Staff Induction, Robert Coffey, Cooke Young and Keidan image

People over process: Staff induction during Covid-19

Robert Coffey, managing partner at Cooke, Young & Keidan, says remote induction of staff during the pandemic doesn’t have to be difficult, as long as you take careful consideration of the process.

Robert Coffey, managing partner |Cooke, Young & Keidan|

The induction of new employees is inherently about people – introducing them to their workplace and how things are done there. The aim is, in equal measures, to ensure that procedures and processes are understood and followed, and to ensure that the individual feels welcomed and understands their role in their new workplace. Covid-19 has brought with it some significant challenges, and has changed how employers must do things. For most of us, some or all of the recruitment process has moved online. And as if that wasn’t enough, some employees have been coming on-board during lockdown periods and have started working from home without ever having met anyone from their new workplace in person.

Induction pre-Covid-19 was likely a mix of in-person and online training. In a world where induction may now be entirely virtual or remote, my top tips for success are as follows:

  • Assign a mentor: a mentor can guide a new employee through process and procedure and, just as importantly, can help to pass on the firm’s culture (something that can easily be forgotten about when induction is not carried out in person).
  • Ensure that the employee has the right home office equipment: this can be arranged in advance of the start date, and can really help a new employee feel well equipped for their new role. It’s not just the right computer that matters, but also the right chair, monitors, and any specialist equipment that may be required.
  • Ensure that all mandatory training can be delivered online: it’s vital to go through a new-joiner checklist and ensure that no important training is falling through the cracks just because induction can’t take place in person.
  • Arrange for virtual coffee meetings with the rest of the team: a mentor can play a very important role in helping a new joiner find their feet by facilitating as many introductions as possible to others in the firm, at all levels. These can be informal coffee meetings. Where meetings cannot be arranged, recorded messages of welcome may help establish the firm’s culture.
  • Arrange for social events: a relaxed opportunity to get to know a group of people from the firm can be invaluable in helping to integrate a new joiner, and just because induction is remote doesn’t mean that this can’t happen. I have found that both existing and new employees really enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time together doing a quiz or attending a virtual music performance.
  • Discuss Covid-19 with the employee, including their own particular concerns: this should be done at as early a stage as possible. An employee may have personal reasons for worrying about returning to office-based work, and new employees in particular may not know how to raise such issues. Where possible, a bespoke plan should be discussed with all employees – taking into account, for example, means of commuting safely to and from work. Training should be giving in Covid-19-safe use of the firm’s offices.
  • Ensure that cybersecurity is paramount: this will be part of a new joiner’s training, but it’s worth double checking to ensure that the new joiner is accessing the firm’s systems in a way that is secure.
  • Ensure that feedback is offered regularly: it’s important when we’re working apart to give regular meaningful feedback, as otherwise new joiners can feel very isolated and uncertain as to whether they’re meeting expectations.

Inducting staff during this tricky time certainly isn’t impossible – with the right organisation, processes and multiple channels of open communication it can be a smooth ride for new joiners and law firms alike. And hopefully in 2021 we can all embrace meeting face to face again.

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