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Remote Working Is Upending Onboarding

Remote Working Is Upending Onboarding


Connecting with new peers is one of the necessary steps for success.

I have the opportunity to coach senior executives from large companies who have either changed roles or changed companies during the pandemic, and something that continues to be shortchanged is onboarding while working remotely.

This is a problem because onboarding is a critical starting point for any new employee. Within this process, connecting with one’s new peers is falling through the cracks, and this can have dire consequences for the success of that new executive down the road. That is why I suggest companies devise a new onboarding plan that is probably different than the plan they had before.

Reach Out to Peers
There is not only a gap in overall onboarding but a specific gap that is not so obvious. When onboarding, or starting a new role, it is rather automatic, I suppose, that new hires have remote conversations with their bosses and with their direct reports in order to understand the business. But in the process, they often forget about their peers. Having solid relationships with an executive peer is critical to success because that will cut down on infighting that inhibits productivity and efficiencies.

I continue to encourage clients to reach out to their peers when starting a new position. Head off this potential issue with your equal at the first pass by taking the initiative to introduce yourself and to warmly open the line of communication. What we continue to find is that recipients of this outreach are surprised because it is just not expected, or even thought of, but it is vital to develop those relationships. It can start with just a friendly discussion to say, “Hey, I’m here,” but more importantly, these conversations can be used to establish an understanding of mutual expectations.

More Listening Than Talking
When I coach my clients who have taken on new roles, I remind them that their first responsibilities at the beginning are to do more listening than talking. Realistically, newly installed executives should not know what their priorities are on that first day because they need to take the time to understand the position. After that process has been completed, I encourage our clients to share the key learnings with peers to discuss priorities for their teams, next steps, and working together.

The Bottom Line
When it comes to onboarding today, there are two key points that need to be addressed: Companies need to think differently about onboarding people in the current situation because so many people will be working remotely. And newly hired or installed executives need to take the time to learn about their new jobs before declaring priorities for their teams.

Global business leader Robert J. (Bob) Ryan is an executive advisor at Shields Meneley Partners, where he focuses on building strategic business partnerships and expanding service offerings to top leadership teams around the world. His career has included key leadership roles with companies ranging from $500 million to $84 billion, including Procter & Gamble, Tate and Lyle, Bombardier Recreation Products, Kimball Hill Homes, and Griffith Laboratories. Born in Montreal, Canada, Ryan began his career as a manufacturing engineer after graduating from Carleton University in Ottawa, and McGill University in Montreal with a degree in mechanical/aeronautical engineering. When approached by his CEO, he “jumped at the chance” to lead strategic human capital initiatives that directly impacted the bottom line. Ryan has served on the Boards of the British American Business Council, the Northwest Cultural Council, and the Human Resource Management Association of Chicago. He also has been on boards representing economic development, education, and the arts. Ryan is also a graduate of the Hudson Institute Coaching Program and a member of the International Coach Federation.

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Remote Working Is Upending Onboarding

Executive Onboarding During the Pandemic: Both Pitfall and Opportunity

Executive Onboarding During the Pandemic: Both Pitfall and Opportunity

Talent managers, human resources practitioners, and executive coaches continue to perfect work-from-home and make it the new norm. As they do, they find a hidden pitfall in their work becoming more evident each day. We’re talking about executive onboarding – specifically, for those new team members C-Suite and just below.

So how, in a remote world of work, does the new team member get to know their new colleagues?
Let’s say you just started that new position in the (now virtual) executive suite. You are looking to become part of the team quickly. Chances are you have already thought about how you are going to talk to your direct reports. You have a sense of how to communicate and collaborate,
of course. To help matters, your new boss and you have already figured out how you will interact. As some of our clients initially thought, there is a general sense of feeling good about their new situation. And yet, the piece that is missing is an important one.

The fact is we miss the opportunity to connect in person – especially as the new addition. And we haven’t yet learned how to get to know our peers in the organization while working remotely.

Executive Onboarding: A Challenge Even in “Normal” Times
As is the case when working in-person at an office, remote teams and group leaders tend to become siloed. After all, when working alone, it is easy to become narrowly focused on our own departments. Although a natural occurrence, this makes it difficult for the new chief marketing officer, for example, to know much about what the chief financial officer is doing.

Scheduling video calls with equals is not typically on executives’ wavelengths. But in today’s world of work, it should be – it must be. Because when the left-hand does not know what the right hand is doing, problems result. Company efficiencies and productivity suffer. As we coach our clients: You are not just joining the team you will run, you are joining your boss’ team. Neglecting to invest in the development of relationships with team members and leaders at your level, in your situation, creates a leadership dysfunction that is not good for the company – any company.

