why they are doing it, and when they are available to talk about it. This
leads to poor coordination, reduced trust, and conflict between team members. For remote
newcomers, this lack of awareness, or “invisibility,” makes it difficult to learn tacit knowledge
and keeps essential aspects of the team memberswork hidden. Remote newcomers rarely
experience impromptu learning or collaboration opportunities, find it difficult to form
appropriate expectations about the normal pace of work, and do not fully understand the ways in
which their own job performance will be evaluated by their team and their manager. Conversely,
the invisibility of remote newcomers makes it difficult for teams to casually observe, guide, and
evaluate newcomers in the onboarding process.
We argue that reduced informal communication and invisibility are primary factors that
inhibit the processes of adopting virtual work routines and of onboarding remote team members.
We rely on data from 95 interviews and 15 hours observing five geographically-separated and
newly virtual teams at a large cross-border software company in the United States and Canada to
identify specific impacts and discuss their implications for virtual teamwork.
Related Literature
Virtual Teams
Before beginning our discussion in earnest, we offer a brief explanation of our usage of
the term “virtual team.” Both terms in the phrase “virtual team” can be slippery. Literature
presents a plethora of definitions of virtual teams by comparing them to “traditional” or “face-to-
face” teams (Guzzo & Dickson, 1996; Hinds & Bailey, 2003), emphasizing their use of
technology-mediated communications (e.g., Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Lurey & Raisinghani,
2001), and noting their geographical, temporal, and organizational boundary-crossing (e.g.,
Ahuja & Galvin, 2003; Martins, Gilson, & Maynard, 2004; Montoya-Weiss, Massey, & Song,
2001). Recent work has treated the virtualness of teams as a continuum, along which a team’s
place depends on their tasks’ complexity (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Griffith & Neale, 2001),
their physical arrangement (Ahuja & Galvin, 2003), and how often they meet (Moreland &
Levine, 2002). The term “team” is often used interchangeably with “group” (e.g., Bettenhausen
& Murnighan, 1985; Campion, Medsker, & Higgs, 1993), implying that both terms refer to the
same kind of assemblage of people. Others treat the two as distinct terms, often conceptualizing
teams as groups “plus” something such as a shared goal or task interdependencies (e.g., S. G.
Fisher, T. A. Hunter, & Macrosson, 1997; Sundstrom, De Meuse, & Futrell, 1990).
We integrate these literatures by defining virtual teams as those who rely on technology-
mediated communication to work across geographic, temporal, or organizational boundaries in
order to accomplish interdependent tasks. In this paper, we focus on technical mediation,
geographic boundaries, and interdependency, but our results would likely generalize to other
teams that meet the more general characteristics in our definition.
Researchers often debate how the practices and norms of virtual teams differ (or
resemble) their collocated counterparts. These comparisons suggest that virtual teams often face
more problems with coordination (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Lurey & Raisinghani, 2001),
conflict (Hinds & Mortensen, 2005), and damaging subgroup dynamics (Armstrong & Cole,
2002; Bos et al., 2006) than do collocated teams. They also have difficulty disseminating
knowledge among their colleagues and dealing with changing requirements, which leads to
communication and coordination breakdowns (Curtis, Krasner, & Iscoe, 1988). Also, individuals
on virtual teams experience a number of disadvantages related to information (Daft & Lengel,
1984) and social interaction (Sole & Edmondson, 2002). The disadvantages and challenges
virtual teams face often relate to their increased physical distances and increased use of
communication technology, which reduce the clarity and frequency of their informal
communication activities (Gibson & Gibbs, 2006).
For instance, geographic separation hinders help-seeking by making it more difficult for
team members to understand one another’s areas of expertise. In face-to-face teams, various
observable markers such as status behaviors, style of dress, and age, convey information about a
person’s knowledge and expertise (Griffith & Neale, 2001). These markers are more challenging
to access in virtual teams and may negatively impact team members’ transactive memory (Lewis,
2004) – their knowledge of what each person on the team knows. Remote employees have
limited access to their teammates and fewer opportunities to interact in ways that establish trust
and knowledge about one another, reducing the probability that they will be able to rely on their
teammates for help. This is especially problemmatic for the kinds of teams whose tasks are
strongly interdependent, for example, software development teams.
Informal, spontaneous communication allows each team member to keep track of what
the others are doing (Hinds & Mortensen, 2005) and to use that knowledge to identify and
resolve potential conflicts (Kiesler & Cummings, 2002). Virtual teams may experience more
conflict than collocated teams, in part, because they lack much of the spontaneous
communication that can help reduce misunderstanding (Hinds & Mortensen, 2005).
Spontaneous, informal communication can also signal availability and communication
trustworthiness – both important for indicating and establishing a person’s value as a
communication resource (Sarbaugh-Thompson & M. S. Feldman, 1998). Teams that use less
informal communication, then, may experience more conflict, and their members may have
trouble signaling and identifying their value to one another. In the case discussed here, conflict is
less of a concern because only one team is involved – the earlier studies about conflict focused
on inter-team conflict (Hinds & Bailey, 2003; Hinds & Mortensen, 2005; Wakefield, Leidner, &
Garrison, 2008).
The literature predicts that virtual teams have fewer opportunities for social integration
(Ahuja & Galvin, 2003; Giddens, 1984), which relates to how teams interact with one another
and how cohesively the group behaves. Social integration requires co-presence and is based on
mutual observations and responses to behaviors which help people learn to understand one
anothers’ responses and reactions. While CMC affords “some of the intimacies of co-presence
(Giddens, 1984, p. 68), geographic distance between teammates removes many of the bodies'
positions and activities from the interaction, minimizing social cues available to newcomers
(Ahuja & Galvin, 2003).
Most of the literature on virtual teams deals with teams who were already virtual at the
time they were studied and focuses on specific team activities such as meetings (e.g., Anderson,
McEwan, Bal, & Carletta, 2007; Asmuss & Svennevig, 2009; Lewis, 2004) and product releases
(e.g., Barney, Aurum, & Wohlin, 2008; Carlile, 2002). We argue that, in addition to
understanding episodic work on virtual teams, researchers must examine how transitional work,
such as onboarding a new team member and adopting virtual work routines, are accomplished.
