The first day in a new job is often exciting. Due to the current remote situation, however, a feeling of being lost can arise among new employees. You start at your new employer and suddenly you can't meet your colleagues or your team in person. In this situation, onboarding mentors help newcomers to arrive and create the necessary closeness, trust and cohesion. The recipe is “open ear, open questions, open mindset”.
Arriving and feeling comfortable in the company and team are important for new employees. Due to COVID-19, many companies have switched to Remote Work to prevent new infections by avoiding personal contacts. As a result, activities that promote informal communication within the company, such as having lunch together, a private conversation over a coffee or a session on the PlayStation, are no longer possible. However, it is precisely this informal communication that is important for newcomers: to get to know the company and the team.
In the first few days there is a lot going on in the new job despite the physical distance and numerous impressions have to be processed. We at AOE support our new colleagues by always having an open ear for them. Much of what contributes to a good start offline can also be transferred to remote collaboration and helps new colleagues to integrate themselves into the team. And where there is no remote counterpart, a new way is sought and usually found.
This works very well at AOE. Two of our new colleagues, Madelaine and Rebecca, started their jobs at AOE in early April – in the middle of the Corona crisis. Madelaine describes her first impressions as follows: “After a really very relaxed and open first interview, which I had never experienced in this way before, my start date fell right into the remote phase. My team, ‘Pacman’, and my mentors Carsten and Stefan helped me every day to overcome every hurdle during the start into my new job.”
Long before COVID-19, we at AOE started a mentoring program. We have had good experience with the use of two mentors per mentee, both professional and organizational. These mentors provide intensive support to the new employees for a period of six months.
Specialist mentors support the new colleagues in their familiarization with the content and technical aspects of the job. In addition to the close cooperation between mentor and mentee, one of the goals is to fully integrate the new colleagues into the team from the very beginning. This can be achieved particularly well through meaningful value-adding tasks and interaction on equal footing.
Madelaine has also had this experience: “I didn’t feel any hierarchy in the team, we work together on equal footing, I feel well received and integrated. From the outset, I didn’t enjoy any form of special protection. I was immediately entrusted with project-relevant tasks and was able to ask questions and receive support at any time without being under any time pressure. I was simply able to learn independently and at the same time supported by my team in a demanding environment.”
A conversation that could be started before the remote situation with a questioning look across the desk now requires a little more effort. The hurdle is usually higher now, as one cannot see whether the colleagues are: absorbed in their work, still in another conversation or on the way to the coffee machine. “Setting a status in our chat program is not only nice-to-have, but a small but important indicator. This way I can easily signal to my team whether I am available for questions and conversations at the moment. In addition, tools are particularly relevant, with which you can connect with each other virtually in real time,” explains Stefan, one of Madelaine’s two mentors.
For new employees starting their job remotely, it is particularly important to provide timely feedback and to keep the hurdle for contacting or talking to the team as low as possible. To this end, AOE has the appropriate remote tools for all conceivable requirements, whether it’s pair programming, brainstorming on digital whiteboards, or Scrum ceremonies.
In AOE’s current Remote Setup, the role of the organizational mentor should not be underestimated. They not only guide you through the organizational jungle, but also establish contact with colleagues outside the team. At the same time, the organizational mentors introduce the newcomers to the corporate culture – which at first seems much more difficult remotely than in person. They are regularly in contact with the mentee to clarify questions and concerns or just to listen and be available for half an hour. This shows the new employees how much we care about them at AOE.
In addition, the decisive role in Remote-Onboarding at AOE is of course played by the team into which the mentee is integrated. At AOE, newcomers are viewed and treated as complete team members from the very first minute. Their opinion counts just as much as that of the other team members. For example, Scrum ceremonies such as the Daily, which provide a good structure to all remote work, ensure lively and regular professional exchange.
Beyond the technical content, it is equally important to listen to the nuances in the conversations. It can sometimes happen that a discussion gets out of hand or digresses. Here, the art is to make sure that everyone involved makes sure that the conversation remains on the right track. It can be right and important for the team to express its displeasure about a situation at that very moment. This is where the mentor has the responsibility to involve the mentees in this situation. The offline dynamics of a team will not automatically be reflected online; behavioral patterns, facial expressions and gestures sometimes have to be explained and put into context afterwards. But the whole thing is not a one-way street: at the same time the mentee is also actively involved, and open communication from both sides is very important here: with every onboarding, AOE continues to learn and questions previous concepts.
Rebecca sums it up: “If I’m asked whether I felt my remote onboarding was better or worse than an onboarding at the office, I can say one thing for sure: it was my most successful start to a new job so far. This has nothing to do with Remote, but with AOE’s onboarding concept.”
The theme of personal and informal communication, empathy and interpersonal exchange runs like a red thread through AOE’s Remote-Onboarding. Our mentoring program is our concept for the ongoing development and motivation of our employees, and thus for keeping them in our company – even in times of remote work. A win-win situation for employees and the company, where having fun should not be neglected...