As we continue our series in hearing new voices in L&D, I’m pleased to welcome Candice Mitchell to the blog. In this piece, really interrogates the new starter experience when you start a new role remotely. What’s the role of L&D during this important period?
I don’t edit or amend the pieces being written for me. I’m not an editor, and that’s not something that matters for the purposes of this series. Each piece is submitted in the author’s own writing style. I’m also not fact-checking, unless there’s something that needs to be fact-checked.
Having built up a lifelong career in developing talent, Candice is a self-professed learning nerd because nothing excites her more than supporting people throughout their careers and watching them thrive. She is particularly adept at standing up the L&D function from the ground up and building capabilities in the team so that L&D can deliver best-in-class solutions to our customers.
No person will be left behind
Imagine this. It’s your first day in your first role. You make your way to work. You walk from your bedroom, grab a cup of coffee, and walk through to your workspace. The butterflies, the excitement, the unknown, you have arrived. You open your shiny new laptop and dial in to your first meeting with your incredible manager.
During that meeting you discuss the basics, your manager tells you about the team and the projects you’ll start working on. You are eager to get started. In the weeks that follow, you attend a company induction, you meet your teammates and key stakeholders, and get access to the information you need.
You start working. Days go by and you don’t speak to people except for the transactional messages pinging in your work groups. Now what?
Many people, especially young people entering the job market, are feeling like strangers in their own teams. They feel forgotten and lost, and they are too afraid to ask for help because they’re supposed to know this stuff. That’s why they got hired right? This is not how its supposed to be so let’s dig deeper.
I felt like a stranger
One heartbreaking account was of a person starting in a new team and “willing the faces in the Zoom squares to become their friends.” But they didn’t. In fact, no one except the lead person got to speak. There were too many people in the meeting and the approach was information sharing rather than collaboration. We will lose our sense of belonging if we do not connect to our teammates. No one builds relationships over Slack. We know that people put more of themselves into a job if they feel like they are part of something, part of a team, part of the organization.
We will lose our company culture. New hires who start in remote roles do not get to live the culture. You and I know that interacting with people behind the screen is not the same as in person because most online meetings or chat groups are transactional.
Out of sight, out of mind
New hires don’t get to know their colleagues which resulted in 34% less peer recognition for them compared to in-office counterparts. People have reported being forgotten and therefore not being invited to important meetings. They are not part of vital conversations.
For more experienced professionals, Amy Sanchez said, “In all transparency, the work from home phenomena has had a higher negative impact on career progression because we don’t have the same ability to build relationships and management is not making a lot of changes to org structure (unless it’s to let people go) because there’s so much uncertainty about the future,”
I am supposed to know this
Most research points to people being more productive from home, but who are these people. If you dig a little deeper, it is those with more experience. They know the job, they know how to achieve results and so the time saved from commuting and the office distractions, all make for a ripe environment to be more productive.
But on the other side of this coin, you have the inexperienced youth. Most of what I have read and gathered through conversations, is that they are too afraid to ask for help. They believe they should know this. They got hired into a job and so they should be able to do that job. But they don’t, not yet. They don’t ask and so in some cases, weeks go by without them completing a task and without anyone helping because no one knows that this person doesn’t know what to do. It’s a vicious cycle. Where is the support, and how do we learn from each other?
To sum up the challenge, an article “remote work is failing young employees” reports that all (interviewees) were grateful to be employed, but many felt left behind, invisible and, in some cases, unsure about how to actually do their jobs. How do we actively support people coming into our organizations, so that they feel included, mesh into the culture, make friends, and become confident and capable at their jobs?
These are the 5 things we can do now:
Show them the way
Your policies written up in the beginning of 2020 are no longer relevant and people are desperate to know what the new normal will be. It’s 2022 but let’s face it, 2020 was about surviving and 2021 was trying to come up for air. Now we’re here. We’re here in a time where we need to guide people. Set the policies, even if they are a work in progress. People appreciate the progress over silence. They need communication and clear guidelines on what’s next.
Learn from one another
Cross-functional cohort learning, I beat on this drum a lot but it’s one of my favorite instruments. Build safe places for people to connect and learn from one another. Do you have a leadership program? Mix the teams from finance, sales, and logistics. Do you have an on-boarding program? Mix the groups with people who have been there 3 months, 2 months, 2 weeks and 1 day. Sales Excellence programs? Customer Service programs? Mix people from in-field sales to the call center to the back-office support people who process the orders. We need to break out of the echo chambers and start building capabilities cross-functionally.
Different to cohort learning, social groups have no agenda or outcome. These are just groups where people share interests and come together to talk about it. Suggestions range from video game groups to book or movie clubs, virtual pub quizzes or organizational initiatives like wellness workshops or social impact events. Create the space and let the creativity flow. Your people will come up with ideas that feel natural and effortless.
Connect your people to one another through coaching programs. All managers should be coaches so my point here is this should extend beyond the manager as coach. My suggestion is to have a variety of coaches. A coach to show you the ropes of your role. A coach to be your sounding board when you are not sure about something, even something as simple as reading an email before you send it, time ranges to call people, appropriate times to email or send messages, where to find what. A coach to guide in navigating team dynamics and building stakeholder relationships. The more coaches, the more that person will be able to live your culture.
If I had to choose only one solution, this would be it. There is a huge need for mentorships. From the newbie, through to the seasoned professional.
A mentorship program is a deliberate and formal pairing of mentors with mentees. I believe in a double mentorship program.
The one mentor is there for support with career growth as the primary goal. This person can assist and map out the mentee’s long terms career goals and guide on how to get there. The mentor is a seasoned person in the organization that has reached the top of their career and wants to help build a talented pipeline. They have had their successful career and have nothing to gain from the mentee except to give back and impart their wisdom. I think this is reason enough.
The second mentor provides more immediate support with the primary goal of networking and championing the mentee on current work tasks. This mentor, as an example, guides the mentee through the prep of a presentation or arranges opportunities for the mentee to present to prominent people in the organization. This mentor will be recognized for growing top talent and getting people upskilled quickly to move from project to project or team to team. The mentee will be viewed as someone who can quickly add value with the guidance of this mentor. This mentor wants to grow their career and be recognized as a formidable leader. This mentee wants to be connected and be capable.
People are social creatures. Employees are most interested in collaboration. We want to work with people and feel connected. We want to do the best we can. We want to earn respect and we inherently want to be fantastic in our roles. Let’s help people be the best they can be, and feel that sense of belonging we all crave.
The future of remote working. The good, the bad and the ugly: https://luminalearning.com/the-future-of-remote-working-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/
What employees are saying about the future of remote work: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/what-employees-are-saying-about-the-future-of-remote-work
Why in-person workers may be more likely to get promoted: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210305-why-in-person-workers-may-be-more-likely-to-get-promoted
Remote Work Is Failing Young Employees: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/22/opinion/remote-work-gen-z.html