Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, most employees at medical device companies are still working from home. With recruiting continuing at a healthy pace, newly recruited executives face a challenge they haven’t seen before: How do you come up to speed when you can’t meet colleagues in-person or go to the office?
In recent weeks, I’ve talked with people I’ve recruited to new jobs during the pandemic to hear how they’ve managed these new challenges. They gave a consistent message on what it takes to successfully transition in this new environment.
First, focus on building relationships. Relationships are the grease that makes business run smoothly, and building them virtually takes a new playbook. My recruits figured out who they needed to meet, and then scheduled time with them for one-on-one video or audio calls. They check in with their new colleagues regularly, since personal interaction in the virtual world never happens by accident.
There’s a silver lining, too. Several people told me they’ve spent more quality time with a broader cross section of colleagues than they would have if they were in the office. That’s because being remote forces new executives to figure out how to manage relationships in a disciplined and programmatic way.
Second, develop a plan to come up to speed on the business and your functional area as quickly as possible. This is challenging without the benefit of the osmosis that happens from immersion in the office.
The executives I spoke with figured out what they needed to know and who could help them learn. Then, they were politely assertive in asking for time from their bosses and colleagues. Remember, remote work is new to hiring managers, too, and they are unlikely to understand what new employees need to be successful. As the new employee, you need to be a squeaky wheel.
The goal, of course, is to build relationships and competence rapidly, and then quickly make a contribution.
Most of us miss face-to-face interaction, but it’s not coming back anytime soon. In the meantime, we have to use the tools we have. The good news is that these tools are incredibly effective when used the right way. Just ask those successful executives who started a new job during the pandemic.