Onboarding
Socialization (Levine & Moreland, 1991; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979) and onboarding
(Saks, Uggerslev, & Fassina, 2007b) are interchangeable terms used to describe the process that
individuals, teams, and organizations go through when a new person joins. When starting a new
job, individuals join the whole organization, as well as a number of smaller groups, such as their
immediate work team. Newcomers must learn many things as they onboard: how to accomplish
their job tasks, how the organization is structured and what their role is within it (Korte, 2009;
Ostroff & Kozlowski, 1992), their team’s daily routines and normal practices, where to find
information, from whom to get it, and the best means to acquire it, the organizational culture,
how to work and socially interact with their team, and how to succeed in their role and grow in
the organization (C. D. Fisher, 1986). Whether this learning is active or passive, explicit or
implicit, supported or laissez faire, eventually newcomers complete onboarding and are
considered to be competent and integrated employees.
The literature on socialization often takes one of two forms: 1) a report on the
connections between organizational behavior, newcomer behavior, and learning or adjustment;
or 2) a process model of socialization as a whole.
In a seminal paper, Van Maanen and Schein (1979) proposed that there are six categories
of socialization tactics that organizations, primarily via managers, use to influence a new
employee’s onboarding. Collective tactics instruct cohorts of newcomers in the ways of the
organization, while individual tactics enable the newcomer to learn on his own. Organizations
use formal learning opportunities, such as training seminars, to teach necessary job skills, while
informal tactics leave the newcomer to learn these skills on the job. Sequential tactics expose
newcomers to a predetermined sequence of steps to help them to competency, whereas random
tactics leave the newcomer blind to the required steps. Fixed tactics put employees on an explicit
onboarding schedule, while using variable tactics mean that newcomers can onboard at their own
pace. Serial tactics are used when a newcomer is filling a role that others have played (and can
teach), whereas employees making up their own job as they go along use disjunctive tactics.
Finally, if the organization builds on the new employee’s prior skills, they are using investiture
tactics; if the new employee must learn skills from scratch, they use divestiture tactics. The
effects of these tactics influence a range of outcomes, such as newcomer’s performance, job
satisfaction, role conflict and ambiguity, organizational commitment, and intentions to quit.
Research by Jones (1986) and Saks (2007a) explored Van Maanen and Schein’s theories,
and refined them to more precisely explain their influence on measured outcomes. Jones (1986)
emphasizes the theories’ effectiveness at reducing newcomer uncertainty, and argues that the
social dimensions of socialization particularly investiture and serial tactics are especially
salient in positively affecting later adjustment outcomes. Saks et al.’s (2007a) meta-analysis of
the field of socialization research explored nuances of Van Maanen and Schein’s theories, and
additionally explored the explanatory power of other socialization theories, such as person-
organization fit (Kristof, 1996a) and uncertainty reduction (Miller & Jablin, 1991).
A number of concrete tactics that teams and organizations can use have been shown to
improve newcomers’ onboarding efficacy. These include clear stages for training, having a
trusted insider for guidance, and taking formal training before starting the job (Bauer, Bodner,
Erdogan, Truzillo, & Tucker, 2007; Jones, 1986). Employing clear stages for training reduces
newcomers’ uncertainty about which tasks they should already be able to complete on their own
and what they are expected to learn. In Moreland and Levine’s (1982) five-stage model of group
socialization, both the group and the newcomer engage in negotiation processes, termed
“monitoring,” that enable them to compare their expectations with the behaviors they observe,
and ultimately, help to determine the newcomer’s membership status (Moreland & Levine,
1982). Having a trusted insider act as a mentor ensures newcomers have someone who can give
them answers to their questions has been shown to help newcomers onboard more smoothly (A.
Begel & B. Simon, 2008; Andrew Begel & Beth Simon, 2008; Saks, Uggerslev, & Fassina,
2007b; Sim & Holt, 1998). Researchers also suggest that a mentoring relationship may reduce
the negative effects of some institutional socialization tactics (Saks, Uggerslev, & Fassina,
2007a), suggesting that socially-oriented tactics (e.g., social events, formal mentoring) improve
newcomer outcomes.
Explaining to the new employees the expected stages of their development and how long
each stage should take can also reduce uncertainty and unease with a newcomer's expectations of
progress (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Rodgers and Hunter's (1991) review of performance
evaluation suggests that goal setting, participation in decision making, and objective feedback
can help. Similarly, Bowen et al. (1999) found that improving an new employee’s perception of
fairness during evaluation and providing her a supportive work environment increases
satisfaction, commitment, and performance (Luthans, Norman, Avolio, & Avey, 2008).
Ashforth, et al. (Ashforth, Sluss, & Saks, 2007) found that newcomer proactivity was
highly correlated with learning success. Other studies found that the fit between a newcomer and
her team, along with her proactivity, account for much of the observed variance in adjustment
and knowledge (Gruman, Saks, & Zweig, 2006; T.-Y. Kim, Cable, & S.-P. Kim, 2005). Miller
and Jablin (1991) also focused on newcomers’ information-seeking strategies, and assert that the
type of information sought, the source of the information (e.g., peers, managers, documentation),
and the tactics employed (e.g., surveillance, testing limits) all jointly influence newcomers’ role
ambiguity and role conflict. Flanagin and Waldeck (2004) found that the technologies
newcomers choose affect their abilities to access information and develop relationships with their
coworkers. All of these results suggest that how newcomers learn is as important, or even more
so, than what they learn.
From whom newcomers learn is also an important factor in onboarding. A main theme in
the literature says that proper socialization requires newcomers to establish successful social
relationships with their coworkers (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979; C. D. Fisher, 1986; Chao,
O’Leary-Kelly, Wolf, Klein, & Gardner, 1994). Fortunately, a newcomer’s colleagues know the
most about what the newcomer must learn and have a vested interest in helping him onboard as
quickly as possible. Not all colleagues are equally good information sources, however. Comer
(1991) found that newcomers’ peers are better sources of information than their managers
because peers are more available and helpful than managers (Posner & Powell, 1985). Kraut and
Streeter (1995) found that developers from collocated software projects mainly asked their
teammates for help because they were better at answering questions than other sources, both
human (e.g., their bosses) and informational (e.g., project documentation).
When newcomers onboard into virtual teams, they lack the close contact, relationships,
and spontaneous learning opportunities offered by informal interactions with their peers. After
studying three months of team emails, Ahuja and Galvin (2003) saw that while newcomers were
actively engaged in conversations about how tasks should be accomplished, they did not
explicitly seek information about the group’s values, structures, or procedures. They argued that
social mechanisms such as peer mentoring were needed to support virtual member socialization.
