Induction during a pandemic

Cover Story, Editorial, Features

Starting a new job can be daunting at any time, but during a global pandemic, when many are working remotely, even more so. How do employers manage to welcome new employees to the company, introduce them to their colleagues, or conduct an induction process when everyone is working from home?

Remote work is nothing new for some companies, but for most it has been a challenging time. Add to that the recruiting of new employees and it can become even more so. Many companies nowadays provide their employees with laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc., so sending those devices to new employees presents more complications. How do you introduce new employees to all of the systems used in the company? What about security issues and sending of ID cards, usernames and passwords?

Beside these practical issues of supplying new employees with the necessary tools and materials for their work, there is the more personal approach for soft skills and the integration to the workplace. Starting in a new work environment brings with it all of the social interaction with colleagues. This is where many employees learn how to behave in the new workplace. Collegial friendships are made through encounters and simply through asking questions and helping one another out. New employees learn how to behave, what is expected of them, and who to turn to for assistance.

Doing this remotely becomes a lot more challenging than simply approaching a colleague face to face. Knowing what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and how things work is not easy to learn when you are working at a distance. Everything takes more time, and things get lost along the way. We mostly learn from others in the workplace not just by being told things, but by observing others and their behaviour and interaction in a group – something that is virtually [sic. sorry for the pun. Ed.] impossible when working remotely and only having video discussions. Simply knowing what button to press and when can be a daunting task.

Many remote employees describe the loneliness of remote working. Indeed, many people have a difficult time when it comes to retirement, as they have to give up the social interaction of being with colleagues at work. For many employees, social bonding in the workplace is a very important part of their lives, often with long-lasting friendships being formed. As human beings, we are not generally disposed to enjoy solitary lives, we are a social animal. Having virtual/remote discussions does not replace the live interaction of social gatherings.

Businesses need to be more aware of employee needs when it comes to carrying out daily work remotely, but even more so when it comes to the induction of new employees. Consider if there are other alternatives to starting remotely, for example, carry out induction in the physical workplace with other employees as support. Assign another employee as a mentor for new employees to guide them through the labyrinth of acquainting themselves in their new job. Include more workgroups to help new employees adjust to the environment and get the much needed support that they will need.

I hope that managers will take note of these issues, help new employees in a more practical way, and understand that, although we are mostly living in a computer literate society, it does not mean that new employees can hit the ground running when it comes to starting a new job.