4 Tips for Establishing Trust With New Team Members During COVID-19

Written by
Rebecca Smith

May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

While some companies remain in hiring limbo thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, others continue to onboard new team members. Bringing new blood into the fold is a delicate operation at the best of times, but with so much going on right now, managers and small business owners face additional pressure to create smooth transitions.

New team members need guidance to hit the ground running and assurance that they’re on the right path. Companies with robust and established remote work cultures may have that process down. Others may not find it so easy to make new hires feel welcomed and supported. To skip the awkward introductory phase, employers of new hires must learn to develop relationships based on two-way trust in a uniquely difficult situation.

Give your newest team members the transition they deserve — and get them up to speed as quickly as possible — by following these helpful tips:

1. Demonstrate competence with an established strategy.

Whether you onboard one employee or 100, your process sets the foundation for new hires. Move in without a plan, and your recruits will get confused by conflicting messaging, gaps in communication, and unclear expectations. Instead of leaving strategy to chance, act ahead of time to lay the groundwork for how new remote workers will integrate with existing teams.

Inexperienced managers and businesses that have yet to clarify their remote work systems should look at the remote work playbook from Toptal, a fully remote company. The guide covers how to build strong teams, which values resonate most strongly in remote cultures, and how to maintain productivity from a distance. Put new hires at ease by leading them through an established series of steps instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.

2. Clarify expectations, and keep an open mind.

Don’t expect new hires to know how their roles should feel from day one. Understanding a new environment with new duties takes time. After a few weeks, new employees may begin to recognize unnecessary challenges in their workflows and in how the company handles projects. This is the best time to get an outside perspective, so rather than dismiss concerns, encourage employees to use a critical eye in their early days on the job.

Give new workers context by pairing them with mentors who work in similar roles. Twice-daily video calls to set expectations and review daily challenges help green hires recognize which obstacles are normal and which are not. For example, graphic designers should expect to encounter some uncooperative graphical assets but should know where the company stores backups. Help new hires distinguish between expected challenges and anomalies to ensure they feel comfortable asking questions in the future.

3. Recognize that old benchmarks may not apply.

Pre-coronavirus performance metrics don’t carry much weight for longtime employees now. To expect the same assimilation speed from remote hires in the age of COVID-19 as you did from in-office workers prior to the pandemic would do a great disservice to your new team members. You can’t measure performance the way you did in the past, but that doesn’t mean you should leave new remote workers to set their own targets.

Use this opportunity to conduct benchmarking tests and compare the results to past numbers. You might discover that certain departments are more productive from home, but implementing that work takes longer than usual. Programmers may write more lines of code, but project managers may take a few extra days to translate that productivity into deliverables. Work together with your new hires and current teammates to establish a new normal for performance metrics that makes everyone feel supported and respected.

4. Make the first day count.

Under normal circumstances, the first day at work for new hires feels a bit like a party. People make a point to come by with well wishes and advice. Some departments sign cards or buy lunch to welcome new recruits. Remote workers in the pandemic may be happy to join their new teams, but they may feel unappreciated if their new teams don’t make them feel welcome.

Send gifts of food or company swag to the homes of new hires to show them how happy the company is to have them. Schedule a big welcome call with everyone in the department. Don’t focus too much on clarifying roles and making connections about who can help with what. That will all come later; new hires already deal with an overload of unretainable information in the best circumstances. Spend the first day on positivity and personal connections to make new hires feel like they belong. In the meantime, use Workable’s new hire first-day checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything important.

After the pandemic ends, you may discover that you and your team enjoy remote work more than commuting to an office. Whether you make the permanent switch or just put up with it for now, don’t let unique circumstances make your new hires feel unwelcome. Give them the support and encouragement they deserve so they feel like they’ve found a workplace to call home.