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Do I hire right now? How do I start people remotely?

start new hire remotely

Question: “We have a new person who’s supposed to start soon. We’re working remotely now, so do I postpone their start date, or can I get them settled in effectively even if it’s not in person?”

For many of you, remote working is not the problem. You’re all set up for that, and everyone has done it at some time or another. You’ve got the equipment and the tech and the apps and the Lastpass logins, and you and the team are “business as usual”, just as productive and efficient as you ever were in the office.

But what about the new person who was meant to start on Monday? (or whenever)

Do you still start them? Do you postpone the start date? Is it wise to be hiring at all right now?

If you’re used to starting new people in person, this is going to feel weird and different – and it IS weird and different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. PF has been starting people remotely for years, but our new hires have always known they were coming into a 100% virtual team. Your situation may be a bit different. We get that there’s an adjustment, but the whole world is readjusting right now. This is your opportunity to get creative with your new hires.

  1. Be honest with yourself. Is there any reason you truly can’t hire this person? Most accountants I’ve been talking to are busier than ever – doing cash flow projections, budgeting, forecasting, helping clients get financing. This is your time to shine and you’re bringing every ounce of skill and experience to bear. Unless you have real numbers showing you already this is not a good idea, don’t let “the virus” be a reason not to hire the right person. (Presumably this is absolutely the right person, and you still want to hire them.)
  2. Be honest with the new hire. This is not ‘business as usual’ right now, and you can’t make promises and projections like you would have done in the past. Previously as business owners we would look at past buying patterns, the current situation, and project into the future the best we can. Right now all any of us have is today. But if what you have today is a solid accounting business, with plenty of work to do, and a good team to do it, then it’s likely carrying on with the new hire is a good idea. Be honest with them that you’re not pretending anything is normal right now, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Tell them you’re operating based on your experience and you’ve gone through a lot of different circumstances as a business owner, but you still want them to join so you can continue helping clients – especially those who are in tough times right now. Tell them things could be a little challenging, or they could be very tough, or they could be incredibly busy: none of us know. But you’ll share with them what you know as soon as you know it, and you’re committed to maintaining your firm, so you can help clients. Show them you’re in this together. And tell them if they are scared or are unsure or don’t feel comfortable, there are no hard feelings whatsoever. They need to feel that they’re coming to a place of safety – as far as it depends on you. Neither of you can control what’s swirling about “out there” – you can only work together as part of the team to deal with its impact on your clients & therefore the firm.
  3. Set up the contract so it works for both of you. I’m not pretending to be an HR expert here, so definitely speak to one before you finalise things. Make sure you’re clear on the notice period they’re giving at their current job, if they have one, and make sure the probation period is clear in your new contract. If you need HR help, we know a few people.
  4. Train them like never before. As one of our clients said today, “You’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to really, really train them.” (thanks andy) To hold video training sessions and record them for the rest of the team. To meet with the new hire every day, chat to them, listen to what’s going well and what isn’t. To ask how it’s going and really listen to their thoughts and ideas. To review your detailed processes (or lack thereof) and get those right for the next new hire. To create, and build in, evaluations and check ins and reviews of how the team member is living up to the company values. Use this as an opportunity to get your team onboarding absolutely spot on.
  5. Default to trust. Trust is huge. This will be harder because your new hire is starting out having not met people physically, but default to trust. Encourage them (and the whole team) to share what they’re really thinking and doing, rather than trying to hide it so they “look more productive”. At PF, we encourage posts on slack like “hey my brain is full, i’m going out for a walk” or “going dark to finish this blog post”. Still build in systems which will help you evaluate overall productivity – whether that’s tracking time or evaluating planned work completed – but unless you have evidence to the contrary, act from a position of trust. Explain to the new team member how you will be evaluating them and the rest of the team, and do it consistently. If something isn’t right, call it out quickly and personally, and deal with it. Equally important is to praise the team for doing well – point out what they did right, how much you appreciate them, how well the firm is doing.

  6. Default to video. When you don’t know someone very well yet, text-only communication is missing 83% of what you need to know how they’re really doing (tone of voice and body language). Much of that is restored on video, but not all of it. I’ve noticed a massive difference in what I see from someone’s face in person, as what I see on video. But in the absence of in person connection, use video for everything. Default to it all the time. Video call them to chat through something (even if you could and are tempted to do it by text). Send Loom videos for all kinds of things – quick screenshares, ideas, thoughts. If you use Slack (which I highly recommend), use slack videos as often as you can.

  7. Share randomness, and life. We have a “random” channel in our slack group and it’s one of my favourites. We try to be human and have a laugh and enjoy our work in all the work related channels, but the random channel is for literally that – just anything. Good music, hilarious posts, interesting podcasts, family jokes… I put a photo in there today of myself 20 years ago, and the team laughed hilariously and then started sharing their own photos. Naturally they were all little tiny children, and I was… well let’s just say I wasn’t a small child. But Jamie thought I looked about 16 so that was cool.

More questions on your new hire? Just hired someone remotely and have suggestions for other accountants? Start a conversation in the PF Marketing Community and get input from the PF team and other accountants. You’re not alone!