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India Expansion During Pandemic Highlights Value of Virtual Onboarding

Maintaining Graebel’s People-First Culture throughout Adversity

Graebel’s global presence continues to expand to meet the needs of our clients worldwide. In India, we recently opened a new Bengaluru office under unprecedented circumstances. After significant preparations securing the legal requirements, setting up the office space and recruiting great talent, an opening date was set: 10 March 2020. An auspicious date, as this year 10 March was the Hindu festival of Holi — the “festival of spring,” “festival of colors” or “festival of love.” Two days later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be pandemic, which led to restrictions on travel into and out of India.

The Bengaluru team is a critical addition to Graebel, so waiting out the challenges was not an option. We needed to get them ready to serve clients quickly. The global onboarding team, however, had to make an early exit because of the rapidly spreading pandemic. Our laptops were held in customs longer than usual, which meant our new employees had to train without them for a few days. Then we quickly transitioned to social distancing protocols and eventually working from home. Fortunately, my Graebel colleagues around the world were ready to help us address the challenges that came our way. We also leveraged our local contacts and industry expertise, as well as Graebel’s business continuity plan, to overcome each issue.

In reflecting on the past weeks, there are some critical steps we took that led to the successful onboarding of our new teammates:

  1. Face-to-face is essential: With a slew of new resources coming their way, it is vital that new employees have faces to put with names. More than just their immediate office teammates, the employees will be calling on people across the company. Being welcomed with a smile, even from across the globe, makes new additions feel a part of our global Graebel family. As our new employees got to know each other, being able to see one another helped them recognize the excitement we all shared in being together for the opening.
  2. Leverage multiple technologies: In addition to video conferencing, we used cloud collaboration platforms and Graebel globalCONNECT® to work together in real time. And we can’t forget WhatsApp for mobile resources (and a little group text fun)! We also paired new team members with “buddies” deeply experienced in multiple technologies that were readily available to help.
  3. Bring in the experts: Because virtual onboarding has no borders, have the most knowledgeable person in your organization lead the session in their wheelhouse. This expedites the learning process, with no questions left unanswered, and helps give trainees insight into the broader organization. Graebel’s global Director of Learning & Development, Rakhi Ihiga, led much of the training from her home in the United States. She was able to engage other subject matter experts in the Czech Republic and Singapore on specific topics.
  4. Show how the pieces fit together: In addition to teaching new employees the details of their new responsibilities, show them how they fit into the broader organization and our purpose. Understanding company history, vision and values as well as how other divisions operate helps new employees understand the context of their role and get a feel for company culture. Graebel has a people-first culture, which we demonstrated to the new employees through our attention to their training and safety.
  5. Keep it small: Limiting the number of people in each session encourages open discussion and leaves time for everyone to share a piece of their story. Despite the unusual circumstances of their training, the new team has bonded quickly. Smaller groups also boost attention to the topic and limit the distractions that might be a factor in larger assemblies.

Virtual training in India

Our Bengaluru team has already shown its ability to get the job done in unexpectedly adverse circumstances, proof that putting people first — whether in regards to onboarding or to service delivery — makes a difference.

Nowzad Wadia is an Account Manager with over 10 years of experience in the mobility industry and recently relocated from Mumbai to Bengaluru. For more information about Graebel’s full response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Managing Mobility Through Coronavirus resource center.


About the Author

Nowzad Wadia is Senior Director of International Relocation Services. Nowzad joined Graebel in June 2019 as an account manager and earned promotion to his current senior director role in April 2021, where he is repsonsible for Graebel's India operations and management for the Bengaluru office. He has has a wealth of India-centric knowledge he brings to Graebel's Bengaluru office and our client partners. Nowzad brought with him a mobility career spanning more than 19 years, including more than 10 years of senior management expertise in account development and operational management. This experience has given him superior skills in managing, coaching and mentoring teams of relocation professionals. Just prior to joining Graebel, Nowzad served as associate vice president of client services for another relocation management company. Born and raised in Mumbai, Nowzad holds a PGDBA in marketing and finance from Symbiosis University.

Profile Photo of Nowzad Wadia