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It can be hard enough starting a new job at the best of times but imagine how daunting it is when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic.

by Karen Jeal

We’ve recently appointed a new Fundraising and Communications Assistant.

The interview process itself was a little different with us having to do a two-stage interview to whittle down the candidates to as fewer people as possible to meet in person. Stage one was a video call with a general chat and a couple of tasks. Then we had just four final candidates that we did a face to face interview with, all keeping 2m apart. No handshakes or usual greetings, just smiles to welcome them as best we could.

Once we’d offered the job we then have to think about how we can settle that person in because they won’t get the usual face to face introductions or even tour of the buildings and the induction as they normally would. It’s a very surreal time.

Thankfully, we’re only a few days in and my new recruit is taking everything in her stride and really excited still about being in the team and cracking on with the work. It must be hard though. Zoom is our new office, we’re mentioning colleagues’ names but it means nothing and she has no real grasp of things when we talk about ‘the office’ as she has no context to put it in. Luckily, we’re only a small team of three but even so we still have to go above and beyond what we would normally do to make our new recruit feel settled and ‘part of the team’, even though we’re all sitting in separate corners of Kent miles from each other.

So we wanted to roll out the virtual red carpet for our new team member, and in a new virtual world these are my 8 top tips for doing just that… making a newbie feel welcome. I think it’s actually called remote onboarding but that sounds very businessy and off putting. So we’ll stick with rolling out the virtual red carpet for now…sounds more special…

1. WhatsApp Group     

This is fairly standard these days but we set up a WhatsApp group for the team we all welcomed our new team member and offered some brief introductions. We’ve been having daily conversations and ‘check-ins’ and I think it’s working well.

2. Zoom

On her first day we did a 10am meeting where the team got to meet each other and say hello. Then we literally just talked about ourselves, what we liked, disliked, our shared love of Disney. We shared stories of our children and pets. And we even dared talk about our love for Christmas and our 2019 office decorating competition where we turned our office into a Hawaiian Christmas full of inflatable flamingos and grass skirts. A ‘getting to know you’ session. We will continue a 10am meeting every Monday, although it will be work related rather than always talking about what we’ve been keeping busy with in lockdown.

3. Tips and advice

Before her first day I sought top tips from the industry on Facebook groups on what one thing they would share with someone starting out in the world of fundraising and comms. I was really overwhelmed by the number of people who offered their wise words. We’ve since shared this with the team and hopefully it will give her a good starting block for going forward in fundraising and comms.

4. Projects

I have set a couple of projects to start with rather than firing lots of work at her. One working with me and one working with our other colleague, so that she also gets to know us both on an individual basis too. Hopefully this will make the settling in process a little bit easier.

5. Skills and experience matrix

I am asking her to complete a skills and experience matrix so that I can see exactly where she is most confident and also where she isn’t so that while we’re remote I can really play on her strengths to make her feel less daunted about being so far away, and offer the level of support required. Then once we’re all back in the office we can work on a plan to improve the things she’s not so confident on.

6. Coffee and Chat

I am going to set up some regular coffee (or in my case tea) and chats with the team each week just to talk about non-work stuff. Continue our Disney chats and what the latest TV programme is that we’re all enjoying. Mine at the moment is definitely Normal People.

7. Mentors

I’m going to encourage my team to each look for a mentor in either fundraising or comms (or someone who does both ideally), including myself. I think it’s good to set an example with things like this, especially if it’s a new thing for the team, which in our case it is.

8. Drinks

On Friday we’re having ‘after work’ drinks together…on Zoom of course, but we’ll try and extend the invite to a few wider teams we work closely with at work. Just as an unwind from the week and to see how things have gone but also for our new team to meet some of our other teams across the charity. 

It’s very strange times at the moment, but hopefully we’re doing our best to make our new team gel and feel like a team.

Karen Jeal is director of fundraising and communications at Strode Park Foundation. You can say hello on Twitter at @karenjeal

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Image via David Stewart

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