Developing Relationships in a Virtual World
The key to a successful onboarding process and the development of one-on-one relationships is active listening. In the new work-from-home landscape – where the watercooler conversation, spur of the moment “let’s grab a coffee,” and unannounced pop-in are absent – how does one develop those relationships? Where are the opportunities for active listening? It is not through
only one’s direct reports, nor is it solely from your boss – a key source of learning comes from peers.

Your peers will likely have various levels of experience and institutional knowledge about the company. That experience and well-earned knowledge will likely become essential resources for your own team’s success at some point. After all, the Chief Procurement Officer will likely need to rely upon the Chief Supply Chain Officer, and vice-versa, to succeed. Not only will they know the business, but they will also know your people. And developing those relationships, over time, is an integral part of being a good executive.
So how does a new executive team member develop those relationships while working from home? Here are three suggestions:

Develop a Comprehensive Communication Plan
Along with your hiring manager, develop a detailed onboarding plan that ensures you will communicate with all stakeholders. This is especially important for connecting with new peers, an oft-forgotten cohort. It is natural to devise a plan to configure best practices for your new boss and those reporting to you. But developing those relationships with your equals is critical to your success because these people will help you navigate the workplace culture from your same vantage point.

Plan for Spontaneous Connection
Leaders at every level must find a substitute for the unplanned office drop-in to say hello. Those interactions are typically low-stress and ultimately derive high returns when it comes to relationship-building. For WFH, we suggest keeping a pad near your computer to write down a reminder of what you might say when you virtually drop in. That means preparing what you want to say in that short text and quick call—no need to schedule a videoconference to relay that “job well done” encouragement.

Schedule Virtual Happy Hours
Carve out some valuable end-of-the-day time for an after-hours virtual coffee or cocktail with your new team and with your peers. New leaders should accomplish this task through one-on-one meetings or in small groups. Be sure to develop these relationships in a more casual setting because everyone a more relaxed environment will encourage team building and team bonding.

Connecting with one’s peers within the organization should happen regularly for established leadership teams, regardless of work circumstances. When it comes to onboarding in a remote work situation, we encourage our clients to intentionally reach out to their new colleagues via video call or telephone call. Not to accommodate formal meetings, but just to say hello. This
aspect of virtual executive onboarding will also help understand the company culture and, just as importantly, what you can anticipate others will expect of you.

How Will You Improve Executive Onboarding?
Deliberately making that introduction, sharing enough personal information to form a bond, and offering your help to new colleagues will surprise some new coworkers and fellow leaders.
Those actions will also make an excellent first impression and go a long way toward easing the transition into that new position—all while working from home.

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Work-from-Home Can’t Work Forever: Blackstone CEO

Work-from-Home Can’t Work Forever: Blackstone CEO

The massive work-from-home experiment that businesses globally have adopted in response to coronavirus-related travel lockdowns has fueled a great debate on the future of offices: Will the practice become a permanent feature for employees? For Steve Schwarzman, CEO and chairman at Blackstone Group, the answer is not likely.

“This working from home is on one hand very efficient,” he said last week during a Sanford C. Bernstein investor conference. “At one of our meetings, somebody said, ‘Well, why don’t we do this all the time?’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, one reason is you can’t train new people like this.’”

Working from home appears to function well for existing employees, Schwarzman said. The crux is in the difficulty for new employees to absorb a company’s culture without personal interaction, he added.

“To run a great organization, you have to keep hiring people,” he said. “Particularly if you as a business are growing, you need more people. And those people have to learn your culture.”

Culture entails many aspects that require picking up cues from the more experienced, established members of a team on how the company does business, Schwarzman said.

“They have to know not just the mechanics of how you do a piece of work, but how do we think about it?” he said. “How do we think about risk? What do we believe is the right and wrong approach to be doing things from an ethical perspective?”

Communications over video can’t easily replicate those informal and formal discussions a team would have in an office setting, Schwarzman said.

“That’s really hard to do on television,” he said. “You have to have people sitting around talking about situations. It’s much more iterative.”

But some human capital experts say while new employee training is indeed a likely snag, it’s not impossible to maintain and build a corporate culture through remote technology.

Onboarding is clearly one of the challenges, says Bob Ryan, executive advisor at Shields Meneley Partners, an executive coaching consultancy, and managing partner at the Sierra Institute, a coalition of chief human resource officers.

“There are things that can’t be done as well virtually, and it’s very difficult to build a culture when people are not together,” he says. “Senior management helps to define the culture of an organization… and that’s hard to understand when you don’t see them day to day.”

Onboarding new employees virtually would be a challenge, Ryan says.

“Important training could be lost unless the new employee puts in a concerted effort to meeting all of their peers and stakeholders,” he says. “One of the most important groups that you need to learn from is your peers.”

