The next part/week of the Leading Virtual Teams course landed and is all about how we work and how we onboard new colleagues into this sometimes strange and often hectic world of remote teams and remote working arrangements.
For ease of finding my posts, the below list will be updated with links as I write a supporting post of my own reflections:
- Part 1: Orientation and a brief introduction to Leading Virtual Teams
- Part 2: How we work and onboard new colleagues
- Part 3: Setting shared expectations
- Part 4: Fostering a shared team culture
- Part 5: Leading team activities
- Part 6: Course reflection: setting intentions for your practice
Part 2: How we work and onboard new colleagues
Disclaimer: I’m not normally a user or listener of podcasts, but this course has me one. Thank you, Maren.
The first part of the course covered aspects of leading a virtual team, but also the recruitment to that team. This is where we start, so it’s worth revisiting part 1 and the links I shared for some of my previous posts.
An aspect of recruitment and working arrangements that isn’t really covered in the course, and is often overlooked in published material I’ve read on it over the past few years is that the recruiter or interviewer doesn’t always have the freedom to adjust or alter the conditions of the interview, the working arrangements, or indeed how new colleagues are onboarded.
Having conducted over a hundred interviews during the first three years of the pandemic to the Content Team, I speak from experience. Within Coventry University, where I was at this time, I had to follow policy and processes set out by central HR, this covers the paperwork in setting up the interview, paperwork to demonstrate that each interview is run the same way and parity and transparency is followed across all interviews, equal opportunities are given to each applicant and interviewee, offers are made in accordance to the HR and business, and that onboarding is also an experience each successful candidate enjoys.
During this time the team may have been working remotely, five days a week, and this is what we were interviewing and bringing candidates into, but this was not the contract and was not going to necessarily how each person’s working arrangements would be going forward. Therefore, the answer to every question about this was always the same, we are currently remote, we will likely be asked back to the office, and this could be anything between zero to five days each week. At the time, we didn’t know. What we did know was that we had plans in place for each eventuality, that we lead the (virtual) team using the tools and skills we had, and that it was working. As it happens, and now that I’m no longer at Coventry, there is an arrangement for two days each week on campus, and each individual needs to plan their days carefully to make the most of being around colleagues and those they’re working on projects with, to maximise the in-person opportunities. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Recruiting to a fully remote role does indeed open the possible pool of candidates, widening the range of individuals who wanted the job and wanted to join our team. To that, lockdown was really good news (if I can say that). However, to each applicant who was not local, we had to make it clear that there will/may come a time when they are expected on campus for one or two possible days each week. Having that open and honest transaction at an early stage of application and interview meant the candidate had the information to make a decision to continue or withdraw.
The point to make here is that, by following the process and policy of the wider organisation, I had no room to budge in recruitment and working arrangements I could offer. We turned away good applicants because they were not local or able to commit to working in Coventry. If we were asked about it, we were upfront and honest about what might happen, and they made the best decision for them. And that’s the perfect way of doing it. We had the tools and experience to handle a fully remote team, but we followed guidance and instruction from the organisation’s HR department.
Listening to the podcast makes me quite jealous of those who do have more influence in areas of recruitment and onboarding, but even here you need some general principles and guidance for what you will offer over what you can.
Much of my reflection on recruitment and onboarding is above, so I won’t cover that again, but I can say that we used our experiences in recruitment to really hone what we did, how we did it, and how successful it was. We had a plan and we stuck to it.
I know onboarding a new member to the team is important and I’ve put in the effort, with my peers, to make sure it’s as best we can make it. We’ve worked with colleagues in and out of our team, booked introductory meetings with key individuals and teams, and worked out a staged awareness of the wider business, teams, systems, etc. it’s not easy, but if you put the hard work in when you start this it can pay dividends each time you need to reuse it.
Onboarding to a remote team? Well, this is really different and needs a whole new level of effort, coordination, and planning. If you have a good system for in-person onboarding, then this is a really good place to start for the online version. You just need to make the extra effort to have meetings booked in advance, team calendars updated, additions to the various team or business emails, etc. It can be done, and is so worth it – just ask the last person you onboarded and see what they say!
The onboarding is also about how you work, what you expect of them and what they can expect of you. It’s a two-way process – they need information from you to know what needs doing and how, and you need to know about them and how you can best help them.
Image source: David Hopkins / Twitter