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How can leaders support new starters remotely?

For many employees, the shift to remote work induced by the pandemic meant starting jobs without personally meeting their manager and colleagues. What’s more, some joined and left since the start of the pandemic, without even meeting their teams face to face.

Setting and understanding expectations

Onboarding remote employees requires clarity about expectations. New employees need to be able to quickly define how they can create value in their role, and they are only able to do so if they understand what’s expected of them. Just because they were hired for their experience and skills, doesn’t necessarily mean that they know how to deploy them in the new workplace, and even new hires with in-depth expertise can become insecure when they feel like beginners in an environment they don’t know.

In the remote setting, employees won’t have the opportunity to learn informally from others around them, and therefore it’s beneficial to schedule frequent briefings on critical issues related to their role. To accelerate learning in a remote setting, new employees need to receive information in a more structured way, with focus on context. In a recent study of 200 senior interim executives, 95 percent felt that access to information made them more effective in their first few weeks, however after that they needed help from their manager to get a deeper view of the organisation and their role in it.

A recent Microsoft Work Trend Index study shows that the past year has made it harder for new employees to find their footing since they’re not experiencing the onboarding, networking, and training that they might have expected under normal circumstances. These employees also say that relationships with their direct teams and access to leadership are worse than for those who have been with the company longer, and Generation Z also reported more difficulties getting a word in during meetings and bringing new ideas to the table compared to the older generations.

The role of organisational culture

What makes every organisation unique is its culture. Organisational culture is made up of unspoken norms and goals, that everyone understands, however for a new starter it takes a while to adapt and understand how things are done. We learn about the organisational aspects through everyday interactions with colleagues and through overhearing conversations, as they help us identify the values and styles of work that are appreciated.

When we start a new job under normal circumstances, colleagues will notice a new face in the office. However, getting noticed online is much more difficult. Managers can help new employees by introducing them in virtual meetings, letting the team know via internal communication channels that have joined, as well as encouraging them to engage in small talk, as this is something many of us miss about going into the office, and it is missed for good reason - it helps us feel emotionally connected and boosts collaboration and creativity.

At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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