Vygotsky’s (1978) social learning theories support this argument, and by inference, we could
surmise that without an ability to learn from others, a newcomer’s potential abilities and depth of
knowledge will be diminished and limit the pace of his advancement. Miller and Jablin (1991)
argue that observing, especially, helps newcomers appropriately imitate their teammates and to
better evaluate their own performance.
How newcomers perform at work – e.g., how long it takes them to complete tasks, how
successfully they participate in meetings – impacts how others on the team engage them.
However, shared non-work interests also impact how newcomers will be accepted (Chao et al.,
1994). As research on virtual teams suggests, though, it is difficult for geographically separated
teammates to engage in the kinds of informal communication that facilitate discussions about
non-work interests. How well newcomers know their teammates and the kinds of social ties they
share also impact how successfully they onboard to the team (Morrison, 2002).
Summary
The increasing number of newly virtual teams in organizations makes it critical to expand
onboarding research to include virtual teams, and in order to support onboarding in virtual teams,
we must understand the information needs of all of the stakeholders. However, most of the
literature on onboarding and socialization focuses on teams that work in face-to-face
environments (e.g., D. C. Feldman, 1981; Jones, 1986; Saks, Uggerslev, & Fassina, 2007b), and
very little looks at onboarding in virtual teams (e.g., Ahuja & Galvin, 2003; Flanagin &
Waldeck, 2004; Galvin & Ahuja, 2001). Prior literature in virtual work emphasizes the
computer-mediated nature of an existing, stable team’s communication or its geographic
distribution (e.g., Armstrong & Cole, 2002; Hinds & C. McGrath, 2006; Kiesler & Cummings,
2002; G. M. Olson & J.S. Olson, 2000); very few papers report how virtual teams become
virtual, change their membership, or explore issues beyond technology and conflict. Our study
fills a important research gap by (1) studying onboarding and virtual teams and (2) examining
teams that are adopting virtual work rather than continuing in established routines.
The small body of existing research concerning the unique attributes of onboarding in
virtual teams relies heavily on secondary sources such as email (see Ahuja & Galvin, 2003) to
make inferences about team socialization. Recent reports from researchers mining data about
individual and team behaviors from electronic software development-related repositories show
that the electronic record supplies incomplete, misleading, and often erroneous accounts of
teamwork, which limits the utility and validation of the analytical results (Aranda & Venolia,
2009; Bird, Nagappan, Devanbu, Gall, & Murphy, 2009). We rely mainly on primary sources
(e.g., interviews and observations) to empirically examine the social, organizational, and
technical aspects of onboarding activities as they are experienced by new employees and their
team members and to provide a richer view of the process than an analysis of artifacts alone can
provide.
In summary, we contribute to the literature by examining previously unstudied conditions
– onboarding as it happens on virtual teams, virtual teamwork that involves a new team member,
and onboarding in virtual teams that are just starting to work remotely – and by using data from
primary sources to provide more complete, nuanced understandings of how informal
communication and the inability to be see others’ work and be seen by one’s teammates impact
these experiences.
Methods
We conducted our study at SoftCo, a Fortune 500 software company in the Pacific
Northwest. They had recently opened a new center for remote workers and shared our interests in
onboarding on virutal teams. This provided us the opportunity to conduct a comparative,
exploratory case study (McCutcheon & Meredith, 1993; Yin, 2003) of five newly-distributed
software development teams.
Empirical case studies are in-depth examinations of phenomena where the investigator(s)
has little control. The data produced by case studies come from a number of sources such as
direct observation, interviews with people involved, and documents or records. In our study, we
relied primarily on interviews with managers, mentors, and new employees involved in
onboarding on a virtual team. We complement interview data with direct observation data of the
new employees at work. Interviews provide rich data about a person’s opinions and experiences;
they also provide opportunities for participants to reflect and examine their own behavior and
for researchers to check their understandings of nonverbal behaviors witness in observations (A.
Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Observations complement interviews by providing detailed insight
about specific events and activities without encountering the pitfalls of self-report and while
allowing researchers to see things of which participants may not be aware.
Though case study researchers usually have little control over the events they witness, we
were able to serve, in very limited capacities, as participant observers. Both authors worked at
SoftCo during the study, and our study had twin goals: to both understand and improve
onboarding in virtual teams. Participating in some of the teams’ activites enabled us to further
our goals of improving onboarding. We introduced peer mentor training, team member
interviews, and new employee goal setting, all chosen because the literature emphasizes the use
of mentoring and learning plans to make onboarding more effective. Additionally, these
techniques minimally interfered with the participant teams’ main goal – to develop and release
commercial software. Other researchers have used similar methods for exploring software
development. For instance, Orlikowski’s (2002) interviews and observations focused on the
everyday work practices of software engineers, and Sim and Holt (1998) used a multi-case study
to identify commonalities and differences in individual developers’ experiences. In the following
sections, we describe our study site and participants and then explain our methods of data
collection and analysis in more detail.
Study Context
In 2008, SoftCo opened a new development center in southern Canada, about a 3-hour
drive north of SoftCo’s main campus in the northern United States, and in the same time zone. A
primary purpose of this new development center is to recruit talented engineers from around the
world who were not yet able to obtain a visa to work in the U.S. Each new employee at the
SoftCo Canada Development Centre (SCDC) joined a U.S.-based team.
Each team practiced comparable onboarding procedures with their remote newcomers. In
the first week of employment, SoftCo conducts two days of cultural socialization for all new
employees hired that week. After completing the program, employees continue their onboarding
with their own team. Newcomers are assigned special job tasks, such as fixing an easy software
bug, or developing a non-critical, non-shipping feature – tasks that do not directly impact the
team or its output. No guidance or training, however, is offered for social or organizational
integration. Every team at SoftCo has a distinct mission, so new employees must learn team-
specific job skills on-the-fly as tasks are assigned. The goal is to help the newcomer build on his
existing skills until he is at least the equal of the other team members and is competent enough to
take over any part of the project as the need arises. Depending on the comprehensiveness of his
initial work tasks, the newcomer may onboard more slowly or quickly than others, but generally,
most are considered fully onboarded after participating in a complete product cycle.
