Every year, remote work becomes more popular and commonplace across the globe. It's the path we chose at Zapier back in 2011. Seven years later, we're still a completely remote company with 135+ teammates over 15 different countries—from Austin, Texas to Zagreb, Croatia and everywhere in between.
As a remote team, we have to be intentional when it comes to collaborating and communicating. In fact, one of our core values is to "default to transparency." That means we aim to work in public and share context, goals, objectives, and our works-in-progress to keep us all on the same page. After all, we can't just stop by a co-worker's desk to check on a project's progress.
Now, we haven't conquered time travel, teleportation, or wormholes (which would be helpful when you have teams spread out across the world) but with over 1,000 partners, we have access to the best tools for a job and can connect the dots through automation. And across multiple teams at Zapier, we found a common thread: Trello.
Here are some of the ways we use Trello to source, hire and onboard new employees—including a peek behind the curtain at the automations that help us work toward a common goal and get our work done productively as a remote team.
As an added bonus, we'll share the workflows we use every day, so you can steal them for your own teams.
What Exactly Is A Zapier?
Zapier connects the apps you use every day and automates repetitive tasks. For example, say you get a lot of attachments in your Gmail account and want to save them to Dropbox. Zapier can save those attachments to Dropbox instantly—every time a new email with an attachment hits your inbox.
At Zapier, words like "trigger," "action," and "Zap" describe parts of an automated workflow:
- The trigger is what starts a workflow: In the above example, the trigger would be when an email with an attachment hits your inbox.
- An action is what Zapier does in a second app: Saving the attachment in Dropbox.
- A Zap is what we call the entirety of a workflow, including the trigger and all the actions.
These automation tools are one part of how Zapier balances remote work with productivity and project management. The next ingredient is some creative teamwork.
How We Coordinate The Hiring Process With Trello
As a company, Zapier is in a constant state of growth. We’re both constantly adding jobs and receiving a growing number of applications, thanks to the increasing popularity of remote work. It’s not uncommon for us to have at least 10 open roles with hundreds of submissions lined up per role.
Spread across the United States, our Operations (or 'Ops') team has built creative workflows to stay up-to-date with each other, coordinate with hiring managers, and keep applicants updated every 7 days.
By sourcing applicants worldwide, it’s also likely that the Ops team, hiring manager, and applicant are working from vastly different time zones. To help combat the complexity of asynchronous communication, the Ops team uses private Slack channels to communicate with the hiring manager and even the applicant, too.
Boosted by Zapier's automation, emails from the applicant and important Slack messages become Trello cards for each new interview. Here’s how the Ops team moves thousands of applicants through the hiring pipeline without missing a beat:
Since the Ops team can't use a bulletin board or whiteboard in a physical space, this Trello board is the hiring hub. The first list collects everything from emails to messages from Slack and information from our applicant management system, Workable. Bonnie Walton, Talent Specialist on the Ops team, curates the emails and messages by starring them and sending them to the board. Starring a message in Gmail, Slack, and Workable is like pinning a note to a bulletin board for the Ops team—it brings it out into the open and to the attention of everyone on the team.
Once the starred messages become cards in Trello, Bonnie can sort them for each interview, depending on where the applicant is at in the hiring process:
"Over Slack, a hiring manager requests an interview with a candidate. I star it and then it goes to my Sort List in Trello. Then I move it to the Schedule List and set a date for an interview. Once everything is set up with the candidate, I move the Card over to the Watch List and change the due date to be the day of the interview."
As the interview approaches, Bonnie updates the card with any changes to the time or date that might pop up. After the interview, the card is moved into one last list. If the card hasn't been moved to a different list, another Zap automatically archives it.
But what about that seven-day response commitment? How does the Ops team know who to follow up with and when? To that end, Bonnie uses another Zap with Trello. Every Monday morning, Zapier searches for any cards in her Active list and sends her a reminder in Slack to follow up with the associated applicants.
