Simon Ellis is Head of Procurement at Ageas.
He spoke to Procurement Heads about his recent move to Ageas.
As I reflect upon my first few weeks at Ageas, I thought it pertinent to pen some thoughts down as to the experience I have had, having been through a full remote onboarding process. As this becomes more commonplace for most organisations, I hope that by sharing my experience, other businesses and other new starters can learn and take away some pointers for when they are in the position to do so.
I had lots of contact from the HR Recruitment team leading up to my start date in terms of keeping me informed of what to expect on day 1 which was great as I felt prepared.
Ageas has a great online-learning system; this enabled me to read up on all of the necessary policies and manuals as well as complete the mandatory training that had been pre-set.
Even after I had started, the HR Recruitment team continued to check-in with me to make sure I had what I needed and that I had been fully briefed on all the relevant policies and procedures.
I was initially asked to go into the office to collect my laptop from reception and as soon as I got home, I was pretty much “up and running” and everything worked as I expected which was a bonus!
I was able to access emails, shared files and use our video-conference facility from the start. We also use WorkPlace and WorkChat and these apps were incredible to get up to date with “who’s who’’, organisational structures, latest news and hot topics. Plus through WorkChat, I could easily call or message anyone from the CEO down without having to struggle with a directory of emails/telephone numbers to try and contact those I need to.
Day 1 – Week 1
I had an initial video call with my Line Manager, and was invited to join regular weekly calls with the direct reports of my line manager. For the rest of day 1, I had been scheduled 1:1 video calls with all of my team in order to get to know them.
My first week was planned out for me in advance and I had someone dedicated to support me in getting up and running very quickly, which was invaluable – they know who they are! I wasn’t “fully-loaded” with back to back meetings but just a few key ones that it would be good to attend and enough time spare to allow myself to get up to speed with key projects, MI, policies etc.
Over the course of the first few weeks, my focus was meeting my key stakeholders and their direct reports via video call – in order to introduce myself, and to start building key working relationships. Setting up a weekly team meeting and frequent catch-ups with the team was important too. In addition, we also held a few team video calls on some Friday’s late-afternoon, where we sat in our gardens/on our balconies just to relax and chat – no shop talk allowed….. but plenty of children and dogs running about!
I felt really comfortable and “at home” very quickly which says a lot about the culture here at Ageas. It is a very people-centric and caring organisation, which is at the very heart of the company and very obvious from anyone you speak to here. My team made me feel really appreciated and welcomed, sharing knowledge and allowing me to be the newbie with my constant questions about how we do things and why. My Line Manager was amazing at keeping in touch with me every few days in the first week – just a quick call to see how I was settling in, did I need any help or guidance etc – these were perfectly balanced in terms of showing care, as opposed to “checking-up”. I also had individual “welcome” calls from our Finance Director and CFO, again just to see how I was finding things and if I needed anything. I was made to feel very welcomed, valued and special in my first days and weeks; in fact when I fed back that this was how the “welcome” calls made me feel, they responded saying “…….well you are!”
Advice for other organisations
I think an organisation does initially need to get the very basics right in terms of laptop, emails and access to key files, apps, company intranet etc. I am very much a self-starter, so with the minimum kit I was ready to go. What really worked for me in addition to this, was having frequent, short bursts of quality time with my Line Manager in the early weeks, having someone dedicated to support me in getting up and running fast, plus also to be made to feel very welcomed, cared about and important by my senior management, my team and key stakeholders. And all that is probably good advice whether you are on-boarding someone remotely or not!
At a personal level, I think it’s important to remember to trust in your ability, skills and knowledge – be yourself, back yourself and just try to gather as much information as possible from as many sources as you can, using all the tools and technology that is available. Listen, Listen, Listen!
You won’t understand it all in your first few days and weeks, they’ll be times when it feels like you are literally “drinking from a fire hose” with the amount of information you are trying to take on-board, but you’ll get there – it will sink in and before you know it, you’ll be clear on your focus areas and understand the key priorities that will add the most value.