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COVID-19 and Remote Work—How to Support Entry-Level Employees in Pandemic Times

Friday, August 5, 2022

Put yourself in a recent college graduate’s shoes for a second—you took out student loans and lived on campus for four or five years, you finally earned your degree and secured a job in your field, yet your first cubicle is… in your teen bedroom, at your parents’ house. This is a situation many new graduates are facing because companies have been embracing the work-from-home model in pandemic times. The class of 2020 is entering the job market and discovering proper workplace etiquette with old toy boxes under their desk, a living arrangement that can make new professionals feel like they’re back in high school. But this situation is hard to avoid since working remotely is the new normal. 

As a manager, some adjustments are required to fully integrate entry-level employees into an established team, especially considering you may not have met them in person. 

Is the COVID generation a lost generation?

Forward-thinking companies invest in young professionals. Wasting time on arguing over the role and impact of generations, X, Y and Z in the workplace is rather pointless—the best move is to offer entry-level employees unconditional support because they bring different perspectives and skills that can be highly valuable to a successful transformation. Onboarding efforts must start as soon as possible because with the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has become the new normal. However, this model raises unique challenges for entry-level employees who are not yet familiar with workplace etiquette, may experience trouble fitting in, and could find contributing awkward as the “new person.” Working remotely is also more difficult for non-native English speakers who find themselves immersed in an international environment where body language clues are missing and developing personal connections is tricky.

Starting a new job remotely most likely  won’t have any long-lasting psychological effects on new grads but it could have an impact on future career moves if a personal connection isn’t created with team members and managers. Research shows that Generation Z was already prone to struggle when transitioning from university to the professional world. The pandemic isn’t going to help, so employers will have to show patience and kindness to help this generation adapt to a business environment.

Bottom line is, working from home poses an added challenge for entry-level employees and the situation has to be acknowledged in order to design strategies and tools  that will close the inequality gap.

Best practices to support entry-level employees

Entry-level employees need to be supported throughout their first years to gain confidence, resilience and develop soft skills. Here are a few ideas to help them succeed.

Create a “zero touch onboarding” strategy so that new employees can benefit from the same training, advice and support as other team members. Online courses, videos, tutorials, dynamic FAQs, virtual “AMA” (“Ask Me Anything”) meetings, etc. are a key investment to integrate new hires.

Develop a remote coaching and mentoring strategy to create better connections and productive interactions. Mentors and coaches must be trained and eager to facilitate communication with entry-level employees, and they must stay by their side every step of the way.

Encourage contributions during remote meetings. Introduce discussion rules and invite new employees to speak for a few minutes. Ask for their opinion and give them a voice.

Have them review the company’s digital performance. This generation usually masters cloud services, video conferencing and instant messaging. Encourage young new hires to look for new tools, explore innovative collaboration solutions, and build collective intelligence. They could suggest new strategies and frameworks, a more visual or more efficient approach to social media management, etc.

Keep your virtual office door open. As their manager, add regular meetings with entry-level employees to your  schedule. Take at least 30 minutes a week for face-to-face updates and make sure they know they can ask questions and bring up any issue. You can go even further with services like Sococo or LoopTeam to create a virtual office environment and encourage collaborative work.

Keep their mental health in mind. New hires are less likely to complain or express how they feel, so give them the opportunity to vent without judging or criticizing. Be there for them and listen to them regardless of the matter, from Wi-Fi connection troubles to the challenge of moving back home as an adult.  

Revamp meeting minutes. Sure, minutes are the best way to keep a written record of meetings, but traditional templates are often boring and rarely accessed to on the server. Switch to a solution like Trello or Asana to organize key points clearly and productively, and produce an actionable, easy to read template. You can even adopt tools such as deeptalk that can transcribe meetings on the fly. 

Kindness, personal guidance and benevolence—these are the key words to keep in mind when supporting entry-level employees during this work-from-home pandemic situation. So be generous with your time and spare no effort to engage them and help them develop skills. After all, are they not the future of the company?