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New-Hire Onboarding in the Social Distancing Age: Remote Management Techniques

Published: April 10, 2020

Author: Oliver Eldredge

The COVID-19 era of social distancing is presenting unique challenges for almost every company, including how to work remotely with new hires to make them feel integrated, comfortable, and prepared to contribute in their roles. The 3Q Training team is providing a blog series to help organizations tackle the challenge. Sr. Director of Professional Development Ashley Aptt contributed to this post.
Talented managers seek to understand what their team is going through before they attempt to be understood themselves. Communication is one of the most critical management skills used to achieve this, and a significant amount of our communication is non-verbal. Making some adjustments to the way that you connect with your team can make the difference between success and failure as a remote manager.

Get on a webcam more often – and optimize your setup

Webcams offer us an opportunity to mitigate the loss of non-verbal communication that is inherent to in-person conversations. Many people also find webcams to be uncomfortable when we start using them. Here are a few tips to improve how you communicate over a video conference.
–          Raise your webcam to a higher location for a better webcam experience
–          Think about lighting to help your webcam create a sharper image (adjust the amount of light pointed at you and the light pointed at the camera)
–          Back away from the camera a bit

Speak less and listen more

Listening skills are crucial for understanding how our teammates are doing. They also have a way of becoming more challenging when we’re communicating online. One of the best ways to set yourself up for success to be a better listener is to ask more questions in the first place.
Utilizing questions that are aimed at helping you to understand your teammate are more important than ever when managing someone remotely. Here are a few examples.
–          Can you explain to me what success looks like in this situation?
–          What’s the biggest challenge that’s in your way right now?
–          How would you handle this situation if I wasn’t here?

Send agendas and recaps

Despite these adjustments, it is still frustratingly easy to be misunderstood. It’s crucial to recognize that there will always be a divide between what we say and what our audience hears, especially with body language limited by remote communication. Adjusting for this challenge as a remote manager is a necessity.
Agendas and recaps are two powerful tools that you can use to get in front of this challenge. Consider asking your direct report to provide you with the list of topics that they feel are the most important to cover before sending an agenda their way. This will allow you to get a sense of where they’re at in terms of priorities and awareness. It is easier to identify the things that they weren’t focused on by having them volunteer a list ahead of time.
Sending a recap and asking for confirmation that it is accurate is another effective technique for minimizing misunderstandings after online conversations. List all your notes on the agenda that you already have and ask your teammate to confirm that they’re all aligned with their own recollection of the conversation.
Last but not least, remember that it’s hard to check in too frequently when you have a remote new hire. Err on the side of connection to make sure you’re not leaving anyone feeling extra-isolated in this time of social distancing.

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