Posted February 25, 2021 by Mark Perna
Managers, coworkers and new employees themselves all have a role in connecting new hires to the company culture. Mark’s article, “Employees Hired Remotely In 2020 Say They’re Doing Fine. The Data Says Not Really,” published at Forbes.com on February 16, 2021.
The news is full of workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic—but there’s surprisingly little about those who were hired and onboarded remotely during that time. How are they doing?
According to them, just fine.
At first glance, a new survey from TINYpulse seems to agree with new employees’ assessment of their own engagement—at least on the surface. A comparison of how 2019 and 2020 new hires rated their overall onboarding experience actually gave 2020 an edge, about 2% higher than the 2019 data. But there’s something else going on beneath the surface.
The researchers pulled data from TINYpulse’s employee recognition tool Cheers for Peers, which allows employees to give one another sophisticated, virtual “high fives.” On that platform, peer-to-peer recognition has dropped significantly (34%) for employees who came to the organization in the midst of the lockdowns, compared to their 2019 counterparts. This drop remains consistent for every month in the scope of the survey (April through September 2020).
Further, Cheers for Peers allows new hires to tag their Cheers with a predefined company value. The study notes that while the rate of company-value-tagged recognition stayed steady in April and May, it fell significantly for the rest of the year—a 20% decline.
TINYpulse researchers believe that the drop in tagged values corresponds with employees’ decreasing identification with those company values. And it’s not a good trend.
Unfortunately, it seems all too easy for COVID-era hires to “fly under the radar” and not express their disconnect with coworkers and company values. They may be rating their onboarding experience highly without an accurate basis of comparison for that experience. In a word, they don’t know what they missed—or what they are still missing.
Flying under the radar may not be on purpose, but it’s a problem nonetheless. “Many conversations that used to occur organically in the office, don’t happen now because the causal collisions are less frequent,” says researcher Brooks C. Holtom. “Further, valuable non-verbal cues are hard to observe and act credibly on via technology.
“Making life even more difficult for managers is that spotting poor performance can take more time in the remote environment. So, problems may fester and grow worse than if everyone were in the office.”
Flying under the radar will only work for so long. Companies need a better approach.Flying under the radar will only work for so long. Companies need a better approach. Click To Tweet
It’s clear that companies can step up their efforts to make their organizational values more visible, beyond just the recruiting and onboarding process. “Storytelling is a powerful way to help employees—and especially newcomers—to learn what is important to the organization and its stakeholders in real terms,” says Holtom.
“Sharing stories of employees who go above and beyond to deliver value for customers will energize those recognized and provide meaningful examples of values in action for newly onboarded employees.”
As a manager, you play a key role in your employees’ connection to the company. So tell stories.
Maybe you’re not in a managerial position, but you want to help your newly hired coworkers engage more deeply with the team and company values. Holtom has a word of advice for you, too. “Peers should reach out, ask questions and listen sincerely.”
Reaching out is not rocket science, but in the age of the Zoom fatigue, it may not always be easy. “Reaching out is meaningful precisely because it is hard,” says Holtom. “Sharing pictures, short videos and stories will help bring much-needed context to new employees.”
It’s what you would want someone to do for you. So reach out.
If you’re a newly hired remote employee, you can take ownership of your own growth as a contributing and connected member of the team. “New hires need to ask questions,” advises Holtom. “Keep lists of questions right next to the computer. Some will be tactical and others more strategic. Some will be social. When a supervisor or peer asks, be prepared to share your questions.
“A keen interest in learning how to perform at a high level will be appreciated and rewarded with good answers.”
You owe it to yourself and to the company to engage with the culture and the coworkers who are part of your professional world. So ask away.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to be anonymous in a remote workforce. Virtual work is not as conducive for social connections as being in the office, where you could bump into anyone in the course of your day.
The anonymity of a remote workforce is more than just a passing problem that will resolve itself when we can all get back to the office. Employees who were onboarded remotely during the pandemic may never fully connect with the company’s core values. And by the time it’s safe to return to the office, the new employee is no longer new—and there may be an assumption that they’re already embedded in the fabric of the organization, when in fact they may not be.The anonymity of a remote workforce is more than just a passing problem that will resolve itself when we can all get back to the office. Click To Tweet
If employees never made that crucial first connection, there may be a core disconnect from the company that will affect how they relate to coworkers and company values throughout their time there.
What will the outcome be if companies don’t grapple with the dropping levels of new-employee engagement? “Low levels of employee engagement are correlated with poor performance and elevated turnover rates,” says Holtom. “During periods of high unemployment, people may not leave an employer. But staying does not guarantee they will deliver value every day or go above and beyond for customers.”
If managers tell compelling stories, coworkers reach out and new employees ask questions, the transition to a fully oriented, onboarded experience will become a lot easier. In the end, it all comes down to empathy. “Put yourself in the shoes (or fuzzy slippers) of the newcomers,” says Holtom. “Be generous. Be patient.
“Support from a supervisor and peers can make the difference between success and failure.”