Onboarding in a virtual environment is indeed “suboptimal,” says Laura Queen, CEO at 29Bison, a human capital consultancy.

“Video cannot replace face-to-face human contact,” she says.

But there are many ways that companies can still build and maintain culture via remote technology, and even increase productivity using such tools, Queen says.

“You don’t have to have face-to-face contact all of the time,” she adds.

Corporate culture often entails values, beliefs, and assumptions about the work experience transmitted through language and storytelling, Queen says. It’s possible to find new mechanisms to do that via technology, especially through tools that support learning and assimilation, she says.

One tool her team uses is Nuclino, an internal wiki platform where individuals can share intelligence on particular topics, a concept that also can work on communication systems such as Slack. Queen recently posted information about an arcane defined benefit pension question that sometimes comes up with the firm’s clients, so that other colleagues can tap it as a resource in the future, she says.

Ryan says his team has built a customized, confidential customer relationship management platform to similarly share internal information, specifically in response to the recent work-from-home shift.

Ongoing regular training and development can even be more effective in virtual settings, because many professionals have proven their willingness to participate and shown the ability to focus even better in video meetings, Ryan says. Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams are all effective for such gatherings.

“What I am hearing over and over again is that virtual meetings are going to become a more consistent part of the future,” he says.

A bigger question that companies face is whether their embrace of working from home capabilities will define their identity to the marketplace, Queen says.

“If your viewpoint is that culture can’t be transmitted virtually, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she says. “Long term it may be that a firm attracts people who are more willing to work face-to-face and less willing to work in a virtual environment. And that says to people who want a work-from-home opportunity, that this firm is not a place for you.”

That may become an important distinction, she adds, because working from home has gotten a big stage to showcase its utility.

“I think the horse has left the barn for knowledge workers with regard to the work-from-home situation,” she says. “There is an expectation that if you’re going to be a credible competitive attractive employer you’re going to have to provide some level of remote work capabilities.”

Link(s) to Article:

Work-from-Home Can’t Work Forever: Blackstone CEO

COVID-19 Forces Work Culture Shifts for Private Equity Firms

COVID-19 Forces Work Culture Shifts for Private Equity Firms
April 13, 2020

The private equity industry, historically hesitant to accommodate flexible working arrangements, has had to embrace work culture shifts as the coronavirus pandemic forces employees to stay home.

Before Covid-19, flexible working in private markets was not indulged very often, according to a survey conducted by eVestment Private Markets and MJ Hudson of 311 employees from across the global private markets industry, including GPs, LPs, and outsourced practitioners of core functions. The survey found that prior to COVID-19, just 7% of private markets respondents regularly worked from home. Of the individuals who regularly worked from home 80% were executives or senior staff while not a single junior staff member reported regularly working from home.

“Hierarchy is important in private equity,” says Dale Rose, president of 3D Group, a consulting firm that works with private equity firms. “It’s harder to hold a hierarchy when working remotely.”

Working from home will be particularly difficult for junior members of the workforce, since they may have a less-established personal network, which is hard to expand and develop via digital channels as opposed to the “trust-factor and comfort” that accompanies in-person interaction, Rose adds.

On the other hand, this may be an opportunity many people have long been hoping for. “I think there is a lot of desire from people in the industry for flexible working,” says Graeme Faulds, director of private market solutions at eVestment.

Prior to COVID-19, working hours for employees of private equity and credit managers were already long. According to eVestment’s survey, 53% of respondents work more than 48 hours at the office per week on a regular basis, the upper limit of the European Working Hours Directive.
Nine percent of respondents say they regularly work more than 58 hours per week, and five individuals report regularly clocking more than 68 hours in the office each week.

While many workers may welcome the shift to flexible working, it’s not without potential negative side effects. In an industry where long hours are already the norm, and where many struggle to put work away, remote work could lead to an increase in overall work hours. That could  boost productivity in the short-term, but it also increases the risk of burnout, Rose says.

“It could be detrimental to the psychological health of these individuals who now can work harder and more,” says Rose. “They may be working in their sweatpants and their suit tops but they’re working 20% more time.”

In addition to working long hours, the survey found that many people in private markets already had a hard time putting down their work prior to COVID-19.

The natural pauses that were built into the workday, such as commuting, meals and weekends have eroded under lockdown, says Robert Ryan, executive advisor at Shields Meneley Partners, a consulting firm working with private equity firms.

“You can work all day, you can work every minute of the day. You can stay busy for 60 hours a week,” says Ryan.


Gail Meneley Interviewed by Top HR Publication About Best Practices to Manage Your Remote Team

Gail Meneley Interviewed by Top HR Publication About Best Practices to Manage Your Remote Team

SHRM’s highly-respected publication HR People + Strategy turned to Gail Meneley when the editors sought insight into how leaders today can attract and retain top talent by embracing a remote workforce, while maintaining the team mindset.