Study Participants
To recruit study participants, we identified 12 teams who were about to onboard
employees into SCDC and were willing to participate in a study about this process. We
interviewed the managers of those teams to choose five for in-depth study. We selected those
five teams using criteria to ensure that each chosen team would differ from one another in the
experience level of their new employee, the amount of a team's distributed development (i.e.
virtual team) experience, and their manager's level of experience. The teams in our study also
used different approaches to software development; for example, while the Web Apps team uses
Scrum methodology (see Schwaber, 1997), the OS team uses the Waterfall method (see Royce,
1970). The differences between teams are a strength of our study; studying a variety of teams
allows us to identify themes that cut across such diversity – our selections were the result of
deliberate theoretical sampling (Glaser & A. L. Strauss, 1999). The experiences common to these
five teams can be understood as the core experiences within the organization (Patton, 2002), and
their variation reflects a wide range of conditions that may affect onboarding in virtual teams.
See Table 1 for an overview of the teams in our study.
Table 1
Summary of Teams Studied. Each team's name is followed by any prior experience with
virtual work and the number of people working on each team. Next is the number of years the
manager had managed any team. Each row ends with the role of the new employee and the
number of years of software engineering experience he had prior to coming to SoftCo.
Team
Manager
New Employee
Name
Virtual
Work Exp.
Size (no. of
members)
Experience
Role
Experience
Server
Admin
None
10
< 1 year
Developer
7 years
Web App
SCDC
8
1-2 years
Developer
< 1 year
Core Test
India
7
7 years
Tester
3 years
Network
Test
None
6
< 1 year
Tester
< 1 year
Analysis
None
6
3 years
Developer
5 years
We asked managers and newcomers independently to participate in the study. We first
received consent from the manager for a team to participate, then afterwards spoke with new
employees, mentors, and other teammates to ask for their consent. Everyone we spoke to and
whose comments and experiences are included in our data gave explicit permission to use that
data. We shared no data from any of our participants with the others, except in aggregate and
anonymized form, during the study.
Each team included members from a number of organizational roles: the manager, who
leads the team, distributes work items, and offers rationale and context for the work that the team
performs. A new employee's role is to learn job functions, procedures, and the social network of
the employee’s new organization. A peer mentor, a more experienced member of the same team,
is assigned by the manager to help the new employee learn functional tasks. A local mentor, also
based at SCDC, is assigned by Human Resources to help the new employee learn about SCDC-
specific processes, absorb Canadian customs and cultural norms, offer advice, and more
practically, help the newcomer set up a work environment and computer. See Table 2 for a list of
all of the participants on the five teams in our study.
Table 2
Study Participants. The names of the teams and the roles and pseudonyms of each
participant in our study.
Team Name
Manager
New
Employee
U.S.A.
Mentor
SCDC
Mentor
Server
Admin
Toby
Anwar
Jonathan
n/a
Web App
Sara
Coskun
Manuku
Abdul
Core Test
Tim
Vitaly
Tim
Vadim
Network
Test
Chas
Andrei
Ruslan
Vadim
Analysis
Pavel
Nestor
Josh
n/a
Data Collection
Our study lasted approximately three months from May – August 2008. On the five
teams ultimately chosen for the study, we interviewed 14 managers, mentors, new employees,
and other SCDC employees. In total, we conducted 95 interviews.
New employees on teams 1-4 (Anwar, Coskun, Vitaly, and Andrei) started the first
Monday in June. Nestor, from team 5, started on the first Monday in July. We spent 15 hours
over seven non-sequential days from June to August visiting and observing them in person at
SCDC. Almost all of our initial interviews were conducted by both authors, but each observation
session involved only one researcher at a time. During these observation sesssions, we usually
remained quiet and sat behind, but visible to, new employees. We occasionally spoke to the new
employees to ask a clarification question about something we saw (e.g., why an employee was
using instant messaging for communication) when our interaction would not change the course
of the employee's work process. We also spoke informally with participants over email and at
lunches while at SCDC. Afterward, both authors together interviewed all participants (managers,
mentors, and newcomers) each week, by phone. A final interview with each newcomer was
conducted in-person at SCDC, again, by both authors.
During the study period, the first author was a new employee at SoftCo and the second
was her manager. Our own experiences as a manager and new employee mirrored some of those
we witnessed our participants encounter, and our membership in the organization awarded us
access and insight that would not have been available otherwise. While we were open and honest
with our participants about our roles as neutral researchers, our interactions with participants
were not solely passive. For instance, we helped managers develop learning plans for their new
employees and encouraged one manager, Sara, to call in remotely to a meeting to better
understand her remote employee's experiences in audio-only meeting. We also developed
interview guides that new employees used to conduct one-on-one interviews with their
teammates.
Table 3
Data display table. During our coding iterations, we developed categories for team
norms, communication styles, technologies used, the level of connection new employees had to
their teammates, and the structure of tasks new employees were given.
Team structure
Communication
Communication
Technology
Personal
Connections to
Teammates
Structure of tasks
Ad hoc
Hub and
spoke
Clique
Infreqent
Frequent
Ad hoc
Planned
OC
RoundTable
None
Little
Some
Independent
Collaborative
Server
Admin
Web App
Core Test
Network
Test
Analysis
Data Analysis
We relied on guidance from Eisenhardt (1989) and Yin (1994) to inform our case study
analysis. We used an inductive, interpretative approach to data analysis, and both authors were
involved in all stages of data collection and analysis. We took careful notes during all interviews
and observations, and had our initial recorded interviews with team managers and newcomers
transcribed. We coded and re-coded notes and transcripts in order to construct data displays (see
Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 242) using categories that emerged from our data and those
recommended by earlier literature. Tableaux are a common approach to distilling the large
volume of data generated in case studies (McCutcheon & Meredith, 1993), and Table 3 shows an
example of our data displays using five areas of data team norms, communication styles,
technologies used, the level of connection new employees had to their teammates, and the
structure of tasks new employees were given. We met several times during analysis to compare
our codings to ensure that we maintained agreement on applicable codes. During those meetings,
we discussed each data object and our individual codes until we agreed on the appropriate
coding. We conducted our analysis iteratively throughout the study, using data collected during
interviews and observations to inform later data collection activities. This process of inductively
iterating through analysis reflects the influence of grounded theory (see Glaser & A. L. Strauss,
1999) on our approach to case study exploration. Our goals in analysis were to identify the
properties of teams, their members, and interactions that influenced or were impacted during
onboarding. Our choice of an exploratory, comparative case study method enabled us to focus on
developing hypotheses (presented in our results as propositions; Eisenhardt, 1989; McCutcheon
& Meredith, 1993) about onboarding in virtual teams. In this paper, we focus mainly on our
analysis of team interactions.
