Is this the ‘new norm’ for Executive on-boarding…

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May 7, 2020
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Jig Ramji, recently appointed Group Head of Talent for London Stock Exchange and BN Advisory Board Member shares his experience | 11th May 2020

Recently Baxter Neumann announced the placement of Gurleen Knight as Global Head of OD & Talent Development for NEC. Gurleen’s onboarding, like Jig Ramji’s, was ‘different’… it had to be. See Jig’s Story below.

Throughout our lives, we are faced with the new; whether it is moving away from our hometown, a routine that we are used to, or transitioning from one school to another in our early lives.

Such experiences are often scary, with many factors that can make or break our experience of the new. The world of work poses its own challenges and daunting sense of ‘newness’; organisations have their own sets of rules, values and cultural traits. Some of this is explored by the individual during the recruitment process, but some of it simply cannot be understood until employment begins.

For years there has been a large amount of thought leadership on the importance of the onboarding process. Employee turnover has a significant cost to the organisation, ranging between 100 per cent and 300 per cent of the replaced employee’s salary. And it typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity. So, spending time integrating a new employee into the organisation should be a no-brainer. Yet it is a significant challenge for many, with lack of time often cited as the biggest obstacle leaders face.

While challenging in ordinary circumstances, this is further magnified as we deal with the Covid-19 crisis. With social distancing still ongoing across the UK, new joiners currently find themselves in an altogether unique situation. In normal times, subtle cues, reinforcement and affirmation by colleagues help individuals to begin to understand and assimilate into a new culture over a period of time. But for new joiners today, there are none of those things. Thankfully with the proliferation of video technology, there is at least some connection. However, it is an altogether new challenge for businesses and a new challenge for the individual.

I have experience of this both on a professional and personal level, starting my new job as group head of talent at London Stock Exchange Group during lockdown. Instead of being based at the firm’s office in Paternoster Square, London, I have of course been so far entirely based from home.

In many ways, has this not been perfect? I have after all chosen the design of my home office; I love the art on the walls, I love the colour scheme… there are reminders of amazing memories and I can hear the constant sounds of my favourite people. But this is home for me and I’d always previously enjoyed a nice separation between work and home. I think perhaps even the commute had some value in creating that separation.

But these challenges are currently being faced by everyone. New joiners today are feeling even more overwhelmed than usual by navigating a new way of being – which is particularly complex for those who have large teams to manage. There is no doubt organisations are adapting well and flexing their approaches, but there is certainly no substitute for experiencing the sounds, smells and nuances that you get being in an environment built through company culture.

For me personally, I have been very fortunate that London Stock Exchange Group has put together a very thoughtful and practical onboarding process, carefully adapted to the virtual nature of current working. Added to that, the ability to have group and individual video calls has made it much easier than I anticipated. We are lucky that we live in the era of connectivity; I have had a chance to meet global and UK colleagues in a seamless way.

There is no substitute for face-to-face relationship building, but there is no doubt that will happen once we have guided ourselves through this crisis. For now, practical and adapted onboarding practices are essential as an interim solution, although perhaps our new way of working may result in a significant mindset shift about what is possible with virtual working – in some ways, perhaps there is no going back to old ways.