THE NEW NORMAL - How To Overcome The Challenges Of Hiring A Remote Workforce
One of the biggest long-term question marks companies are being challenged is maintaining the company culture when hiring a remote workforce. How you hire, onboard and engage your people can help shape the culture, reinforce it or push it into a new direction. Unless the people fit the culture, it is hard to maintain the company values over time.
Employees who were hired during the COVID-19 pandemic are struggling to get connected with their teams. Connection, one of the four key dynamics in company culture, depends on building a network that supports you, incorporating the company values and purpose in daily behavior, and managing change. When these skills are not nurtured, connection suffers, compromising engagement, empowerment and performance.
Measuring the employee sentiment
Dr. Brooks Holtom and Dr. Elora Voyles partnered to uncover these insights after analyzing TINYpulse data from new hires, who started in April–September 2019 versus April–September 2020. On the one hand, 2020 new hires reported doing just as well as the previous year's new hires.
Unfortunately, their conscious answers defer from their actual behavior. Cheers for Peers, a TINYpulse online recognition platform, enabled 2020 new hires to provide peer-to-peer recognition to their new colleagues. The platform reports showed that the 2020 class in a post-COVID-19 remote world gave 34% less recognition to their colleagues compared to their 2019 counterparts. This is consistent month over month from April through September.
Cheers for Peers, also allows new hires to tag their Cheers or rewards with a company value that is predefined by the organization. The report showed that "In April and May, the rate of recognition tagged with a company value was very similar. But then, from June to September, the rate decreased significantly in the remote environment of 2020. In fact, September year-over-year data saw an alarming 2034% decline in this activity. The reduction in tagged values shows that employees are decreasingly identifying with company values, which can be a sign of lower engagement and commitment".
The research shows companies can improve the hiring experience by emphasizing organizational values and providing mentoring programs.
1) Emphasizing organizational values
The company should define their core values, and communicate them to the employees during the hiring process, during the onboarding, and throughout the entire employee journey. Communicating clear values are beneficial when companies grow too fast to help align employees. Sharing values is not about just including them in the onboarding package or posting them on the wall. It is about living, working and breathing based on these values. Leaders, in particular, are the role models for these values. They have to make the culture come alive regularly, and walk the talk, even in a remote conversation, and reward people who are role modes for those values.
To reinforce company values after the onboarding process, companies can start by:
- Reiterating values during all-hands meetings and coaching sessions
- Sharing stories about real-life experiences of people who have demonstrated those values
- Providing rewards, through leaders or peers, to individuals who live out company values
- Organizing "speed dates" with the current staff and asking them if they would like to work with this person or have them in their group.
2) Creating a mentoring program
The research shows that "employees who feel mentored and coached in their organization send more recognition to their colleagues. This is even more important for new hires who are onboarded remotely."
Coaching and one-on-one feedback have proved to be even more necessary in remote work. Most effective leaders recommend having at least one weekly 10 to 30 minutes session to check in with every employee.
Some ways to mentor employees are:
- Providing formal mentoring programs with external coaches. Most programs start with an executive coach meeting with the CEO and the executives to model the behaviors and then with the rest of the employees.
- Promoting informal buddy programs, where you do peer or group coaching with other team members or even other departments.
- Training an internal team of employees to become culture coaches.
Change, growth and remote work are the norm now. Companies need to be recruiting all the time and make it part of the culture, as employees are more prone to change positions or leave the company. The new hire training, the evaluation for a good cultural and technical fit and the mentoring along the employee journey are key to not spending money on someone who will be disengaged and leave soon or will not perform based on the same values.