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WFH 2021: How to become a part of the team (remotely!)

2020 and 2021 have both come with a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to joining a new team or onboarding with a new organization.  A few things that occurred to me as I recently joined the TalentQuest team:

How was I going to feel united with the team when all our interactions occur over Teams meetings?

How will I have those “water cooler” moments where I could bump into someone from another team or another department?

How was I going to get up to speed when shadowing another employee can’t happen?

The best way to help an employee feel welcome at a time when it may be a long time before meeting the extended team, live, is to have a plan in place. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy, highly choreographed onboarding process where you need to roll out the red carpet. If you search the web for onboarding processes, you’ll generally find a series of lists that cover the common key areas like: Tech; Training; and Communication. But there’s a very important 4th piece that can be overlooked in the WFH era: opportunities to connect informally and build relationships.

Here are a few ways to overcome the challenge of building team relationships remotely:

1. The announcement

Make the announcement to the rest of the organization that a new member has joined the crew.  Include a headshot or fun photo of them, speak about what they like to do on a personal level, share some information on their background, and include anything else that adds color to their story.  You can take this a step further and share your new team member’s LinkedIn page on your corporate LinkedIn page (or other social media account) for additional recognition.

2. Team introductions

This is a no-brainer, but your new hires need to meet everyone on their team. It can be done through 1:1 meetings or a group meeting, but it should be outside of general work conversations. Help them feel welcome by giving them time to build relationships with their peers. It’s a great time to highlight how their skills and personality make them a great fit on the team. I’m willing to bet that someone on your team has had trouble in the past building a PivotTable or Spreadsheet and through these informal ‘visits’, it is uncovered that you are now the Excel expert on the team! Not only that, but now you know who to tap for help on tasks that you may need support on.

3. Q/A with department leads

For larger organizations, this may be more of a challenge, but I believe it brings a lot of value to both new hires and leaders.  In my first few weeks at TalentQuest, I got a chance to sit down with every department head to hear about how that department functions, where their focus is going be over the next few years, the challenges that they are facing, and how I can best work in tandem to their direct reports.  This provided a tremendous amount of context for where the organization is going and where I can help to make the biggest impact.

4. Dedicated virtual happy hours

Days after I joined TalentQuest, they had organized an employee-wide “virtual trivia happy hour”.  Teams were completely randomized, and we had to work together to win the grand prize (don’t forget the bragging rights).  I met plenty of new faces and learned more about my fellow TQers as some questions were based on their personal background and experiences.  I’ve found that these events have really served me, in the absence of those “water cooler” moments mentioned earlier.

5. On-going check-ins with everyone!

Most companies are probably already scheduling these with new hires, but they generally come from their direct manager.  The way you can differentiate your organization is have other members on the team reach out for these check-ins.  This helps your team cultivate internal relationships and promotes the team mindset that so many organizations benefit from.  Ask various people within your organization to pick a week over a new hire’s first 90-days to make scheduling these check-ins even easier.

Onboarding doesn’t need to be an elaborate process.  The most important part that organizations miss is the opportunity to ensure that remote employees integrate well into their teams and the organization.  In the WFH world, many employees find it challenging to build relationships over the phone (or video conference) when compared to in-person.  Implementing just a few of the ideas that I shared with you can help to make this process much more organic and straightforward.

What are you doing to stay connected and build relationships at your organization while WFH?

Jordan Kennedy is a Senior Account Executive at TalentQuest.  He graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Aviation Business Administration.  Jordan has spent the last five years in the automotive and IT industries with a focus on sales training, employee recognition, talent management, and learning management solutions. 

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