How to make a success of the “Remote Start”: by a Recruiter who has seen it succeed and fail.
It’s October 2020,and just as we thought we were through the worst of it, infection rates of Covid-19 are creeping up again all across Europe. This can mean only one thing: the continuation of the “Remote Start”. If you are not already familiar with this phenomenon, here’s my explanation in short.
You’ve just started your new position at a new employer and are now grappling with the challenges of familiarising yourself with new faces, adapting to a new way of working and acclimatising to new surroundings. After awkwardly introducing yourself to colleagues on a zoom call, apologising for the inevitable interruptions caused by inquisitive pets and children, all the while looking extremely pixelated, you begin the remote onboarding process.
It’s fair to say that in my experience the outcomes of such processes during the past 6 months have been varied. For some firms and individuals, the so-called “new normal” very much correlates to standard hiring practices. Since I recruit IT professionals in Germany, many of our customers are IT consultancies. As long as the Consultant is able to travel and work directly with clients for parts of the week, the location of their employees is unimportant for these firms. In fact, a relatively new colleague of mine, whose move from Germany to the UK was delayed by Coronavirus. She found herself settling into a new team of London-based Consultants remotely. During this time, she was faced with the challenge of interviewing Candidates, and agreeing terms of business with new customers all the while working from the kitchen of her flat in Stuttgart. In this instance, the remote start worked well and the colleague in question is now a much-loved member of the team, having successfully moved to London. On the other hand, I have found myself speaking with several Candidates who have ended up leaving during the first few months. In these cases, the remote onboarding has often been named as the primary reason for their departure. One such example was a Candidate who felt isolated and forgotten about, and was therefore unable to communicate the inevitable teething problems associated with starting a new job with his Manager. In light of this, I have compiled a list of three pointers both Employers and New Starters can consider to ensure a positive remote onboarding experience.
Tips for new starters during remote onboarding
1. Don’t be a stranger
It may seem obvious, but the number one complaint I have heard from new hires about the remote start was a lack of integration with new colleagues. If you are in a similar position, reach out to your new co-workers by giving them a call on Microsoft Teams to introduce yourself. You may find that you and your colleagues have a lot in common.
2. Ensure that you have the best possible work environment
Remote working has presented all of us with many unprecedented challenges during the past 6 months. In my experience, the greatest challenge by far has been maintaining productivity and professionalism at similar levels to those in the workplace. My advice to anyone working from home, either as new starter or long-serving employee, would be to try to separate your professional life from your personal life at home. That means, if you can, do your work in a separate room from the areas which you relax in and separate yourself entirely from the people you share the property with. This is of course in many cases impossible, particularly for younger people living in smaller properties. If this is the case, set ground rules with your cohabitants to make sure they don’t disturb you or make a bad impression on your new employer by making too much noise.
3. Get yourself into a routine
One further issue of remote working is the lack of a structured working day, which leads to a lack of motivation and eventually poor productivity. This is particularly common for those starting a new job from home, since everything is so new and there are a lot of elements, such as IT systems, working practices and Company policies to get used to. To combat this, I would recommend that you live your life as if you are still commuting into a physical workplace. That means getting up earlier and using the time saved through not commuting to do something productive, such as reading through notes or planning your day. The absolute worst thing that you can do is to roll out of bed at the last minute and boot up your computer to start work – this will leave you feeling drained, unmotivated and completely unprepared for the day’s work.
Tips for employers onboarding new starters remotely
1. Stay in touch
This one is aimed at all you Managers and Team Leaders out there. You should be speaking over video call with your new Team Member multiple times per day for the first few weeks of employment. Think about it. When you start in a new job, a lot of what you learn is done through osmosis by observing and listening to the work that your team members are doing. Since that is impossible with a remote start, a constant stream of contact with a Manager is going to be essential.
2. Kit is king
As lockdowns were announced across Europe in March, many office workers found themselves having to adapt to new working conditions, for better or for worse. A friend of mine from University recalls using an ironing board as a desk and developing chronic lumbar pain as a result of sitting for 9 hours in an inadequate chair. Employers need to make sure that employees, both new and existing, have the best possible set up at home to make sure they will feel comfortable and therefore be able to focus on the job at hand. Therefore, if your new hire has concerns about their WFH set up, think about what you can do as a business to support this, such as providing a laptop that works well along with necessary office equipment. Such an investment will not only make a good first impression on your new hire, it will also ensure that they will get up to speed as quick as possible and boost productivity rates.
3. Save the date
By organising virtual gatherings after hours with staff, you can make your new hire feel a greater sense of belonging in your organisation. Granted, this will never live up to a trip to the pub on a Friday evening, and the conversation will be laboured at first, but with the help of a well-planned quiz and perhaps a few beverages (if one is so inclined) the evening will leave your new acquisition feeling much more at ease and familiar with their new co-workers.
Whether we like it or not, remote onboarding is here to stay, and it is the job of employers to make sure that attrition rates do not fluctuate during this difficult period.
What are your thoughts? My colleagues and I at Cloud International would love to hear what you have to say on the matter. Whether you are a newly hired employee who has gone through a similar experience or the manager of a team who is hiring remotely, feel free to get in touch to share your wisdom via the contact details below.