Limitations
Interview studies are limited by possible distortions in responses due to personal bias,
anxiety, or even lack of awareness. As outsiders, we may have been presented and understood a
different impression of the team's activities and interactions than the ones the teams shared
among themselves (Goffman, 1959). Our findings necessarily follow from our own impressions
and are limited by the information and impressions we were encouraged by the teams to develop.
This may mean, for example, that teams experienced more conflict than they shared with us. We
used multiple interviews and observations to triangulate our findings and reduce the impact of
these issues. Interviews also demand that participants be able to verbally describe their feelings
or actions, and this sometimes proves difficult, especially when experts are trying to describe
something they do often. Such activities may not be cognitively available for them to describe,
so we used shadow observations to allow us to see and describe them.
Observations have limitations of their own. For instance, observations often produce a
Hawthorne effect (see Landsberger, 1958) – where the objects of study do not exhibit their usual
behavior during the study. We think our prolonged interactions with participants helped reduced
the differences in behaviors exhibited by observed employees – participants got used to having
us around. Observers may also ascribe meaning to an action that a participant would not – we
may have misinterpreted their non-verbal behaviors. We used interviews to follow up with
participants about our observations in order to minimize these misinterpretations.
We studied these teams during the first six weeks of the new employee's tenure and are
therefore unable to provide insight about whether these experiences impact employee attrition, a
common outcome measure in onboarding literature. Earlier literature suggests that early
frustrations may increase employees’ intentions to quit (Kristof, 1996b). One year after our study
we followed up with the five participant teams and learned that all five new employees had
obtained U.S.A. work visas and moved to SoftCo’s U.S.A. campus three months after our
observations concluded. As of this writing, all five new employees in our study still work for
SoftCo, four of them with the same team into which they onboarded.
Communication
Collocated eams in our study were used to interacting with one another in person and
used to visiting each other's offices when they had questions or just wanted to chat: “We talk all
the time, that’s the thing about remote [coworkers], [in the U.S.A.] we drop into each other's
offices all the time," remarked Pavel, Sara's manager. “If they were here locally, they would have
been to everyone’s office and met them.” The inability of the teams and their newcomers to
engage in informal, face-to-face communication had a number of impacts on their transition to
virtual work and their new employees’ onboarding experience.
Virtual teams’ work required the use of computer-mediated communication tools which
adversely affected the quality of conversations between newcomers and their teammates.
Problems in the setup and regular use of the technology lowered the frequency and impacted the
character of the teams’ communication patterns. One manager, Chas, summarized his team's
experience by saying, “[There's] no great technology for communicating really.”
Each week, our participants reported technical audio/visual problems, and new
employees often said they were unable to hear all parts of a conversation. These problems were
especially frustrating because, as new employees, they had not met everyone on team; without
being able to tell who was talking or about what, they could not passively learn about their team
members or their work, nor contribute to that work.
Audio/video communication had some positive effect as well. Specifically, teams noted
that video provided a personal connection and humanizing effect, making it more useful on a
daily basis than plain text interaction. For example, Vitaly's manager mentioned that having his
team be able to see Vitaly on video helped the team get excited for his anticipated immigration to
the U.S.A. “Now it's not some new hire showing up, but it’s Vitaly.” Tim, one of the managers,
described his team's first successful video conference as “shockingly nice.”
Even though video conferencing provided such benefits, newcomers still expressed a
longing for face-to-face interaction: “We would be more part of conversation if we were there
face-to-face. In meetings, no one is talking in order, it’s chaotic. If we were in the room, they’d
know we [wanted to] say something and listen to us. In [our video conferencing system] or on
[the] phone it’s harder to do that,” remarked Coskun. Anwar’s initial comments echoed Coskun’s
at first, but his comments changed after he went to U.S. to meet his team. Before visiting, he said
that he was “not able to grasp the details of a meeting, which means you’re being a passive
participant, rather than an active one. You can’t contribute ideas, [and] you can’t be a part of [the
conversation]." After his visit, he said, “[now] you can identify individuals who are talking in the
meeting. You can’t do that in [the instant messenger program] unless you know the voices, or get
used to [them].” A week later, he was even more confident about his relationship with the team.
“[Our] communication is better, [and the] language is much clearer. I understand the acronyms
and how things are run.”
The quality and content of each remote newcomer’s connection with a direct manager
differed from existing collocated employees. As Tim reflected on his experiences towards the
end of our study, he remarked that he had not asked “[Vitaly] what he wants to be when he
grows up,” in reference to his lack of discussion about his new employee's career growth.
Another manager, Toby, noticed that his conversations with his new employee, Anwar, were
always formal and task-oriented; he remarked, “We need to talk more about non-work things.”
Face-to-face interactions often begin with the kind of small talk that includes such non-
work-related topics. Nestor’s mentor, Josh, said, “missing the face-to-face and ‘open office
walkup’ communication has massive intangible costs. You have to work pretty hard and be
continuously proactive to compensate.” Unfortunately, only two managers, Pavel and Mark
(Sara’s manager), were proactive enough to travel to Canada to meet and make face-to-face
connections with remote newcomers. The others felt that the hassle of getting to Canada for a
social visit was too great, since visa restrictions prevented U.S.-based managers from conducting
“real” work at SCDC. Sadly, newcomers assumed their coworkers were too busy to visit. For
instance, Andrei said, “Chas has no reason to come here because he has a lot of work. I would
like the other guys to visit me. But if they have a lot work, it’s not necessary.”
To help our participant newcomers overcome their inability to establish face-to-face
relationships with their teammates, we asked them to each set up informal, scaffolded, one-on-
one video conference interviews with a core set of teammates identified by their managers.
Afterward, they said these interviews very useful in establishing personal connections with their
teammates and in understanding the team’s work. For instance, Vitaly remarked that the
interview was interesting and it helped him to know who on the team was responsible for
different features. He further commented, similarly to Anwar, that by getting to know his
teammates, he was able to make good guesses as to their responses and actions later during
conferenced team meetings when audio outages occurred regularly.
