Coming into a new company, and a new distributed company, in particular, can be overwhelming. When you start a job in a physical building, often someone in the office takes you under their wing (you hope) or is asked to give you a tour. Making connections with people while trying to master new tools and processes is hard. Having one person who is not just answering questions, but perhaps takes you out to lunch or sits down with you over coffee, offers a safe place to begin exploring the new world around you. This person can become your go-to as you acclimate yourself to the general workflow in the office.
Akin to that, Lullabot has found a way to embrace this practice in a distributed fashion. We assign each new hire with a “Lullabuddy.” Their job is to create a safe environment for a new employee to ask any question about their new job with confidence.
We introduce new hires to their Lullabuddy in their “welcome email,” and the Lullabuddy takes it from there. The Lullabuddy either answers the new hire's questions or points them to the person who can. We often compare starting a new job at Lullabot to being thrown into the deep end of a pool as there’s no gentle wading into a distributed company. We never want a new hire to feel lost or alone like they’re drowning in logins and novel communication methods. By giving each new hire a Lullabuddy, Lullabot also hopes to preclude a sense of isolation that sometimes occurs when a person starts a new job from home. It's one of the most effective things that Lullabot has found to do to foster humanity across time zones and distance.
Over the past few years, we’ve put together a few guidelines that ensure a good fit in a Lullabuddy.
- Remembers what it’s like to be a new hire but has enough experience to guide.
- Is not your boss and not already a friend, but is your first friend at Lullabot.
- Takes initiative to check in regularly.
- When possible is working on the same initial project.
- Is not on vacation in the new hire’s first two weeks (heh, we only had to learn that once.)
- Is available; has time to convey empathy and warmth.
- Is a good listener; can also read between the lines.
- Takes notice of the new hire’s Yammer/Slack participation and makes comments.
- Explains memes and inside jokes.
- Sets a good example in their communication.
- Is like a good driving instructor (tells you what to focus on and what to tune out.)
- Lets management know if something is amiss.
- Understands and transmits Lullabot’s core values.
Any Lullabot can request to be a Lullabuddy; we just ask that they have the bandwidth in their schedule to commit to the responsibilities. It’s a bonus when the Lullabuddy and the new employee are close geographically. An in-person sync-up for dinner or coffee (on Lullabot) is a wonderful way to start a new job. (Yes, we admit, there's no substitute for face-to-face contact.)
We have evolved the Lullabuddy role so that it follows a checklist in BambooHR with a few tasks. Here's what it looks like:
We like to go over the expectations before a team member commits to the role, so they are clear on what they're signing up to do. The primary goal is to support our new hire so that it may look a little different depending on an individual employee’s needs. (In addition, we expect human resources to be everyone’s Lullabuddy, from when they first start until they leave Lullabot.)
In an increasingly digital world, fostering the human connection has become extremely important to Lullabot. Our “Be Human” core value emphasizes our belief that it’s these human connections that “bring our work to life.” Could we start working at Lullabot without Lullabuddies? Yes. Would we feel as supported and integrated into the team? Probably not. Having a Lullabuddy is important not just for new hires, but being a Lullabuddy is important for seasoned team members as well. The Lullabuddy practice is one of the ways Lullabot ensures human connections every day.
A Lullabuddy is for life! That’s not an official stance, but it warms my HR heart to hear people call out to each other, “Hi Lullabuddy!” years after they started at Lullabot.