Part II: Onboarding Remote & Hybrid Legal Employees
New Legal Leadership Challenges in the COVID Era: The Legility Remote Hiring series features insightful tips and tricks for General Counsel and legal teams to consider when making remote & hybrid hiring decisions.
In April 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 4 billion people in 90 countries or territories were asked or ordered to stay at home by their governments leading companies to mandate remote working orders.
As the restrictions are lifting in some jurisdictions, employees have found themselves enjoying the flexibility, and CFOs took active interest in realizing the cost savings of transitioning to long-term remote and hybrid work environments.
As a result of this massive change, General Counsel and legal departments are experiencing new challenges when it comes to employee hiring and retention. Below is some information you may find helpful if you are beginning to prepare for a permanent change to remote or hybrid working for your team, or looking to make your first hire in an all-remote or hybrid environment.
This is part II of III - if you missed part I, you can read it here!
Many General Counsel have found their peers advocating for a remote workforce, so these GCs are now anticipating a permanent change for their team.
Ensuring a Smooth Transition When Onboarding Remote Employees
Once you've put in the work to hire the perfect employee, your focus will turn to integrating the employee into your team and your organization. A key component of any successful onboarding process is to ensure that new hires feel welcome at the organization, and that may require some creativity if the traditional welcome lunch or happy hour isn't feasible because the employee doesn't live in the same city as the rest of the team.
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With a little bit of effort, though, you can plan effective, virtual welcome events. Many activities that formerly required in-person attendance can now be done virtually: for instance, throughout 2020-2021 virtual escape rooms, murder mystery parties, and trivia nights became mainstream. I even hosted a Virtual Piano Party that included an interactive game of Name that Tune, sing-alongs, and karaoke.
Focus on the long-term needs of your new employee
Once you get past the initial welcome event, it's time to focus on the long-term needs of your new employee, including substantive job training, formal and informal mentorship, and IT support. While much of this is similar to the onboarding process for onsite employees, it can be more challenging to provide training, mentorship, and support to an employee when you can't simply walk down the hall for an impromptu, in-person meeting during the workday. Also, you won't be crossing paths with your new employee in the hallway or office kitchen for the casual conversations that can sometimes be helpful to identify areas in need of being addressed.
As a result, when onboarding remote employees, it can be helpful to schedule regular phone calls to check-in with the employee, and on some of these calls you can give the employee the opportunity to take the lead in raising topics for discussion. It also can be helpful to partner the new employee with an official mentor and/or a peer buddy, and encourage regular check-in calls to foster those relationships. This gives new employees a comfortable environment in which to ask questions.
Incorporate in-person events
In addition to the virtual relationships your employee will form during the remote onboarding process, it can also be helpful to encourage in-person interaction to the extent your budget allows. Planning periodic in-person events such as retreats or meet-ups can go a long way towards building strong relationships, especially if they include ample opportunity for social interaction. These in-person meetings offer a great opportunity to help your new employee learn about the company culture and team dynamics in a way that is more difficult to do in virtual meetings.
In addition, you can spend some one-on-one time with your new team member during in-person team gatherings to discuss the keys for succeeding in their new role. this is also a good environment in which to educate your new employee about the overall goals of the company so they can learn how their position will contribute best to the company's success. While these conversations also can happen virtually, you may find them more effective if you are able to conduct them in-person.
Focus on the long-term needs of your new employee, including substantive job training, formal and informal mentorship, and IT support.
Tune in next week for Part III:
Effectively Managing Remote & Hybrid Legal Teams
 Coronavirus: Half of Humanity on Lockdown in 90 countries. Sandford, Alasdair (2 April 2020)
Legility is a legal services company providing data hosting and management, technology-enabled services, consulting, flexible legal talent, and managed review services to in-house law departments and law firms. Legility is not, and none of its affiliates are, a law firm and does not provide legal advice as part of its services and nothing contained herein should be construed as such.