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Apart together: What we learned navigating onboarding in the new normal

Oct 6, 2020 | Corporate Insights

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Apart together: What we learned navigating onboarding in the new normal

Onboarding is a vitally important part of starting a new job and making a good first impression on new talent. So, when we were thrust into the virtual world at trivago due to the pandemic, we knew we had to adapt our onboarding process quickly.

Our unique onboarding process for new employees has always been 5 agenda packed days on campus where new employees get to meet our leadership team, learn about our business, get to know the campus and, most importantly, build relationships with each other. Many of our new employees take a leap of faith leaving their homes from around the world to start fresh in Düsseldorf, and the in-person interactions on our campus have always been a key part of the experience. To align with the power of our unique culture, we wanted to make our virtual onboarding experience during check-in week fun, dynamic and authentic.

Juggling roadblocks like scheduling across numerous time zones and producing engaging onboarding content in a short time frame was a challenge, but our team successfully pushed to implement several positive changes. We were enthused by how quickly everyone adapted and how productive the process was overall. And we’re excited to retain some of these innovations for the foreseeable future.

Now that we have begun to invite local employees back to campus, we recently wrapped up our first hybrid in-person/virtual check-in week. We were compelled to reflect on what has worked well, what can be improved and what we want to carry forward into the future. We found the following four principals help make the experience one that we were proud of: our new employees felt “at home” despite some of them being apart.

Take advantage of the digital opportunities
There’s no better time than now try new things – and for us, this meant investing in an enterprise-grade learning management system called Bridge and developing a master digital onboarding document that made our new digital onboarding experience seamless and individualized. Colleagues can now complete self-paced training via videos on product, business strategy and our culture that allow for flexibility when digesting a lot of information. Some key sessions, such as those with our executives, continue to operate in person, but now trivago’s new members can access most training opportunities from anywhere in the world at the touch of a button.

Keep it human
Learning and training aside, one of the most important parts of this process is the social aspects of joining a new company. We pride ourselves on fostering meaningful connections – so much so that people remain friends with their check-in week groups years after their start at trivago. At safe distances, we continued to facilitate team lunches and in-person team integration that led to meet ups after and outside of work to continue to get to know each other. For our new colleagues unable to travel to Germany because of travel restrictions, we spent time with them every afternoon connecting virtually to socialize and gauge how they were feeling.

Infusing company culture
Our culture is who we are, and our onboarding process would not be the same without it. Onboarding is trivago’s chance to make a strong first impression for our new colleagues. For us, this meant infusing aspects of our culture throughout the process. One of the main goals of the week is cultivate our culture through actions. This starts with small things such as building relationships with the check-in group you start with, ensuring our new members have people to rely on to learn from and build trust.  And we do this by creating an environment where they can be comfortable being themselves. Our discussions during the week are designed in a way that encourages everyone to voice their own ideas about the company, product and our culture, the business. These actions are encouraged from start and the idea is that our newcomers will return to their teams and feel comfortable questioning and testing ideas right from the start.

The lesson for us is that even when it is challenging to maintain engagement and corporate culture, recognize that now is the best time to embrace change and try new things. Even if they don’t work the first time, you’re guaranteed to learn something new along the way.


Rosa Fernanda, Global Head of Talents & Culture Integration at trivago