Sara’s Web App team practiced Scrum, a software process that features daily meetings
(called scrums) in which all team members stand up together to discuss their work. Occurring at
the same time and place every day, these meetings enabled Sara’s team to interact more often
with Coskun than other teams were able to interact with their newcomers. During scrums, team
members describe what they have accomplished since the last meeting, what they plan to do
before the next, and discuss any problems preventing them from completing their work. Since
every team member must talk about their status, newcomers see and hear their teammates
regularly discussing various components of the project every day. Coskun praised scrums,
saying, “the more familiar you get with the project, the more you understand the things they talk
about.” He also noted that at the start of a scrum, “before [my coworkers] start talking about
work, they’ll talk about their weekends and non-work items, especially on Mondays.” Sara
appreciated that in scrums, Coskun could talk to everyone on the team, and commented that
while “[Coskun] feels a bit disconnected, scrums help keep him in contact.” She described the
daily scrum meeting as a “huge plus” for her team and said, “I'm just so happy that [scrums are]
happening. [The] every day thing really helps. I feel the benefits.”
Newcomers weren’t alone in hoping for better social connections though. On a previous
team, Pavel had tried to hold a weekly meeting “where we just shoot the breeze. Whatever comes
to mind. [It was] at the beginning [of my career] as a manager. They hated the meeting. We met
five to six times and then gave up. They didn’t have any enthusiasm to talk.” Pavel did not repeat
the attempt with his current newcomer, Nestor. Other managers worried that their new
employees would feel lonely and isolated at SCDC; Chas commented, “I just hope he has
someone up there who he can go out to lunch with, some sort of personal relationship other than
Outlook. I want him to have some sort of social home crew.” Normally, for their collocated
employees, managers held U.S.-based morale events, such as movie nights and take your child to
work day. New employees at SCDC received email announcements for the events, though they
could not attend. As one manager, Tim, put it, “[Vitaly] gets all the emails about the fun, but he
can’t do anything about it.”
We observed that newcomers were establishing their own local social connections with
other employees at SCDC. For instance, when we asked Coskun why certain people sat together
at lunch, he replied, “They’re from the same country, or they’re from the same [division].” Two
other participant newcomers, Andrei and Vitaly, were from neighboring countries and became
friends during the study because they both spoke the same native language. They said though, if
someone else came by who did not speak their language, they would switch to English.
Visibility
The instances of communication we discussed in the previous section were, for the most
part, about explicitly transferring information, both formally and informally. However, much of
being a good team member relies on gathering information implicitly, especially through
observation (Miller & Jablin, 1991). In virtual teams, it is difficult for teammates to visually
observe one another. In this section, we focus on the impacts of this invisibility of teammates to
one another.
The ability to observe one’s teammates at work is very important for newcomers. Seeing
normal work helps them set reasonable expectations and learn their team’s tacit knowledge. The
newcomers in our study were unable to witness the normal pace of work in their teams, tended to
underestimate the time it would take them to complete tasks, and worried that they were taking
too long. As Vitaly’s manager Tim said, “He's junior, right, so I guarantee his estimate won’t be
more than two working weeks. He’ll think he can boil the ocean.” Some mentors tried to adjust
their newcomers’ expectations. Josh, Nestor’s mentor, suggested, “Look, dude, take your time,
there’s a lot [to learn], and you don’t want it all at once.”
Manuku, Coskun’s mentor, was frustrated about his “inability to drop in and see how
[Coskun’s] doing. Sometimes he had questions where I wished he had asked sooner.” Several
managers noted that they expected to see more traffic on team mailing lists from new employees,
and that it was hard, without that traffic, to know what they were doing. Chas complained,
“You’ve got this new guy who started, and I haven’t heard from him for two days!” Another
manager, Tim, asked Vitaly to use the team’s mailing list to ask questions instead of sending
email to individual team members, so that everyone could be more aware of what he was doing.
As Tim pointed out, sending emails over the team list “give[s] people a chance to know [the new
employee],” and noted that because “Vitaly doesn't ask a lot of questions ... he infrequently
demonstrates his expertise.”
Being noticed for their efforts was a continual worry for the newcomers, which revealed
a lack of understanding of how their managers and teams were going to evaluate their
onboarding progress. The managers realized this as well. Chas, off-handedly remarked, “The
[main campus] employees right now don’t recognize that they have SCDC employees.” But, his
own expectations for newcomers was similarly hands-off, [He] gives them an assignment, tells
them they’re not going to be on-track to an agreed-upon timeframe, [and that they should simply]
report status updates during team meetings.” Pavel, Nestor’s manager, commented on his
expectations of Nestor’s performance, [Any] time differences are mis-estimations on my part.
[It is] not him going slow. For me, it only takes one week to do each, but this isn’t the way it
works. [I need to] go a little slower so the information is reinforced in his brain.”
Even in their first few weeks of employment, newcomers expressed concerns about
earning “exceeded” marks during SoftCo’s yearly performance reviews. They knew that
receiving a good rating was important for employee advancement within the company. Chas, one
of the U.S.A.-based managers, explained that,
To get an “exceeded” rating we look for the employee to go beyond what is
expected in his commitments.2 Having an impact beyond [his] level, developing
programs to test additional functionality without being assigned (e.g., self host
applications, test frameworks, [create] powertoy [applications]), [and] having
broad team impact.
In performance reviews, employee agency and proactivity were important to demonstrate
exceptional performance. Newcomer Anwar worried that he would be at a disadvantage when it
came time to do yearly performance evaluations because of disparities in participation between
SCDC and main campus workers:
Since we’re not able to participate actively in discussions, I don’t know how
much that’s going to affect my contribution to the team, and that’s important
when it comes to evaluation and mid-year review all this collaboration and
everything is in that review.
Coskun, too, worried about how he would be evaluated when his teammates couldn’t see him: “I
didn't want them to get [their] first impression of me when I was away from them. I hope it will
be ok when I get there in October23. Anyone’s performance would be better if he was with his
team.” During our final interview with each remote participant, after they had been employed for
six weeks, we asked, “How do you imagine your teammates spend their days?” Anwar
responded, “I'm not aware of exactly what they're doing; I get some hints through email
communication, but I'm not hearing it from them.” Anwar’s manager, Toby, had trouble getting
the communication technology to work in his team's status update meetings, so he held one
collocated meeting for everyone on the team except Anwar, and held a separate meeting with
Anwar via personal webcam. Because he was excluded from team meetings, Anwar found
emails between team members difficult to understand the emails often picked up in the middle
of a conversation that had started during a meeting, and there were no introductions to their
content. The other newcomers had better notions of their teammates daily work, especially
Coskun, who knew his work “was similar,” due to the daily scrums, and whose work was much
more tied to his team’s project. “[Everyone is] busy with the design phase. The whole team.”
