How to get new joiners off to the best possible start when working remotely.

As Autumn approaches, many firms will be set to welcome their new joiners.  Induction will vary from firm to firm – but typically some students would have spent their first weeks at college, some might have had some time in the office ‘shadowing’ more senior staff, welcome events arranged with the team, training partners would be assigned.

This year is going to be very different as most firms continue to work remotely.

Staff partners and managers will no doubt have paid attention to the relevant admin – contracts to be signed, course enrolments, handbook of firm policies and protocols and passwords, even issuing work at home IT kit.

Thought will have gone into some of the initial induction procedures with, no doubt, remote team meetings arranged.

But it’s certainly going to be a tough start to a professional career.  It’s impossible to underestimate how much is learnt ‘on the job’ from watching and listening to colleagues.  In particular this is often how the all-important softer skills are honed.

How to train the softer skills has always been a challenge for those managing new starters.  Core communication skills – listening well, telephone manner, writing effectively, email etiquette, time management, creating the right impression and so on.  For some these skills come naturally but not for all and it can be hard to land the right message by just telling someone what’s expected.  So often the new recruits just don’t know what they don’t know, they’ve yet to experience the professional world. Often informal coaching takes place in the office, where they can observe others, ask for help when needed and – yes – occasionally put a foot wrong and get appropriate feedback.

Without the opportunity of face to face contact it’s important that firms take steps to make sure that these areas are addressed.  Key areas to think about include:

Setting Objectives

It’s an oldie but a goodie – making sure objectives are SMART and clearly communicated.  Not just delivered but understood, acted upon and followed up.

Way of Working

What’s your firm’s culture?  How are things done?  Are people expected to pipe up with new ideas at team meetings or are they short, sharp briefings?  How often are people expected to communicate with each other?  What are the working hours – are people expected to put in a longer shift?  What’s the expectation about responding to emails?  Advice can be freely given and asked for in the office environment.

TIP: You might want to think about assigning a buddy or mentor a year or two above to help the new starter navigate the unknown.

Feedback

More check-ins and supervision might be necessary and clear and timely feedback will be more important than ever.  This can be difficult to deliver remotely – it can feel overly formal somehow – and there is a risk that it might be shied away from.  Affirmative feedback is as important – perhaps even more so than constructive.  If people don’t know what they’ve done right, as well as what they’ve done wrong, then it’s going to be harder for them to develop the right skills.

TIP: Don’t wait for appraisal meetings to give feedback.  Make a note of what went well, as well as what didn’t, and tell them – ideally straight away.  Something as simple as a thank you can go a long way but be clear about what it was you appreciated.

Maintaining energy and motivation 

New starters are often the ‘keen bean’. If you’re not motivated when you start a new job, then when will you be?  But the initial rush of energy and enthusiasm can fade.  New starters may not have any experience in managing work life balance.  Regular check-ins will be needed, and this is where a support from a buddy can really help.

Team working

Interestingly, often the whole team is energised by new blood.  In fact, research into team dynamics tell us that for a new team to perform at its best then it must go through development stages – forming, storming, norming and performing.  It’s important to recognise that as new people join, a new team dynamic will kick in.  A little storming might be expected, and is perhaps necessary, as people readjust and this needs to be looked out for and managed.

Communication, Communication, Communication 

The holy grail of people management.  Don’t forget we communicate in different ways – the words we say, the way we say (or write) them and our body language.  Our body language is the most powerful communication tool we have, and the impact can be lost when communicating remotely.  To make up for it we must try harder both to communicate more often and in a variety of ways.

TIP: Don’t just email or message – make sure you pick up the phone, be seen and encourage others to be seen at team meetings. Get those webcams switched on!

For new starters paying close attention to their all aspects of their introduction to the profession working world will be so important if you are to harness their full potential in the future.

Nicky Clough, August 2020

Nicky will be presenting “Developing the Modern Professional” on 1st October covering various important topics for junior staff. See insight-training.biz/1st-october-developing-the-modern-professional/ for further details.