Did you know that nearly a third of all new hires will quit their jobs within the first six months? The reasons vary, but the noticeable lack of effort being made to make newcomers feel welcome was cited as one of the primary reasons that so many workers chose to quit so soon after being appointed. When new colleagues establish a strong social connection with their team members, they’re simply more productive and more engaged in their work. The challenge we have is that building rapport with new colleagues hasn’t gotten any easier in a post-pandemic world where a majority of workers between the ages of 22 to 65 are working remotely.
So, how do you build rapport with new colleagues in a world that’s becoming increasingly more digital?
It’s a challenge that can be easily overcome by using the strategies below.
Technology is the backbone of our remote workforce. Frankly, it’s become the backbone of modern society! While organizations were forced to overcome the challenges of instituting a remote workforce during the onset of the pandemic, it’s now become the norm. Unfortunately, in these remote environments, we lose our ability to read and interpret non-verbal signals that we receive from our co-workers, like their body language and facial expressions. However, society has undergone an evolutionary process of sorts and we’ve refined new and effective methods for communicating in a world that relies far more on digital communication than it did just two and a half years ago.
In Microsoft’s recently published Work Trend Index report, we find that organizations are faced with a growing sense of disconnect between employees due to a profound lack of rapport among them. More precisely, it was determined that only half of the world’s remote workforce feels like they have a strong relationship with their colleagues.
This lack of rapport can lead to unnecessary forms of tension and employee conflict, and both can significantly undermine productivity. Happier employees are productive employees, and when organizations achieve maximum levels of rapport amongst colleagues, the entire organization operates more efficiently and profitably.
Before we show you the best strategies for building rapport with new colleagues, it must be emphasized that these strategies will work best only after colleagues have been furnished with the necessary equipment and information that they need to fulfill their work responsibilities. A great first step is to reach out to new colleagues and ask if they have the tools they need.
How crucial is this in a post-pandemic world that relies so heavily on digital communications? E-mail messages that include excessive punctuation or apply all caps (i.e., DO THIS NOW!!!) are very much subject to misinterpretation by the recipient. By assuming positive intent, we begin every interaction (especially with a new contact) with the assumption that the sender means well, no matter what the content. This isn’t always an easy step, but it ensures that we’re laying the proper foundation for the relationship.
In Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” one of the most successful books in history, one of the esteemed habits is: Seek first to understand. Then to be understood. In common practice, it’s showing your new colleague that you want to understand their perspective. Simply asking questions that invite your new colleagues to open up can go miles in demonstrating that you value their feelings and their contributions.
New colleagues will undoubtedly have many questions, so show them that you are working to keep all lines of communication open. Connect with them very early in the relationship and share with them the fact that it is normal to have a lot of questions at the beginning and that you welcome the opportunity to answer those questions.
By being more accessible to your new colleagues, you show them that you want to support them, and they will feel more comfortable asking those key questions at the beginning of the relationship. It’s also wise to let your colleague know how they can ask their questions. For example, e-mail, video conference, weekly meetings, instant chat, etc.
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Did you know that, for some people, it’s more probable that they’ll feel negative emotions when someone new joins the ranks? Concerns over being replaced or worries that someone new will reveal internal weaknesses within the work group are very real concerns. They’re also the main reasons why new hires can create a sense of intimidation among a closely-knit bunch.
We can overcome these feelings when existing team members connect with a new colleague and extend an invitation for a “virtual” coffee break. Think of it as a “meet and greet” that can involve more than two people, and it’s an effective way to make a newcomer feel comfortable within the group. Of course, new hires will sometimes reach out on their own, but that can be intimidating too. Why add to the stress that your new colleagues will likely already be feeling from starting a new job?
When an offer is extended to them, even if just to have coffee and chat, new colleagues will likely feel much more comfortable, and it’s the perfect first step in building a new relationship. It’s also the perfect opportunity for a discussion of the company and a way to introduce company jargon.
55 percent of communication is visual, so it’s little wonder why our use of video apps for meetings is 50% more than it was before the pandemic started. Texts, e-mail messages, and phone calls all have their useful purpose, but we’re literally missing more than half of the sender’s real message without the visual cues that we’ve come to rely on.
As remote work environments continue to be implemented, video conferencing apps are becoming a greater part of our daily office routines – use them to introduce yourself, or your whole team to your new colleagues. Video may not offer all the features of an in-person interaction, but it will significantly “close the distance” between team members and will give your new colleague a more accurate sense of what your organization’s culture is like.
In the professional world, emojis are no longer child’s play – they’re useful means of communicating our emotions. Modern studies show that we’ve grown so accustomed to using emojis in our communications that we’ve been conditioned to respond to emojis no differently than we would respond to a real human facial expression. Going back to 2020, 7 out of 10 professionals used emojis in their communications, and that number is only trending upward as our world grows increasingly more digital!
Show your new colleague that the use of emojis is perfectly acceptable in your organization’s culture, and you’ll soon discover how effective they can be for accurately “reading” someone’s emotional state.
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Ask any sales professional, and they’ll agree - If you can make them laugh, you can make them buy. We’re not sure if it’s that easy to get someone to open their wallets, but we’ve found that people who laugh together do tend to like each other more. Social media is absolutely awash with memes and gifs that you can share with a new colleague to make them laugh or even just make them smile.
But there is an endgame in trying to get on LOL back from your colleague – creating a bit of laughter between you and your colleague does more than just improve communication; it plays a crucial role in the level of emotional bonding between the two of you.
While coffee breaks, emojis, and laughter might seem to offer little in terms of meaningful contributions toward the goals of a work team, we must understand that being able to build deeper levels of rapport, especially with a new colleague, is a crucial factor in the performance of a workgroup.
If organizational leadership desires to build highly-functional work teams in the modern marketplace, they must look deeper than credentials, certifications, and technical skills – they’ll need to begin to see their workforce as people first.
We mentioned earlier how technology had become the backbone of modern society, and today’s industry-leading organizations succeed because of their investments in HR technology.
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