Newcomers expressed difficulty learning their team’s processes: “To be honest, the only
problem that I'm facing is getting information about the processes. There's nothing documented
about that. You have to seek for that information,” remarked Anwar. Another newcomer’s local
mentor, Vadim, remarked, “you have to figure out [things] yourself and try to speak to different
people and try to get the answers.” They claimed that this kind of procedural knowledge was
especially difficult to learn without being able to see their teammates. For instance, Anwar used
2 Each employee is evaluated against a unique set of “commitments,” or long-term work tasks, that are
negotiated on a 1:1 basis with his manager every year.
3 Coskun received notice that he had earned a visa to work in the U.S.A. starting in October of his first year
of employment.
an example of troubleshooting a network security problem to explain his frustrations about not
being able to observe his teammates:
You have to pull info, rather than it being a natural process. When you are doing
it face to face, you can observe your colleagues. But when you are remote, the
only thing you can do is say is ‘I have this problem, what should I do?’ [You can
only ask] general questions and only get general answers.”
Nestor agreed, “If it’s about internal issues and I can’t find solutions on the Internet,
[then it is] much harder to find things internally, [like] how to debug things.” Only after he failed
to make progress would he contact his manager for help.
Summary of Results
Informal communication and teammates’ visibility were especially influential in the
teams’ transition to virtual work and in onboarding a remote employee. The lack of informal
communication between remote newcomers and their U.S. teammates meant that newcomers
were often left out of conversations about their team’s work and inhibited their ability to
establish social relationships with their teammates. However, the CMC tools that teams used to
communicate humanized the newcomers, helping to make them seem more real than they were
on email.
It was difficult for newcomers and teammates to understand one another’s experiences
because they are unable to witness them first-hand and lack the informal relationships in which
those experiences would likely be shared. Not seeing the normal pace of work in the main
campus continually exacerbated newcomers’ anxieties about being behind even though nearly all
the newcomers in our study were as productive as their managers expected.
Remote new employees lacked awareness of performance expectations, and their
teammates lacked awareness of the new employee’s acquisition of skills and knowledge. Not
being able to see their teammates made it difficult for new employees to learn tacit knowledge
about what constitutes normal and excellent work; not being able to be seen by their teammates
made it difficult for new employees to demonstrate abilities that lay beyond only those required
for their assigned task. Of course, it is also possible that by not being able to observe his
teammates, a remote newcomer will also not be able to observe any teammates’ bad habits. This
isolation may be both blessing and curse – preventing distractions and exposure to negative
examples, but also separating a new employee socially from the team and hiding tacit knowledge
from him. Those new employees who were able to see their teammates and who were included in
informal conversations expressed less anxiety and insecurity. Almost every team member
(including managers, mentors, and new employees) believed that the others all knew what they
knew, saw the same things that they saw, and heard what they heard, but neither side could
completely and accurately describe the other’s work environment or daily life.
Our participants repeatedly described characteristics of their communication and
observations as notable, but our data cannot reliably speak to the long-term impacts of these
issues. In the next section, we outline a number of propositions that future research should
explore in order for us to better understand the long-term implications of these issues for teams
transitioning to virtual work and onboarding remote employees.
Propositions and Future Work
Additional research would help us better understand these transitional moments as
organization change. To provide some initial guidance for this research agenda, we present five
propositions that demonstrate potential research questions. These propositions specifically
consider the relationships among geographic separation, newness, productivity, and social
integration and are based on the results our study and literature review.
To accommodate a new remote member, teams in our study increased their use of CMC
in team interactions. Teams experienced some early setbacks in learning to use communication
technologies such as LiveMeeting and in adjusting their work to include virtual members.
Proposition 1: Teams who hire new remote members may experience a larger drop in
overall productivity and product quality than teams who hire collocated new members;
and,
Proposition 2: Teams in which the manager promotes the use of communication
technologies and the value of including the new remote team member will adjust their
team practices more quickly; their drops in productivity will be shorter and shallower.
Not being able to observe one's teammates makes it difficult for remote newcomers to
tacitly learn team norms. Based on earlier literature, we expect that remote team members will
feel excluded from the team even if they interact frequently via CMC, and that collocated team
members will be better able to predict their teammates’ behaviors than will remote team
members. When teams attempted to more actively include their newcomer in meetings,
difficulties using CMC technologies led them to actually exclude the newcomer from many team
interactions. Since remote newcomers must then learn about many of their team norms explicitly,
we predict that
Proposition 3: Teams that develop more complete and up-to-date documentation of their
processes, including traditionally tacit insider information such as which code, tools, and
machine resources are more useful than others, will more effectively enable remote
newcomers to learn team practices.
Literature on new employees, socialization, and onboarding suggest that various aspects
of the “newness” of an employee impact both individual and team performance. Many studies
point to the importance of informal communication and the quality of teammates’ interactions in
increasing employee productivity (e.g. Kraut & Streeter, 1995; Scott & Timmerman, 1999;
Staples & Webster, 2007; Zarraga & Bonache, 2005).
Teams in our study struggled to balance the demands of their work with their desire to
include and train their new employees – e.g., by scheduling more formal meetings, by learning to
use instant messaging tools. Remote newcomers like Coskun, who had frequent interactions with
their teams, expressed fewer doubts and insecurities about their own role on the team, and
claimed a better understanding of how their work contributed to the team’s work. Despite the
challenges inherent in learning to use and using communication technologies, we expect that
Proposition 4: Interacting frequently using synchronous communication technologies will
reduce newcomers’ anxiety, help them learn what responses to expect from their
teammates, and improve their team's productivity.
Synchronous communication technologies can have, as our participants described, a
“humanizing” effect. The effects of synchronous interactions are non-trivial, and we expect that
they can dramatically increase a newcomer's social integration and reduce an individual’s
feelings of loneliness and insecurity. Informal interactions, whether face-to-face or over instant
messenger, also play clear roles in integrating a newcomer into an existing team. Ahuja and
Galvin (2003) suggest communicating explicitly in order to teach newcomers about norms,
expectations, and standards, and our results suggest that structured social communications were
also necessary for socially integrating newcomers. Remote newcomers cannot participate in team
morale events or drop into their teammates offices to interact informally, but we expect that
Proposition 5: Encouraging one-one-one, non-work-related interactions between remote
newcomers and their teammates will increase a newcomer's social integration.
