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While I do most (if not all) of my work remotely, and I enjoy it, there is something wonderful about meeting in person the people I work with on a regular basis. So, I totally understand when individuals say that they miss the office. One of the best parts about being in the office is building relationships with the people we work with.
That raises the question: how do we build good relationships? Especially with new hires, who we’ve only spent a few hours with prior to their first day. Then of course, there are remote employees, who we don’t see all the time (if at all).
Regardless of your office environment, there are a few core principles to building good working relationships, especially with new hires. These six principles work even when new hires are working remotely.
- Remember what it’s like to be a new employee. New hires do not know the company, policies, procedures, etc. This is amplified when the new hire works remotely, and they don’t have the benefit of asking someone in the office. HR departments should consider creating FAQs that provide answers to a new hire’s most common questions. Also, consider having a buddy program so new hires have more than one person they can turn to for answers.
- Be available. Managers have a full plate of responsibilities. Even when we’re all working in the office, new hire onboarding takes time. It’s possible that remote new hire onboarding takes extra time. Today’s technology can be a valuable tool. Managers can let new hires know that they’re going to check-in with them regularly. Not because they don’t trust them. Just because they want to make sure that everything is going okay. They can also let employees know that eventually you’ll back off. But until the new hire is settled in, let them know that you’re available.
- Learn their style (and let them know yours). New hires and managers are in the same position. They’ve only spent a few hours (max) with each other during the interview process and now they’re working together. They need to look for ways to share how they like to work. I still love this idea of creating a personal user manual.
- Set performance expectations. New hires are looking for some direction on how their work is supposed to be accomplished and how their performance will be evaluated. Managers should try to schedule a one-on-one meeting with new hires to review their job description and the company’s performance review process. Let them know how their work connects to the organization and the performance standards that will be used in their evaluation.
- Offer recognition and be consistent about it. After managers talk with new hires about performance expectations, it’s important to offer feedback about how they’re doing. Let employees know when they’re doing something right. Reinforce the good things. And correct them when something isn’t to the performance standard. If employees don’t hear anything, they will assume that what they’re doing is acceptable. You know, the whole “no news is good news” thing. And if by chance, the employee’s performance isn’t to standard, this becomes a difficult moment. Both in terms of building trust with the new employee as well as the new hire having to “unlearn” something. Managers do not want the reputation of only speaking to employees when something is wrong.
- Focus on trust and respect. It’s important not to confuse delivering corrective guidance with being mean. We all make mistakes. New hires will make mistakes. Deliver guidance on the best way to complete the task in a respectful manner. Organizations should provide managers with training on how to deliver feedback. This doesn’t have to be a long training session. Consider including a one-page job aid to help them guide the conversation.
As someone who works remotely, I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to build positive working relationships. But it takes work. No different than when we build relationships in person.
New hires deserve our attention. Building a working relationship helps them start their careers on a positive note and moves them towards success. It helps to create employee engagement and retention. But there’s one last thing. The work doesn’t stop after the new hire is settled into their role. Managers need to invest time and energy into managing their onsite/remote teams.
If you want to learn more about how to manage a remote team, join me and the Criteria team for a webinar on April 6 at 10a Pacific / 1p Eastern. You can register here. As always, if you have a conflict you can register anyway and watch the recorded version. See you there!
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