Carleton University co-op student Alina de la Fuente joined GGFL in early May and immediately made history.
She became the first co-op student the firm has ‘onboarded’ remotely. None of the usual handshakes. No welcoming lunch or chats over coffee – just remote faces and training instruction over video, along with copious advice, support and reassurance over e-mail.
Needless to say, it wasn’t what Alina, or anyone else, expected.
“A May start is typically slower for accounting firms,” she said, “but then the tax filing deadlines got pushed back and I found myself in the thick of it.”
Alina’s first week on the job began with a home delivery of computer equipment and GGFL swag.
“A courier dropped it off at my front door and a short time later, Clark from IT phoned and helped me set everything up.”
“There were a lot of SKYPE calls first day,” said Alina. “It’s amazing how many messages I received from people saying, ‘welcome to the team’ When I first started. It’s been a steep learning curve but I’ve had a lot of great support. Everyone has done everything they can to make it an enjoyable experience.”
Alina, who starts her third Carleton year (remotely) in the fall, says she has wanted to work at GGFL since she was 15 or 16.
“Everyone I spoke to who has worked here said they loved it. The firm cares about their employees and cares about the community. I love that aspect.”
GGFL’s Human Resources Director Jaclyn Bier met Alina at a recruitment fair last fall long before the COVID-19 pandemic appeared.
“We really liked her and feel she has a lot of potential,” said Jaclyn. “When COVID hit we couldn’t onboard her in the usual way but we still wanted to make sure we could offer her a meaningful experience that was as close as possible to the normal process.
“We tried not to fix what wasn’t broken, ” added Jaclyn. “Our onboarding process works and is successful so we just needed to ensure that it could be done virtually. It required more thought to make sure we were coordinating everything but basically we wanted to keep it as normal as possible.”
GGFL provides all co-op students with a support team including Human Resources, their coach and a ‘buddy’ who all provide training and support including check-ins at the beginning and end of each day and are available throughout the work day to offer help and support.
It’s been a positive learning experience, added Jaclyn.
“We compete for the best talent,” she said, “and now we have seen how well remote onboarding can work, we can explore ways to expand our recruitment reach and look outside of Ottawa.”
For her part, Alina is looking forward to the day she can meet her colleagues when a return-to- office protocol is in place.
“I have exchanged e-mails with so many people but I couldn’t tell you who they are,” she said. ‘I’m looking forward to putting faces to a lot of names.”