In addition to exploring these propositions further, we plan to look more closely at how
hub and satellite teams (like those in our study) bounce back from the temporary drop in
productivity anticipated by managers and experienced by the team when a new member is hired.
We are also interested in the affective aspects of onboarding and virtual work and wish to
understand how frequently and in what ways teams can interact to reduce anxiety.
The specific propositions generated by our analysis include questions about both
individual employees and their teams. For instance, it remains unclear whether the inability to
observe normal work will mean that remote team members who remain remote will be promoted
and retained at lower rates than their collocated counterparts and whether encouraging remote
newcomers to interact with new teammates one-on-one in non-work-related conversations will
increase a newcomer's social integration. While these outstanding questions remain, our work
does suggest ways in which practitioners can ease the transitions to virtual work and in
onboarding a new remote team member.
Suggestions for Practice
Some techniques have been found to alleviate the problems experienced by virtual teams
and their members. Highly self-monitoring and proactive individuals can improve their
experiences (Bauer & Green, 1998; Flanagin & Waldeck, 2004); high self-monitors strive to
understand the dynamics of their environments and constantly look for clues about how to
behave (Snyder & Coupland, 1989). In teams distributed across time zones, an informal
hierarchical structure, such as a point person who takes charge of communicating with a remote
team, helps to reduce miscommunication than an all-to-all communication structure (A. Begel,
Nagappan, Poile, & Layman, 2009). In order to reduce the informational and social disparities
between their collocated and remote team members, many virtual teams employ rich media
environments. However, research suggests that the richness of computer-mediated
communication does not predict its effectiveness (Mennecke, Valacich, & Wheeler, 2000).
Rather, the fit between a technology and its use (J. E. McGrath & Berdahl, 1998), and the rate at
which social information is exchanged (Walther, 1996) matter more than the CMC use itself.
The most drastic (and effective) solution to the problems of virtual work is to eliminate
virtualization entirely, even the form used by obstensively “collocated” employees in
neighboring offices in the same hallway. Teasley and colleagues (2000) showed that radically
collocating entire teams of developers in a single “warroom” enhanced awareness, coordination,
and availability, and resulted in great productivity gains.
Our findings suggest that the frequency and nature of team interactions strongly influence
the effectiveness and pace of onboarding in virtual teams. Specifically, virtual teams performed
better when they had more structured processes and frequent interactions. This suggests that
managers should be more explicitly involved in onboarding activities e.g., creating learning
plans, setting clear and realistic expectations about time-to-productivity, and actively moderating
meetings so that newcomers are included and actively participate. Virtual teams with regular,
structured activities (such as scrums) may be better prepared to onboard new members.
Individuals who are taught to be self-monitoring and proactive will be more effective at
onboarding because they will be more likely to actively seek information and comfortable
interacting with unfamiliar people. Newly virtual teams should embolden newcomers to talk and
call attention to themselves by, for instance, by asking everyone to routinely ask and answer
questions on team-wide email lists, or by participating in meetings as remote participants, to gain
empathy and understanding about the experiences their new colleagues are going through.
Conclusion
Our study advances empirical and theoretical understanding of onboarding in virtual
teams and the transition to virtual work by identifying characteristics of team interactions and the
virtual work itself impact both organizational changes. Our results illustrate that the aspects of
onboarding and virtual teams upon which research has typically focused – newness,
communication technologies, and geographic distribution – are only part of the story. When we
examined organizational work from the perspective of transitions, i.e. from collocated to virtual
work, and from new employee to seasoned insider, we found that the kind of social interactions
teams have especially informal and observable – are paramount to successful virtual teaming
and remote onboarding. We hope that this study encourages others to look more closely at how
onboarding in newly virtual teams occurs, and how it impacts both the team’s productivity and
its members’ affective and social experiences.
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... Sozialisierung und Onboarding (Saks, Uggerslev, & Fassina, 2007) sind synonyme Begriffe, die den Prozess beschreiben, den Einzelpersonen durchlaufen, wenn Sie zu einem Team oder einer Organisation neu hinzukommen (Hemphill & Begel, 2011). Typische Vermittlungsinhalte des Onboardings sind, wie Arbeitsaufgaben und die Organisation strukturiert sind und welche Rolle sie innerhalb der Organisation spielen (Korte, 2009). ...
... Zielstellung eines technischen Onboardings ist es, Neuankömmlinge in die neue virtuelle Umgebung einzuführen, damit diese arbeitsfähig auf der Plattform werden. Diese Lernprozesse können aktiv oder passiv, unterstützt oder individuell veranlasst sein, doch schlussendlich ist das Ziel immer aus einem Neuankömmling ein kompetentes und integriertes Mitglied der Organisation zu machen (Hemphill & Begel, 2011). ...
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... They showed that very poor onboarding practices can lead to poor coordination, reduced trust, and conflict between team members. Our study focuses on onboarders who are co-located with their teams, but the outcomes of poor onboarding found in [9] are likely to still apply in our context which is a motivating factor for our study. ...
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... Particularly, concerns about equitable technology access, online communication skills, and mentor-protégé privacy are all hurdles that could interfere with the process of building trust and otherwise sustaining high-quality virtual mentoring relationships (Bierema & Hill, 2005;Hart, 2016). These hurdles are problematic because building connections with others is important to socialization and development (Bauer, 2010) and are compounded in that informal connections can be more difficult to establish virtually than face-to-face (Hemphill & Begel, 2011;Wesson & Gogus, 2005). Despite such challenges, however, times of crisis and other workforce and technology changes should not deprive individuals of the important role mentoring can play for their personal and professional development and learning. ...
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The small miracle of telecommunications that Alexander Graham Bell brought to society in 1876 continues to transform our lives today. A technology that business was reluctant to embrace in the 1880s has now been embedded in the very fabric of organization life to such an extent that to exclude it is next to impossible. Today, communication technology allows people to work together even when they are physically far apart. In its most extreme use, businesses can operate without the employees ever meeting each other or their customers, thus creating a “virtual workplace” where time, space, and structure become tools for the individual rather than constraints of the organization.