Transforming and Expanding the Onboarding Experience Through Microsoft Teams

by Nyall Halstead, Director, IT Operations, Rackspace Technology

The Microsoft Teams logo on the middle of a laptop screen


Onboarding new employees is rife with challenges — from educating new team members, to prioritizing credentialing and support requests, to ensuring security during the entire process. A bad onboarding experience can create a negative first impression for the new team members that ripples throughout the organization. On the other hand, a great onboarding experience can ensure a smooth transition and that no one misses a beat. 

In January 2022, Rackspace Technology® faced the challenge of onboarding 90 new employees from two territories when we acquired Just Analytics, a leading provider of cloud-based data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) services. Just before the acquisition, we had transitioned over 7,000 employees from Slack to Microsoft® Teams for internal employee communication — which reduced emails between employees significantly and saved over $900,000 in Slack licensing fees. Through the process, we became familiar with Teams' robust native capabilities.

This gave us an excellent opportunity to wear our innovation hats and proactively leverage Teams' native functionality to address our onboarding challenges and needs. The result was the creation of a new on-demand onboarding process that was faster, more efficient, more secure and delivered a much more satisfying experience for our new employees and internal teams than traditional onboarding methods.

For context, previously, we were onboarding employees from mergers and acquisitions via Zoom, which was hard to manage when the number of people rose to the hundreds, and we didn’t have the staff to manage the queues. Moving to Teams meant we could give everyone the information they needed in a more streamlined way rather than through a virtual meeting with various breakout rooms.

“What was also really cool here is that this is a service that scales with any amount of people, be that 90 or a thousand,” said Juan Riojas, Chief Information Officer at Rackspace Technology. “It means we can scale the process up without adding headcount or changing how the teams shift work to match demand.”

In fact, our Just Analytics onboarding venture was the best onboarding experience we've ever executed. The feedback was so good that new employees talked about it months later. As a result, it's become our standard for onboarding new workers and opened the door to more innovations with Microsoft 365.


Transforming Through Innovation

When faced with an innovation opportunity, your first step is to ask a series of questions, such as how can we improve the experience, how can we make it easier for people and how can we make it more secure and compliant?

After conducting an in-depth review of Teams' capabilities and matching them with our onboarding needs, we developed a single onboarding channel from which we could deliver a wide range of onboarding support. The features of the channel included custom how-to templates, automated credentialling, tagged groups and a support bot.


Custom How-to Templates

One of the capabilities we wanted in our new onboarding application was the ability to provide essential information to incoming new team members before their first day of work. So, we built six custom-made how-to templates to promote self-service, such as directions on getting credentials and passwords, connecting with the internal support teams and working with human resources. This helped jumpstart the educational process and ensured they weren't left wondering how to take basic steps on their first days and weeks with the company.

Our next step was to automate our informational templates, so that they are pre-populated with essential information. This means we can create new information documents on the fly without needing to build them from scratch. They always have the most up-to-date information, such as contact names and numbers. That saves time and removes a barrier to sharing essential information.


Automated Credentialling

We then securely automated SSO and password credentials via Teams through in-house PowerApps automation. We used to have someone manually execute the credentialling process for new engineers. Now, the process is fully automated on Teams. It's a fast, easy and compliance- and security-friendly process. The automated process has reduced our manual effort by 90%.


Tagged Groups

Teams made it easy to notify the people we needed to communicate with in a group structure because it has a really cool tagging feature. We could use tags to set up targeted support groups. New employees didn't have to search for the groups they needed to join or accidentally be left out of the loop. They were automatically included via the pre-tagged groups.

Similarly, members of our internal onboarding support team were provided with essential information, so they knew how to respond to information requests from the new workers. Again, this was essential to the program's success because a complaint we always get from HR is that there are too many calls for assistance when we onboard large groups of new employees at one time, such as during merger and acquisition events.

By tagging new workers into the right groups, they have access to supportive team members available at all times of the day to guide them through processes and answer their questions. This direct path is worth its weight in gold because it helped significantly lower support calls, which made the support center happy and provided a better experience for the new employees. For example, we had expected a contact rate during onboarding to be 13% — but it was actually only 4%. A huge win!


Expanding the Evolution

An enhancement to our Teams-based onboarding process included creating a user support bot called OneBot. The bot enabled the automation of 53% of our repetitive tasks, such as general questions and answers, user access questions, and incident creation and management. The results in the last 12 months included:

  • 8,400 total average posts in the #tesone channel
  • 1,983 posts not satisfied with OneBot support
  • 1,970 posts needing escalation or not listed by OneBot
  • 4,447 posts supported by OneBot

OneBot helped reduce the amount of human effort in mundane tasks with automated guest invitations, assignment of hardware assets and automated ServiceNow ticket creation from Teams Chat. What's more, it's forecasted to reach 80% in 2023.

Another improvement to the application will be new partnerships between Global Enterprise Security and End User Computing Organization teams to drive further compliance through the platform, for example:

  • Privileged identity management for GA accounts
  • Privileged access management 
  • SharePoint governance and architecture
  • Data loss protection
  • Device and policy management
  • Enhanced mobile device management


Solving Together™ Through Frictionless Innovation

Creating a new onboarding process in Teams completely transformed the onboarding process in big and small ways. For example, it has made it exceptionally easy for our hybrid workforce to access the information they need. The ease of cloud-based access to the information they need accentuated our new workers' ability to ramp up quickly and securely while getting the information they need — no matter where they work or which devices they use.

Another critical component is security. As we've just learned in our Cybersecurity Annual Research Report 2022, security is top of mind at all levels of today's organizations — including the C-suite. In fact, the majority (59%) said the risk of cybersecurity attacks is the top business concern in the C-suite.

One of the great things about Teams is that because it's a Microsoft® 365 application, it comes built-in with security and compliance. So, utilizing Teams means we can exchange all kinds of information with our new team members, even highly restricted content like credentials and passwords, knowing they'll be completely secure.

The level of security provided in Teams is bolstered by our own industry-leading security measures, which are way above the industry standard in many ways, such as anomaly detection. As a result, we filter out 99.999% of today's security risks.

This also dovetails with governance. To prevent a scenario where everyone is an administrator, we worked directly with Microsoft governance experts and benchmarked our process against industry standards. Then we implemented privileged identity management across all our teams and gave each engineer role-based administrative credentials. Our new restricted permissions, which limit access to as little as 10 minutes per episode, significantly limit the risks of giving too many people open access.

With this innovative project, we have made onboarding completely frictionless. The pivot has been truly unprecedented. We foresee many other opportunities to partner with Microsoft and reengineer their platform to support both our business needs and our customers.

We took away many best practices from the experience, which will inform other innovations going into the future. It fits right in with our long-standing continuous improvement mission — and continuing to find new, innovative ways to better solve our customers' business challenges.

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