While it may seem like a non-issue, your pandemic employees may feel disconnected and confused.
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Among the various concerns facing technology leaders, recent hires from the era of pandemic-induced remote work may not be high on their lists. After all, these employees are probably people with whom other employees do not have a strong relationship. They may have even continued to work remotely since they were hired and have never entered a physical office or met their colleagues in person.
While this segment of your workforce appears to be happily and quietly performing their duties, it also probably feels most disconnected from you as a leader, their teammates, and the organization in general. Even HR (human resources) executives report having no idea how new hires were adapting to their organization, 10% said they weren’t sure how new hires were adapting, and 31% reported that pandemic employees struggled to connect with their colleagues.
Obviously, we don’t need studies and surveys to understand that nearly 50% of new hires who struggle to adjust to their new homes are not conducive to success, especially in a challenging job market.
The Lost Orientation
One of the main reasons for this disjointed feeling from your pandemic employees is the lack of formal orientation towards your team. If you were like most companies pre-pandemic, you welcomed new employees into an office, had them complete some HR formalities and then introduced them to the team and maybe you took them to lunch or a formalized personal training program.
To see: Does hybrid work work? (TechRepublic)
Like many jobs disrupted by the pandemic, new hires recruited amid lockdowns and remote working were forced to improvise their onboarding to varying degrees. For many new hires, especially in the early days of remote working, a box containing a laptop appeared and an hour or two of video conferences with their boss were all they had to establish a connection with their new employer before they were told they are working.
These employees probably understand the technical nuances of their job and your organization. They probably do a good job; they know how to submit proper documentation and perform administrative tasks. However, they probably don’t understand the cultural nuances of the company or, worse, don’t feel a connection and vested interest in the team and the company, much more than seeing it as a source of compensation.
Many companies have recognized this phenomenon, and their typical response is to guide these employees through recently reactivated personal orientation programs for new hires. That’s a logical approach. However, it is also very frustrating for these new employees. Not only will they spend a fair amount of time learning about all the administrative tasks they already know, but they will also network and connect with some new hires instead of connecting with the people they’ve already worked with.
It may seem challenging to create a one-time orientation program specifically for this group. Assuming the world is past the worst of the pandemic, it’s a program with a limited lifespan. However, a reorientation program does not have to be hugely complex and will have an inordinate impact on attracting and retaining your employees during the most challenging days of the pandemic.
What should you include in your reorientation?
In addition to a strong focus on personal networking with the teams your employees have worked with virtually, you will spend time discussing the strategy of your team or group and the wider organization. These discussions are often lost in the virtual work environment, where the focus is on getting things done.
As a leader, share your vision for the future and how your team will help bring that vision to life. You might even consider refocusing ahead of your regular strategic planning session. This allows you to think about your strategy early and involve this group, but you can also ask for their input. Getting feedback from people who know the day-to-day running of your organization, but who still bring new perspectives and knowledge, can be very valuable.
Finally, create some moments that establish interpersonal connections. The obvious activities like team lunches and outings should be supplemented with things like visiting a job site or production facility. You can also share personal stories with activities like sharing a treasure or a photo of something you appreciate. While this requires a bit of vulnerability, it also puts a very human story behind the faces that for many of your new hires were little more than avatars on a screen.
While your pandemic-era employees may be productive and seemingly happy, taking the time to refocus them and connect them to your team and the wider organization will do wonders for long-term retention and connection.