With just a handful of Zaps and Trello, Bonnie and the Ops team have created a way to manage a landslide of applicants—and made it easy for new team members to learn how it works, too.
"As our team grows, I think having this system in Trello will really help other team members to be able to jump in and help when needed," Bonnie says.
How We Train Employees
Remote training offers a lot of unique challenges. Namely, you aren't in the same room as your trainee, let alone the same country in some cases! But nevertheless new employees need to be trained, despite thousands of miles separating them and their trainer.
Two of Zapier's teams built training sessions within Trello, using cards for individuals, checklists for "homework," and lists for status:
Everyone at Zapier, regardless of role, puts in 4 hours every week on the Support team. We call it All-Hands Support (AHS). Jumping in the support queue helps the marketing team see how campaigns and emails resonate, while our designers see where customers get stuck and what could be improved. This kind of cross-team empathy helps build understanding across our company, despite not being located in the same place. Since not everyone has a background in support, new hires go through a several month training program to learn how to effectively answer tickets.
With new hires joining Zapier every week from anywhere on earth, the Support team had to build a scalable, asynchronous training plan and schedule that could be worked on at any time by the trainee. When a new employee joins Zapier, a webhook catches the new teammate and enrolls them in All-Hands Support training in Trello.
A new card for the teammate is created on a Trello list and a Zap automatically adds a checklist full of homework. This homework can be reading a support document about our tone and voice, or setting up a Zap and noting any trouble you run into.
As the trainee works through the checklist and completes assignments, they're moved to different Trello lists, which triggers new checklists and messages. All of this happens automatically as cards move through different lists.
The trainers, like Ryan LaBarge, Customer Champion on the Support team, also run reports from the Trello board:
"Once a month, I have a Zap look at the status of all the students in their multi-week session and report on their progress. It also looks at any cards in the 'Finished' list, and sends the report into our training channel in Slack."
With the report in Slack, the training team can collect all their information for that month and share it with the company. Plus, it's nice to check up on trainees and know where they are. Says Ryan:
"Thanks to Trello, I have a clear view of where everyone is at a glance and an easy-to-follow workflow to instruct trainers on how to keep the process moving."
Internal Training Sessions—Complete With Gif Parties!
Working with a similar setup is Chris VanderKolk, App Improvement Engineer on the Platform team. Chris created Zapier's "Dev App School," a training program that teaches Zapier teammates how to build apps on Zapier.
Like Support, Chris uses Trello's lists to track every individual's progress in the program. As a card moves to a new list, a Zap adds new checklists for the student to work through.
Armed with the one-two punch of Trello and Zapier's Power-Up, Chris built out his many automated workflows without having to leave Trello. Whether connecting Trello to Slack or even Trello to Trello, Chris built the Dev App School with intention inside the Power-Up.
"We're essentially using Trello as a mini-lesson app here, to break up the process into bite-size increments," Chris explains. "We also use various Trello triggers on Zapier to celebrate students' progress, from when they join to when they finish—they get a little gif party."
Gif parties aren't the only way we automate celebrations in Slack, either. Behind the scenes our help center, Help Scout, keeps track of how many customers each of us helps and posts a message whenever we hit a milestone. And while we use Slack, your team could just as easily replicate these in other chat apps like Stride, too.
"Trello is so flexible, and when used with Zapier, it can do pretty much anything." - Chris VanderKolk, App Improvement Engineer, Zapier
Grow Smart, Together
Working remotely doesn't mean you sacrifice productivity for comfort; it means you can combine them. Whether you're 2 hours behind a teammate or 14 hours ahead of one, with flexible tools and a commitment to work in the open, you and your remote team can be even more efficient than one in an office.
The Zapier team together at last, at our winter retreat.
If you power your work with Trello and Zapier, not only are you giving yourself flexibility, but you're working smarter and setting a great example to help your growing team learn to be smarter too.