The personal touch is essential to help your new starters feel at home
Straight-talking, common sense from the front line of management
QAs one of the firms fortunate enough to be hiring instead of cutting jobs, we’ve got two new starters joining us in a few weeks’ time. The only issue is that we’re still all working from home. How do we effectively welcome them on board?
AYou have raised a big problem that is about to be particularly pertinent. The development and management of remote teams that are working from home will be a hot topic over the next few years. There will be no shortage of webinars and HR consultancies keen to provide a tailor-made solution.
But the experts will only tell you what you already know: when you manage colleagues who work from home, there’s no substitute for face-to-face contact. To be an effective line manager, it’s important to get to know your new colleagues really well during their first few weeks. You might not have an office but I’m sure you can find a venue where the two new starters can be given their induction training.
You might have to introduce them to other members of the team via Zoom but, as their boss, you need to establish a bond of mutual trust and respect which can only be done by spending time together.
The world of work is going through a massive change. A few days ago, I met a call centre team who throughout the pandemic have all been taking calls at home. I discovered that most no longer want to be based in their office and perhaps as many as 80pc will prefer to work from home permanently.
Some of the social distancing police are stretching guidelines to the limit and putting a high percentage of our office space out of bounds.
Covid-compliant office layouts can shut down more than 75pc of the working stations, create a sombre atmosphere and force the majority of colleagues to work from home.
If these new layouts become a permanent fixture, they will threaten the long-term viability of most office buildings and decrease the value of a significant slice of the commercial property market. The pandemic is causing many more major changes than we originally anticipated. The overwhelming vote in favour of home working is based on some major personal benefits: no commuting, more family contact and a better work-life balance.
But it isn’t as easy for a supervisor to manage a distant team. There are times when workers need the moral support of their colleagues – something that can’t be delivered through a virtual channel.
A boss can find it difficult to be a proper boss if the only contact is online or is restricted to telephone conversations. As one explained to me: “Whenever a team member needs help, it’s my job to put an arm around their shoulder. You can’t give a reassuring hug on Zoom.”
With working from home becoming the new normal, companies are now developing a support network that provides regular personal contact, keeps the company culture and recognises the importance of an individual being part of a team.
Team meetings, social events, joint training sessions and special award presentations will all play an important part in helping colleagues to feel part of a vibrant community.
Some of these activities, such as the weekly newsletter and monthly quiz, can take place online but personal contact will have a vital part to play in turning this new type of virtual business into a human experience. Digital technology has enabled us to develop a new way of working but the most important ingredient of success will still be the colleagues. Whether they are working at home or in the office, staff need the support of a people-focused boss who clears obstacles out of the way and helps them to solve both their business and personal problems. Lots of organisations have discovered that home working works well but it will work even better when colleagues have a strong attachment to the company for whom they work.
Help your new starters build that attachment through plenty of personal face-to-face contact.
With the trend towards home working accelerating, firms must reach out to new starters