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Tired of Big Company Culture and Pace? Look Smaller and Reignite Your Passion

Tired of Big Company Culture and Pace? Look Smaller and Reignite Your Passion

Serving as a top executive in a large company can be an amazing experience. At its best, you’re in charge of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people doing amazing things. You get to travel internationally with other industry leaders. For many, the best part is knowing that when your company makes a move, the industry feels it and the media takes note.

On bad days, you feel the pressure of unrealistic performance expectations, the inability to move the organization fast enough to be competitive, and the feeling that your influence over the organization has waned. Rather than being energized by the challenge, you find yourself a little bored, and unable to connect with the passion you once felt for the business.

Successful people often have big dreams and goals when they launch their careers. If you’re like many Shields Meneley Partners’ clients, you may have “checked those boxes.” It’s not surprising that you may be feeling less motivated and less satisfied with your work.

It might be that you are too far away from the action. The answer might be to move to a small or mid-size company whose ambition is to revolutionize the industry altogether. What’s better about a smaller company? Here’s what our clients tell us…

Less Risk

You may think of smaller firms as more risky, but the truth is actually the opposite when it comes to a specific role. A smaller company is able to pivot when they spot a market opportunity. There is a willingness to experiment and innovate, or as one client said, “We have a culture where there are two outcomes: success or learning.” The key is to learn fast, and make adjustments.

Think about it. You bring your big company smarts into a small company that needs your expertise and ability to commercialize innovative ideas. The small company gives you renewed energy, excitement, and passion for doing something great.

More Agility

It’s a known fact that the bigger the company, the more regulations and paperwork you have to go through every time you want to make a change. If you’ve felt bogged down and held back by bureaucracy at your current job, you may find you’re much happier at a smaller firm where the only approval you need to do something is to talk to the person next to you.

Better Culture

Big companies are highly political environments. No company is without politics — it is part of the definition. But some companies acknowledge it, and encourage people to play fair. But others are filled with passive aggressive behavior and turf battles over even the smallest things. If you’re sick of playing that game and are looking for a workplace where you can ask for what you want and talk about how you feel, a smaller company will be a breath of fresh air to you.

You might also have a bit more fun – and we don’t mean just playing around with ideas. The smaller the company, the more likely they are to be more casual in terms of policies and practices: working from home, other forms of flex time, comfortable dress code, culture-building events like happy hours and day trips, and actual play (those stereotypical ping pong tables didn’t come out of nowhere). If your current environment is rigid and internally focused, it might be time to look elsewhere.

Big companies can be be great for your resume and for making a name in your industry. But, you don’t have to stay forever. If you find that being around hundreds of people isn’t for you, or want to have a more direct impact, reduce stress, or experiment more, consider moving to a smaller company. Not sure? Get in touch with your Shields Meneley Partners advisor – or reach out today to start a conversation with us.

Letters from Home

In this recently published book by David and Andrea Reiser fifteen basic American virtues are explored that help develop individual success and make the United States a strong country. Written in the form of letters to their four sons, each chapter includes profiles of exceptional “real people” — the authors’ wealth management clients, friends, and neighbors — who not only highlight the factors that they believe are essential to living the good life, but also serve as an inspiration for the reader.

The Reisers believe that some of the most basic virtues and values of our country are not taught to our children and modeled by their parents. Instead of our work ethic having a foundation of responsibility, dignity and respect, they believe that often what is modeled is the desire for individual entitlement. The authors’ concern is that if we continue to move away from those cultural traits that helped our country become so dominant, America’s standing in the world will surely fall.

Some of the topics of the book are:

  • Learn that adversity can make you stronger through learning how to become more resilient
  • Using your moral compass as a guide in your life can be real, not merely some philosophical notion
  • Be responsible for your actions, rather than blaming others for your difficulties, will make you stronger and more influential
  • Be gracious, emphasize your blessings brings depth to your living

David and Andrea, who are friends of mine (I’m also quoted on page 108 in the chapter on Resilience & Accountability), are strong advocates for each of us to be responsible for how we live our lives and what we teach our children. They believe that it is not too late, but we must emphasize these fifteen values in our life NOW. They passionately argue that it is our responsibility not only to future generations of Americans, but to help us in the present connect with our collective past. By doing so, we will experience what truly leads to success, prosperity, and fulfillment.

I encourage you to purchase this wonderful book, you will find it at Amazon. The Reisers are contributing 100% of the royalties from the publication of this book to three personally meaningful organizations: Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (www.mskcc.org), and FORCE (www.facingourrisk.org).