With the quick onset of COVID-19, many companies had to not only shift their business model approach, but also how they onboarded the new talent brought on to help them execute their business goals. Our team at Signature Performance was no different. With strict Center of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines put into place during this global pandemic, our approach to onboarding Associates had to drastically shift in order to ensure that every new Associate was safe and able to flourish in their new roles. Jessica McDaniel, Operations Manager at Signature Performance, was at the forefront of transforming our onboarding process from a traditional training setting to a virtual classroom due to COVID-19.

One of the first areas our training team had to navigate was how to keep all new Associates at least six feet apart during the onboarding process in order to stay compliant with the CDC guidelines. During this pandemic, on the ChampVA PEC side, our team onboarded 25 Associates in the first training session and 35 in the second session. Another class of 20-25 Associates is set to begin training in the near future.  

“We moved our training classes from the normal classroom setting to one of our actual production floors and virtual setting where each Associate had their own, socially-distanced desk. The Associates had daily invites to the Zoom training meeting. The first day of training usually involves Human Resources going over HR policies and specifics, this had to be transitioned to virtual as well,” McDaniel said. 

McDaniel said the onboarding and training content didn’t have to change, but the delivery of the information did. During the training sessions, the popular Zoom platform was heavily utilized, but the team made sure to take advantage of our in-house resources.  

“We knew it was going to be virtual and we knew that we were going to use Zoom. A lot of the curriculum taught has reviews and quizzes, so we converted those to our Bridge Learning Management System App so there could be more independent-type study and accountability. We were able to have all Associates log into the Zoom meeting and participate that way,” McDaniel said. “Since March, everyone has become familiar with Zoom meetings. Instead of standing in front of Associates in a classroom setting, trainers sat in an office in front of a computer, sharing their screens, speaking through headsets, and relying on verbal and chat questions to interact with their new Associates.” 

Despite the training taking on a more virtual approach, McDaniel said the onboarding process took the same amount of time, but certain aspects of the training had to be adjusted or removed entirely in order to stay compliant with the CDC safety regulations. 

“During this onboarding, we still took two weeks, however it took a couple more days to get through the curriculum and we were unable to let trainees do side-by-sides with seasoned Associates due to the six-feet rule. Their hands-on training consisted of doing scenarios as a whole class and in the Zoom breakout rooms and listening to old recorded calls and watching screen shares,” McDaniel said. 

With the shift to a more virtual setting, McDaniel said the one thing that surprised her the most was how much she missed visiting with new Associates face-to-face. 

“I am terrified of standing in front of crowds and presenting, but I have to say that with virtual training, I missed the face-to-face interaction. I felt I did not have that personal connection with each Associate as I had in the classroom setting. By the end of classroom training, I knew each Associate by name and was able to make a personal connection with most of them,” McDaniel said. “With this virtual training, there just wasn’t that connectedness for each new Associate to get to know each other. Not being able to stand at the back of the classroom to see if all of the Associates were navigating or following along was extremely hard for me. We did a lot of pausing and asking, “Does that make sense?” or “Are there any questions” throughout the virtual training.”

During this round of  training, McDaniel gained 12 new Associates. She is in the process of still getting to know everyone since many team members were sent home due to the pandemic. However, she is planning to set up biweekly Zoom team meetings to ensure everyone continues to stay connected. 

“I am still trying to connect with some of my original team that came on in January and February as my entire team went remote in the middle of March due to the pandemic. I’ve mailed ‘thinking of you’ cards out to my Associates, sent pat on the backs, and sent weekly update emails to my team. I make myself available as much as I can,” McDaniel said. “I do get out on the floor to answer questions and try to chat with Associates during down time. I have Associates stop by my office to talk and tell me how they have applied something that they learned in training on a call that they just took or to tell me that they received a 100% on their latest quality assurance.”

McDaniel said that her number one strength, Adaptability, was extremely beneficial to her as she navigated this unusual onboarding process during COVID-19.

“Adaptability is my number one strength and most definitely was a must during this process. I initially trained ChampVA back when the PEC started in July 2019. In January 2020, I was promoted to Operations Manager from Quality Assurance,” McDaniel said. “Due to business needs, I needed to put the ‘trainer’ hat back on and refresh myself with the curriculum and do some updating. With COVID-19, there was also a lot of uncertainty as updates were coming out every single day.”