The ability to work remotely has enabled companies to maintain a degree of ‘business as usual’, such as hiring new talent, despite a dispersal of colleagues due to homeworking.
Back in October, financial services group True Potential said it had welcomed 58 new starters to the business since the start of lockdown, with many hires being made remotely.
And as we await a wider return to the office, it is not unusual to see a job advert with the words ‘initially remote working’. But starting a new job can be challenging, let alone during a pandemic.
Overcoming challenges for new starters
A report published in May by the Chartered Management Institute and Learning and Work Institute found the most common challenges faced by employees who changed roles over the past year included having to develop new skills (34 per cent), learning new processes and procedures (31 per cent) and getting to know their manager (29 per cent).
Esther Canonico, a LSE fellow in the department of management, notes that companies would not usually let new starters work from home for most of the time straightaway.
Canonico says: “It would be more like after a few months if you don’t have performance issues, then you can work from home. Making sure that the employee understands the work that needs to be done, and then also obviously for the employee to absorb and get an understanding of how the company works and the culture.”
Niamh Mulholland, executive director of external affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, highlights the importance of communicating and setting clear expectations about task completion and time management with staff joining remotely.
And just as communications may be tailored to clients’ individual preferences, so too should communication between staff.
With a multitude of ways to keep connected with colleagues while working remotely – whether it be email, instant chat, a video or phone call – Mulholland recommends a flexible approach.
She suggests: “Don’t rely on one method of communication for all team members. Instead, tailor your approach to different team members. Check that your communication style and frequency meets the needs of your direct reports.”
Updating pre-lockdown processes for new starters
The longevity of remote working during the pandemic has also highlighted a need to adapt the onboarding process beyond moving pre-lockdown procedures online.
Louise Hadland, interim chief operating officer at law firm Shoosmiths, says: “Our HR team follows up with new starters after six weeks to ensure the individual is settling.
“This is not a new process, but as with the whole onboarding process it has been redesigned to incorporate and target issues specific to remote working and to share best practice with individuals on how to overcome any perceived barriers.”
At law firm Hogan Lovells – where many trainees have not yet had the chance to work in the office – virtual drop-ins were introduced in March last year for trainees to ask work queries or chat.