Joining a new company at any point in your career can be a big transition and for those of us who are not used to being remote workers, it is natural that there will be challenges.
I always knew starting my new role would be different but I didn’t expect how much of a challenge immediate remote working could be.
The first thing I noticed was navigating new systems and the intranet and not having the luxury of tapping your neighbour on the shoulder and asking for some pointers. Whilst everyone is helpful and friendly over video calls, it soon became apparent that you can’t simply learn by osmosis. Things such as overheard conversations or group chats where you get context and a deeper understanding of a company are no longer so readily available in a virtual setting. It is therefore essential to adapt a style in which you can ask the right questions to get the right responses.
Learning new processes and ways of working take time in any new company but when you start working remotely from the get-go, you almost over think everything you do as you don’t have the certainty or the immediate group support. Whilst my new colleagues were always on hand for an IM or an impromptu call – in a virtual setting it can sometimes feel as though you are adding more to your colleagues already sizable workloads.
Relationship building also didn’t come as quickly as expected, I think when you are meeting in person you can build a connection quicker. When it is virtual it seems to be a 2D relationship for the longest time, you get there but I underestimated just how much longer it would take – it is important to not be too hard on yourself!
The importance of company culture and the challenges joining remotely:
At the heart of why a company's culture is important, is that it not only allows you to attract the best talent, but it also allows you to retain the best talent as well.
In making this a top priority you are acknowledging that the people in your workplace are one of your best assets and you care about them. This has an effect on the way in which people work and they behave; instinctively invoking people to live up to this renowned workplace culture making them more efficient and productive because they work for an organisation that cares. Every single person contributes to a companies’ culture making it inclusive and the better it is the more flexible it is, allowing for necessary transformational growth.
There are certain things in a company culture that can’t be articulated in a virtual setting. You feel it and experience it and you know it once you are physically in. When starting remotely it can be hard to get a grasp of what the culture is. Virtual meetings and calls can sometimes feel stilted, especially if you have a sometime dodgy internet connection like me! And conversation in groups can be a battle. That is not say you can’t get valuable insight from individuals, it just takes longer to understand the DNA of your new place of work and I personally feel some of it won’t be revealed until I enter the office.
Initiatives I implemented to embed myself into my companies’ culture:
To help me to try and understand the culture of my new company I did the following:
1. Put in social time with some of my new colleagues, a coffee chat for 30 mins for once a week to talk about anything and everything, to get to know each other but hear and swap stories and ideas. I would call it ‘time to spill the tea’ but that might be unprofessional for a HR professional 😊
2. Put in more meetings with my stakeholders than probably needed, but this so I could have regular touch points and build a regular cadence, you get a lot of information from business conversations but it also helps you build vital relationships.
3. Involved myself in employee networks to meet other people outside of my business area and get involved with company incentives and groups. I joined groups that were of interest to me where I met people with common interests: Wellbeing and Women in Tech. If your company has similar groups I would highly recommend joining.
What I would have done differently in hindsight
For me, I wish I would have understood or identified the challenges earlier, if only to mentally prepare myself to jump into the extreme unfamiliar. In HR I am used to having face to face interactions and for that to be removed hit me harder than I would have thought. I would have also asked different questions in my intros with my team and business areas, maybe more pointed questions, but you also don’t know, what you don’t know.
How to ensure you are pushing forth the right company culture to future hires joining virtually
I am currently sharing my experience with managers and the wider HR team so they can prepare for a virtual onboarding of a team member. I am encouraging them not to bypass the small stuff that they may take for granted, like where to get your signature or a master powerpoint deck. I am also encouraging them to promote the employee networks so new joiners are informed and can feel free to join them if they are interested. We are conducting awesome (in my opinion) induction sessions and the opportunity for our new starters to be set up with a buddy, to show them the ropes and help them navigate the virtual new world of a new company.
No one could have foreseen last year and something to take comfort in, was that everyone had to adapt to this new way of work at the same time. Joining a company virtually whilst daunting is refreshingly doable; it takes time to get an understanding of who a company and their culture embodies. Putting processes in places to get a deeper understanding of both the company and the people is essential to your long term success at your new organisation. As I mentioned at the start, it is important to not be too hard on yourself; learning how to embed yourself is a new experience for a lot of us and it will soon be a new skill also.
Connect with Lauren McNulty on LinkedIn here