# pj-welcome: How Mercari Builds a Virtual Experience that New Hires Want to Engage with #Mercaridays
Hi! This is @maria from the People Development Team.
One important step of the onboarding process for new hires at Mercari is the orientation, a two-day session dedicated to learning how things work at the company and getting ready for action.
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we work at Mercari, moving us from an office-based model to a fully remote environment, and making all teams adapt their working styles to accommodate this shift.
In this article, I interviewed @anzu who is the Leader of #pj-welcome, Mercari’s project in charge of the new hire orientation. We discussed the challenge of delivering a unique online experience that ensures consistent communication and a high level of engagement so everyone feels part of Mercari despite the physical distance.
The unexpected impact of COVID-19: the challenges and opportunities of an online orientation experience
Starting in February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Japan, Mercari had to move all its activities to a fully remote environment. With very short notice and with little time to prepare, the new hires orientation also had to take place online.
@anzu: We needed to change our mindset. In the beginning, I was concerned about being able to deliver the same content and quality of information once the session moved online. Mercari cares about communicating to new members its mission, values, and culture from day 1, so I struggled a bit to find a way to do this remotely. We didn’t know how long we would be doing it in this format either, so we decided on a hybrid approach that put the health and safety of everyone first and that was flexible enough to accommodate any possible changes.
Despite never having faced such a situation before, the team decided to keep their existing agenda. The IT Team worked very hard to send each new member their computer and other necessary equipment. Other members created documentation and guides to make all the information the new hires would need available online and to make sure the onboarding sessions were properly coordinated.
It is during times of crisis that we need to reinforce our culture and values to stay motivated and positive. What looks like a problem at first glance, can become an opportunity to create positive change.
Finding new ways to make new hires feel welcome and engaged from day 1
We know orientation is a very important first step for new hires, so we wanted to make the new online format as engaging as possible. However, just introducing the technology was not enough. We also needed to adapt the contents.
@anzu: We adopted a hybrid online approach that mixed sessions with facilitators providing workshops, explanations, and a welcome lunch in the first half, with self-learning time in the second half so the new hires learned general procedures and guidelines. This way it was possible to adapt to different types of needs that had not been considered in the past. We found that, because the orientation was online, we were able to bring the same experience to all types of participants who could have been impacted by COVID-19 using conventional means of training.. Among them were members working while taking care of children at home.
We used videos and different communication platforms depending on the purpose. For example, on the second day, we hosted an activity called the Welcome Lunch where we used a platform that allowed participants to interact by sending emojis or messages on the chat. Also, for the group session, participants could mingle between tables, and talk with different people. This gave the participants a sense of excitement and facilitated communication with other members.
We spoke with @kenken who joined Merpay on May 1st. He told us about his experience in the online orientation.
@kenken: I thought the orientation was going to be mainly about the company rules, so I was happily surprised to find that part of the program included workshops and activities. These were important for me to better understand Mercari’s mission and values.
At the Day 2 Welcome Lunch, I was able to talk with people from different teams who I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet once we started working online in earnest. Thanks to that, I was able to feel part of Mercari despite the physical distance!
We are still not sure when we will be able to return to the office again. Until then, Mercari will keep working on making the online onboarding process a smooth start for new hires. We will bring you more information in our next article. Stay in touch.