Employee was hired remotely during pandemic and feels disconnected: Ask HR

Starting a new job remotely can require a little extra time to get acclimated and up to speed. (Photo: Getty Images)

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question: I started my job remotely due to the pandemic, but I don’t feel onboarded or connected with my team. I feel embarrassed when I have to ask for more clarification or information. How should I handle this? – Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: I’m sorry to hear you feel disconnected, especially at the onset of a new job. To be completely candid, it takes more effort to feel supported and in sync with your team in a virtual environment.

But first things first: Have compassion for yourself. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my career, it’s that you don’t become an expert in anything overnight. Settling into a new job takes time, and this is something you should never feel bad about.

I also urge you to be patient, yet proactive in filling in the gaps. Ask to meet one-on-one with your people manager and let them know you would appreciate more opportunities to connect with your teammates and some extra guidance on your responsibilities and expectations as you learn the ropes.

When it comes to adjusting to your new position, try to reframe your perspective. It’s not embarrassing to ask questions – it’s being smart and curious. You’re not falling behind– you’re transitioning into a new role and showing your teammates you’re ready to learn.

I also want to address your concerns about onboarding. This process should be more than completing paperwork and learning about company policies. It can, and should, include frequent check-ins around projects, protocol, and appropriate introductions to ensure you feel equipped and empowered to do your job, and do it well.

I can’t stress this enough: Building a strong bond with your team is a centerpiece of a strong company culture. Ask your people manager to arrange regular check-ins with your co-workers, inquire about team-building activities, or see if there’s a buddy system in place. If not, they may be willing to start one with you.  

Remember, there is always a learning curve with a new job. Starting off remotely will require a little extra time to get acclimated and up to speed. Keep your head up – you’ll get there!

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USA TODAY

Q: I’m searching for my first job in HR, and as you know, the landscape is changing every day. What are the top trends HR professionals can expect to see this year? – Anonymous

Taylor: I’m excited to hear you’re searching for a job in human resources. Now more than ever, the world is looking to HR for guidance and support as we navigate a workplace that looks different every day.

The changes we saw in 2020 were physical – offices shutting down and new worksite layouts – and also policy-related, with a drastic increase in remote and flexible work arrangements.

You’re right – it will be hard to predict what exactly the new trajectory of our workplaces will look like, but there are a few trends sure to make their way to the forefront – both in HR and on a national scale.

For years, employers and employees were socialized to avoid topics like race, politics, and mental health. However, a public health crisis and a racial reckoning introduced critical conversations in the workplace on equity, inclusion, and well-being.

Moving forward, HR is uniquely positioned to help build stronger, more inclusive work environments, and ensure employees are taking care of themselves – both physically and emotionally. As I write this, over half of HR professionals agree diversity, equity, and inclusion will be a primary focus for senior leaders at their organizations this year, and nearly a quarter of organizations plan to offer increased mental health benefits to staff.

A silver lining of the past year was the innovation that is improving and transforming our workplaces. Organizations are hard at work evaluating their current technology capabilities to enhance the business while streamlining workflows. In fact, 37% of organizations are optimistic about new technological advances to support remote work in 2021.

Finally, I want to emphasize the importance of being transparent, respectful, and empathetic at work. The stresses and changes of last year have impacted employers and employees in a million little ways. Ultimately, HR, people managers, and employees alike will need to lead and interact with empathy – having respect for other people’s experiences and differences that breaks down walls and bridges gaps.

HR is quarterbacking the changes and challenges of our new reality. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the outcomes are rewarding. Best wishes on your job search!

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