You loved them. You hired them. Now it’s time to bond with new remote hires – if only you were together.
It’s not an easy task since many organizations have postponed the reopening of their offices. So those new, sought-after and anticipated employees work from home – just like most of their colleagues.
While it might seem natural to work and interact remotely nowadays, it’s not ideal for new employees. HR professionals know: New employees need to feel welcomed, become engaged and connect with the culture so they can succeed.
And when you find ideal new hires, you want to do everything to keep them, considering about 60% of employers have a difficult time keeping employees, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey. And those companies expect the problem to linger into next year.
“Employers are in the middle of an intense war for talent that’s not likely to let up anytime soon,” said Adrienne Altman, managing director and North American head of Rewards at Willis Towers Watson. “The challenge of hiring and keeping employees has now spread from isolated industries and skill sets to most industries and workforce segments. To compete, it’s imperative for employers to take strategic actions and find ways to differentiate.”
How can HR pros and front-line managers bond with new remote hires?
Here are five strategies to bond with new remote hires and get them engaged with your workforce.
Recognize, react to the difference
The hybrid work model feels almost natural now. So many front-line managers are tempted to onboard exactly the same as they did before the pandemic – all in hopes everything seems “back to normal.”
But a hybrid or fully remote situation calls for different approaches – and it presents an opportunity: More than half of employees believe hybrid work can improve their well-being, an Avaya study found.
So you might as well start improving it during onboarding, even if you plan to bring new hires fully on-site. Try to:
- Communicate daily so they never feel like they aren’t in the loop
- Remain fluid and transparent. Let new hires know circumstances can and will change – and you’ll let them know immediately
- Set a schedule so at least one team member or colleague interacts with the new hire every day
- Involve them in meetings. Invite them to all relevant Zoom meetings and give them a role so they interact, and
- Regularly update new hires on the well-being benefits at their fingertips, such as access to online meditation and yoga, telehealth and your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
Connect the brethren
Help new hires across the organization connect. Their shared experience of starting remotely – regardless of age, department and role – builds a natural bond.
Informal “virtual watercooler sessions” can help. Researchers from the Harvard Business School found new workers who join in the regular online events are happier and perform better at work.
Online, informal meetings between new remote hires foster career-building connections and build bonds to the company.
One caveat: You don’t want to overwhelm new employees with Zoom meetings. Make informal chatting sessions voluntary and during work hours.
Direct managers often stick to business when they meet virtually with their new remote hires. After all, there’s so much to teach, tell and track.
But one of the Harvard Business School researchers cautioned us. “Managers have to be careful of ensuring that their remote employees get as much attention and opportunity for those casual sessions as in-person employees,” said Iavor Bojinov, an assistant professor of business administration. “That’s not something managers had to think about [before the pandemic]. Now, they do.”
So front-line managers want to plan time in each business call for casual conversation. Consider it similar to the Monday-morning, pass-you-in-the-hallway, how-was-your-weekend conversation.
Aim to find out what new remote hires are passionate about – family, hobbies and career-wise. And be willing to share yours.
Another caveat: If an employee seems reluctant to share, don’t push it. It’s more difficult to read the reasons – perhaps shyness or a preference for privacy – but you’ll want to let them open up when and if they’re ever ready.
Remember the ancillaries
If your office is remote or hybrid, it’s not likely anyone is signing up for the local softball league, cornhole tournament or any of the other events people walked out of the office and did together.
So now you want to look for ways to recreate those new employee bonding opportunities. Your ERGs are a great start. Surely, many of them still meet, interact and maintain a semblance of your company culture. Even better, some likely continue to build stronger Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.
You might try a virtual event that promotes all your ancillary employee activities and groups. Then – similar to a job fair or college activities fair – new employees can “visit” with those that interest them during designated online meeting times.
As much as you want new remote hires to connect with colleagues, the company and their work, you also want to make sure they aren’t overdoing it. If remote work gets lonely, stressful or overwhelming, they’ll leave before they become fully engaged.
So front-line managers and HR will want to give new hires tools to avoid burnout. Here are three from tech experts at The Wall Street Journal:
- Drop some apps. Delete email and IM apps from your phone so you get away from work when you’re supposed to be away from it. They’re too tempting to check.
- Create a separate space. Even if you don’t have a separate home office for work, maintain a “difference” between work mode and life. For instance, a different set of headphones, an office chair or a barrier within the room to keep the computer out of sight.
- Pursue a passion. For at least 30 minutes a day, avoid the banal tasks and do the kind of work that excites you – the part of the job that you’d talk about at the bar (if you went to a bar).