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Remote onboarding: Get ahead of the Coronavirus curve – a case study with Suzie Jennings of Alvarez & Marsal

The way we are recruiting and onboarding is changing and to achieve success, we must adapt in ways that we never thought we’d have to. I for one never thought in my lifetime that a Global Pandemic would be reshaping everything we know from how we shop, and consume, to how we live and do business.

Speaking with our customers, it’s always really reassuring to hear about successes at a time that is difficult for everyone. Having recently met Suzie, I knew she’d be snapped up quickly and Alvarez & Marsal proved me right when they hired her to be part of the European Resourcing function. What she didn’t know is that her first day in the new role would be the day that the country went into lockdown! 

Read on to learn about Suzie’s experiences of starting a new job from home…

Could you briefly explain your new role within Alvarez & Marsal? 

I’m a European Resource Manager and my role focusses mainly on the contractor community that we engage with here at A&M.

Could you describe your remote onboarding experience so far? 

My onboarding experience has been really positive so far and I’m incredibly grateful for that. My first day with the business was also the first day of lockdown, so I haven’t visited the office since my interview or met most of my colleagues in person yet! The company was great at keeping in touch with me via phone and email prior to my start and also arranged for my laptop to be couriered to me around a week in advance. This was really helpful as it meant I had visibility of the company-wide communications relating to their response to Covid-19 and felt included right from day one.

When it came to my induction, HR arranged a video call for myself and the other new joiners so we were all able to meet virtually. They had very quickly adapted their induction material to be appropriate for a video-based session rather than in person and it all went very smoothly.

What have been the logistical and legal challenges?

The only real logistical challenge I’ve faced personally is the inability to pass by someone’s desk or bump into them as you’re making a coffee. Those chance meetings are often incredibly useful in building relationships and the main challenge at the moment is the increased formality in scheduling meetings, as I’m often talking to people I don’t know very well. I’ve been lucky not to face any particular challenges otherwise – my laptop and phone arrived in good time and we make extensive use of Microsoft Teams to ensure we stay in touch regularly.

How would you describe the challenges around engagement/getting to know your colleagues and stakeholders remotely and how have you overcome them?

This is the part I thought might be the most challenging but has actually been surprisingly smooth. That’s thanks to the willingness of my colleagues to adopt video calls as the new ‘norm’. I’m in week two now and I’ve met the vast majority of my key stakeholders already. The ability to see and interact with them via video link is really helpful in building initial rapport and as I’ve been increasingly exposed to it (my experience of video calls prior was very limited) I’ve become far more comfortable and relaxed in my interactions with people. I haven’t quite got the hang of ignoring the video of myself though and occasionally cringe at my own reaction to things!

How have you found remote training? 

The training aspect has been very straightforward. All of my structured training was already online or carried out virtually so that hasn’t really had to change. The elements where I learn on the job have mainly been covered off over the phone or via video conferencing, both of which have been adequate for the task. I haven’t faced any situations yet where a face-to-face learning session was necessary to ensure a good outcome.

At A&M, how prepared would you say the business was to remotely onboard and what advice would you give other people or businesses in similar situations?

There were elements of my onboarding that had obviously been designed to be carried out virtually (prior to Covid-19), however there have also been times where I know the various teams have had to adapt quickly as a result of recent events. I’ve been really impressed with how organised and prepared the company has been as a whole! My key pieces of advice would be:

  • Onboard via video calls, no matter how awkward it feels at first!
  • Organise a daily check in within your own team. For those used to being around each other regularly, it’s nice to have some time chatting with each other, and as a new joiner it’s nice to be able to interact with the team every day, even just for 15 minutes.
  • Get involved with some of the social activities on offer. One of my colleagues hosts a weekly pub quiz and I’ve loved getting to interact with people on a more social basis over a G&T or two!
  • If you’re a manager, keep checking in with your upcoming new joiners – the likelihood is that they’re worried about the security of their new role so keep them reassured. Also check equipment needs ahead of time (laptop, phone etc) and make sure they’re sent out in advance, so they feel like part of the company from day one.
  • More generally, I would say to both new joiners and businesses, just keep communicating often and freely. And remember everyone is going through this for the first time and nobody has all the right answers. Be open and patient with each other whilst everyone gets to grips with what the new ‘norm’ looks like.

Thank you so much Suzie. Your onboarding truly is a testament to Alvarez & Marsal and their approach to not only retaining but hiring new talent. Of course, we all do things at a different pace, but it’s important to remember that businesses are made of great people, and when you find those people it’s important to treat them as such.

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