Behind the scenes: Hotel Search Onboarding
Every newbie knows that the first weeks in trivago consist almost entirely of onboarding sessions, training, and workshops with two main different focuses: the first one on the trivago essentials (e.g. company culture, organizational structure that are presented in the so-called CheckIn week), and the second one on more specific knowledge about the department and the team.
However, in 2017, the organizational structure of trivago has changed, to include “Pillars”, 4 main areas (Marketing, Advertiser Relations, Hotel Search and Market Place) that aggregate different departments according to their business purpose. These pillars consist of multiple functions (e.g. Product, Design, Tech) that need to work together efficiently. The trivago Check-in week gives an overview of the pillars’ and their purpose, but the Hotel Search team dive even deeper after CheckIn week.
We met Lucia Vlkovicova, Coordinator for the Hotel Search pillar and responsible for the Hotel Search Onboarding, to find out more about it.
Life at trivago: Hi Lucia, thanks for meeting us! We’ve heard a lot about the Hotel Search Onboarding, would you like to tell us a bit more about it?
Lucia Vlkovicova: Sure! In Hotel Search (HS), we realized that there was one level of learning we wanted to shine more light on – the pillar level. All trivago newcomers go through the CheckIn week, and then through their department’s onboarding processes which have very varied contents. Hotel Search is the pillar responsible to match the users to their ideal hotel and it consists of 8 main functions!
With the HS Onboarding, we want to make sure every HS newcomer gains the relevant knowledge and skills to integrate into the pillar as fast and smoothly as possible.
Lat: Ok, with this level of complexity it is no surprise that an extra level of onboarding was needed! Can you describe how is the plan exactly?
LV: As in every onboarding, there is a part of individual learning focused on a list of reading resources, tools and communication channels, and the rest consists of workshops. We have now 13 short workshops (30-90 minutes each) spread over a course of 1 month.
The 13 workshops consist of: 2 general workshops about the pillar, its structure, strategy, how we work, and operational details; 8 departmental workshops to learn about every HS function, what they do, their structure, stakeholders, strategy, and how to reach them (e.g. Product, Engineering, Design, QA); and 3 specialized workshops to gain very specific knowledge into our tech tools and metrics.
Lat: Wow, that’s a quite high number of workshops! Can you give us more details on the goal of this precise format?
LV: Yes, it’s definitely a high number but there’s also a good reason behind this approach.
The goal of this pillar onboarding is to meet your pillar mates and stakeholders from the different functions, to find out what they work on, and to apply these learnings to practice.
Workshops bring people together and give the opportunity to ask questions and foster ideas. With around 400 people in the pillar, I think it’s vital to recognize faces and remember the names of people that work with you. Personally, if I had the chance to meet someone in a workshop and talk with them, I would feel less shy to contact this person for a project.
It’s also very important to gain a holistic understanding of the pillar and its functions, as opposed to being focused on your function alone.
Lat: Sounds definitely a well-thought plan. How did you come up with that?
LV: To be honest, it was a quite natural result of last year’s work. When I started in trivago, my first project was developing the Product function’s onboarding. After we became one pillar, I noticed that many people were still very focused on their function, instead of looking at the pillar holistically. The number of stakeholders for the Product function was increasing, and there was the need for these stakeholders to get to know what the area was actually doing and why, especially because many were confused about the difference between the Product function and the Hotel Search pillar.
That gave me the chance to fully realize that some functions and teams tend to be very focused on what they’re doing, which is great and a part of the role, but it also means that they might not have the chance to understand and interact with other functions within the pillar. This is risky because it might lead to possible confusions and misunderstandings. Learning about what others do brings more clarity and also strengthens the pillar spirit.
Then, in autumn, leads of a few HS Tech teams reached out to me with the idea of creating a level of learning between the trivago CheckIn and the team onboardings. We formed a task force and together developed the basic concept for the current format. Fast forward a few months, the first cycle of the HS Onboarding was open for signing up.
Lat: That’s really fascinating! And how is the onboarding going so far?
LV: Actually, I’m quite happy and proud, because the feedback has been extremely positive so far! After each session, a survey is sent to the people who attended the workshop, and the average for overall satisfaction is 4/5.
Also, people perceive to have learned quite a lot. We ask the participants to rate how much they knew about the topic before the workshop and how much they think they know after attending, and the averages are 2/5 and 4/5 respectively. Last but not least, 90% of the people are happy with the current format and will recommend it. There has also been quite some demand for the workshops in these first months.
Lat: Great! Would you continue exactly as it is or is there anything that has room for improvements?
LV: There is always room for improvement. We have received some suggestions about the structure of the presentations, and these feedback were immediately communicated to the presenters for updates.
One thing that has come up a lot is to include examples of real cross-department projects and how they have been tackled, to give more context on how the different functions collaborate. We’re currently working on this, as is a valuable feedback, showing that people are interested in learning to work with others better. This means that the goal of the workshop is being fulfilled.
Of course, it’s quite early to really judge the project, we have had only two iterations so far, and other two are already planned. We’re going to adjust slightly every time and then do a proper retrospective around July. The plan is to keep on offering these workshops for as long as there is demand.
Lat: What do you think has been the main success so far?
LV: In addition to the great feedback so far, I’m happy to see that it has brought the Content function closer to the rest of HS. Majority of the people attending the workshops were from Content. There were also some requests for deep-dive sessions, for example, the User Support team asked for an extra session from Product to learn more about certain topics.
It’s also great to see that people from the whole company are interested in these workshops. The HS Onboarding was born to help HS newcomers, but it is open to everyone who wants to learn more about HS, regardless of how long they have been in trivago. People from other pillars attended many of these workshops too, and similar onboarding initiatives are being planned for their own pillars!
I hope that this approach will spread in order to share pillar-specific knowledge more and more.
Lat: Well, thank you so much for the insights and your work on Hotel Search onboarding!