Setting up for success in your new job – part 2
JULIE CHASE | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020
It’s taken us a while to get used to working from home this year, but we’ve acclimated and are doing really well. I continue to see headlines about high productivity and tech companies that are open to more remote workers in a post-COVID world. Of course a fully remote workforce has many challenges including how to set new hires up for success in their new jobs.
Many companies have moved swiftly to online orientations and trainings, which helps with onboarding. But afterward, it’s largely up to the new hire to ramp up and be effective. While this has generally worked well in the past, it certainly adds pressure for the new employee in a remote role.
After speaking with several clients who have started jobs over the past 6 months, it’s become very clear that it’s substantially more challenging to build strong relationships, learn how things work/get done and feel part of the culture and company.
In an earlier article, I shared tips on what you can do before you start your job. In this article, I’ll focus on what you can do on the job including best practices on ramping up in this fully remote world.
First things first: complete your HR and benefits paperwork, set up accounts and any other administrative tasks. Do all this before you get busy with real work. Ask your manager and colleagues what systems you should have access to — and make requests to IT admins if necessary.
Practice kindness and self-compassion. No one expects you (nor wants you) to jump into projects without a deep understanding of your role, the team or how things get done. You are your worst critic and the worst thing you can do is to fill your mind with thoughts like “I’m not doing enough,” or “It’s taking me too long to ramp up.” The best thing you can do is to remind yourself that you are in learning mode, which is critical to your success. Take a few deep breaths when you start to feel overwhelmed and say positive affirmations to center yourself.
You will most likely have down time during the first month. This is a golden opportunity for you to soak in as much as you can about the company. Watch product videos and speeches from executives and read annual reports, blogs and articles. Dig into the company intranet and look at things like corporate objectives, org charts and product roadmaps.
For extra credit, document any activity and process that wasn’t including your onboarding document and share with your manager and/or new colleagues when they join the team.
There are always a lot of people to meet: team members, cross-functional stakeholders, leaders, etc. Hopefully, your manager will have a list of people for you to meet with. If not, create one and schedule meetings. Check out their LinkedIn profile to learn more about them, list thoughtful questions to ask and apply your superpower of active listening. Your goal is to make a good connection with them AND learn about their objectives and priorities as well as the opportunities to collaborate together.
Find a buddy who knows the ropes and can help accelerate your learning curve on how to get things done. Make friends with a fellow new employee to share key learnings and insights along the way. As you network, identify potential leaders who may be a good mentor for you. Before you make a request, do an informational just to get to know them and see if you have chemistry and feel comfortable with them.
I highly recommend you spread out your 1:1s because it takes significant mental and physical energy when you’re meeting new people and learning everything new. Start a knowledge document and take notes about people, processes and resources.
You can also suggest a walking meeting or coffee at an outdoor cafe. Make it completely optional and be empathetic if they don’t feel comfortable with the suggestion. There’s a good chance that some people will embrace the opportunity for a face-to-face connection.
If you’re a leader, you can kick off each week with an icebreaker question about something personal like their favorite movie, the city/place at the top of their travel list or what they like most and find most challenging about working remotely. You can also host a virtual lunch and give everyone a food delivery gift card to order lunch from their favorite restaurant.
Regularly check in with each team member on their well-being — with no other agenda item. Ask what you can do to best support them. Learn how they’re coping with stress. Collect tips and resources (check out Thrive Global) from your team and others and create a shared document. If there’s a serious issue, ask for help from HR or your leadership team.
Delivering early wins
The best way to build credibility and trusting relationships is to make a commitment and then deliver as promised. As you meet people, you’ll receive, and think of, a lot of ideas on things you can do. Some will seem easy, but they may require a lot of time and energy. Make sure the first few commitments you make are relevant to your role and important to your team.
Set realistic deadlines and make sure you deliver on time or let everyone know if they changed and why. Get feedback along the way and before you present. This will always make your end product better.
Setting and sharing goals
Have a candid conversation with your manager on expectations over the first few months. Repeat and follow-up with an email to ensure you’re on the same page. Also ask for regular 1:1s as you ramp up. Over communicate what you’re doing with your manager and team until you’ve established a strong relationship.
After the first month, share your learnings and insights. As soon as you have an understanding of what needs to be done, write your objectives with deadlines, socialize your ideas and get buy-in from your colleagues and manager. Make sure they’re realistic — ask for feedback from tenured employees as they’ll know what’s achievable within that time frame. This is a perfect opportunity for you to get people excited about you and the impact you’ll make.
Then make an action plan with deliverables, actions, deadlines and put things in motion. It’s your time to lead and demonstrate your skills and talents. When there are obstacles, ask for help. When you make a mistake, be open and forthcoming — a great way to show your courage and integrity.
My final pieces of advice: ask clarifying questions, don’t jump in until you have a strong understanding of the people, processes and protocols, move at their pace, communicate often and set healthy boundaries. Do all these things and you’ll be wildly successful in your new job!
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