For many employers, the newly digital office environment necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic can be awkward, especially for recent graduates entering career-track jobs for the firm time.
“Personally, I’m saddened by the situation for a number of reasons, but certainly for those students that are graduating and looking for summer internships, . . . hiring practices aren’t the same,” says Mary Ann Yule, president and chief executive officer of HP Canada. “How do you onboard individuals so they actually feel your company culture, part of the team and that they can cultivate these relationships?
“Ordinarily, when you onboard someone into your company, you introduce them to people, you take them through seminars and all these different things that companies do to make sure they’re welcomes and that they find their place.”
However, it’s not a given that managers will use video technology and employers need to ensure managers are leveraging those tools effectively, she says, including ensuring new hires have the proper tools they need to function at home. “We have to take advantage of video technology, which is great because a lot of the grads probably get that more than their managers, as digital natives they’re very familiar with that anyway.”
Since the usual face-to-face encounters in an office can’t happen at the moment, managers should be using video technologies to foster a similar experience for new hires, adds Yule, noting this could include facilitating introductions to colleagues the new hire may not work with directly.
“There’s an opportunity for managers to include these individuals in places they might now be otherwise included, so there is a face-to-face relationship they can start building with other people in the company or other recent grads.”
Managers can also align a new hire with a buddy who can be their go-to when they have questions, she says. “Aligning them with an individual is always a good practice even in the office, but especially now.”
Also, everyone’s living situation is different, so managers should be sensitive to that when using video technology. “There’s a balance between inclusion and intrusion,” says Yule. “If you have a space in your home and you’re comfortable sharing it, that’s great. But you may not. You may live in a very small home with a bunch of people who are learning and working from home and they’re all doing it at the kitchen table. And it may not be something you want everyone to see. . . . You may not have lots of space so you may not want to turn that camera on. And you as an employer need to be OK with that.”
Further, with staff out of the office, managers need to empathize with the fact that new hires and long-standing employees are all going through their own particular anxieties during the pandemic, she says. As one response to this, HP Canada is encouraging staff to participate in a number of digital extracurriculars, from cooking classes to dance parties. These actives also create openings for more face-to-face contact for new hires with colleagues in a more relaxed setting where they can connect on a human level.
“It’s fun, kind of cool when you get a DJ and there’s a dance party — interesting times, weird, maybe awkward, but still cool that, as a company, we’d hire a DJ who’ll spin for employees globally and have a party on a Friday night.”