Remote Onboarding… Yes, it can (and should) be done.

By PRIME CHIEF OF STAFF


Onboarding. Most companies lack an effective strategy, path and set of achievable goals for new employees. However, according to UrbanBound, organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity, along with 50% greater new hire retention. The need for effective onboarding solutions is clear. But what may not be clear is what is the best way to onboard without the option to meet in person and work within the same space. Our current environment has made the onboarding process all the more challenging, but no less important.

So how is today’s executive expected to onboard their new Chief of Staff, with a compounding list of responsibilities, expectations of high performance, and upholding consistent leadership, all on top of guiding their organization amid a global pandemic? It is not an easy task. Onboarding, especially in a remote setting, takes dedicated attention and planning to ensure successful integration onto the team and as a partner to the executive.

Recently, we spoke with two new Chiefs of Staff who began their role during the height of COVID-19. They shared insightful responses and first-hand tips to build strong relationships, along with the benefits of working in a remote atmosphere.

Q&A with a Chief of Staff

Our first Chief of Staff began their role in early June for a tech company based in San Francisco. Here is what they had to say…

Q1. What tips you would give someone starting a new job while everyone is working remotely?

Keep asking questions and keep your eyes/ears open for opportunities to learn. It also helps to have a person who can help guide you through the culture.

Q2. What steps did you take to build strong relationships, especially with leadership when you aren't able to interact in-person?

Relationships are incredibly important in influencing outcomes and understanding the culture, but it's much tougher building relationships when everyone is working remotely. When I started at my organization I setup one-on-one video calls with a wide range of colleagues across the org, from leadership to folks on the frontline.

Beyond learning about the role and the person, I also focused on understanding the history of their role and department (personnel, structural, or other major changes), as well as their experiences with the company. Getting the backstory not only helps to understand the culture but also how the company became the one it is today. I also have short daily check-ins with my manager, to make sure there are open communication and frequent status reviews.

Q3. Have there been any strong benefits to starting a new role in a remote atmosphere? What about negatives?

There is less distraction when you work from home, which is conducive to deep thinking. The negatives are mainly around relationship building, which is very difficult when there no opportunities for random social encounters nor face-to-face discussions, so I needed to be very intentional with my approach.

Q4. Is there any other advice you would give someone searching or starting a new role during covid quarantine phases?

For someone searching, I would say be patient and flexible. This is a tough time for companies and employees alike, so things might move a little slower and responsibilities might shift. That being said, there are opportunities out there so continue to leverage your network and partners to help you reach your goal.



Our second Chief of Staff began their role in early April for a film foundation and production company located in New York City. Here is what they had to say…

Q1. What tips you would give someone starting a new job while everyone is working remotely?

Don’t overlook the obvious. Meaning, you should still dedicate time and attention to learning culture. A "virtual office culture" is still an office and has a culture.

Q2. What steps did you take to build strong relationships, especially with leadership when you aren't able to interact in-person?

Over-communicate at first and get aligned quickly with your team and other workflows.

Q3. Has there been any strong benefits to starting a new role in a remote atmosphere? What about negatives?

In terms of benefits, there is a strong benefit in working in my home - it is quiet whenever I want it to be quiet and I am able to clearly focus on my daily objectives and get a plan together without being distracted. Traditionally when you start a role, there are a lot of new people to meet and some organic meetings that can be divert attention away from the task at hand.

As far as negatives, you miss out on those in-person dynamics and the ability to meet and gel with the team.

Q4. Is there any other advice you would give someone searching or starting a new role during COVID-19 or other uncertain times?

For those starting a new position, jump-in and observe with your eyes and ears first; get to know the culture, points of excitement, points of stress, and points of tension. Take on a full listening tour so you really understand the nuances of the organization so you can get yourself up to speed and start contributing. And again, over-communicate so you don’t misstep or miss an opportunity to advance.



As we continue to listen and learn from our community, we feel it is so important to share the wealth and provide resources to help executives, and in turn Chiefs of Staff, have the most productive partnerships they can. If you are considering onboarding a Chief of Staff, utilize the tips to build your program; if you are looking for a more robust program, please contact us and we are happy to work with you on providing the best experience for you and your Chief of Staff. We are devoted to building great leaders, and we know that starts from day one.

To learn more about our onboarding services, connect with us or send us a message @primechiefofstaff on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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