Together Alone

12 June 2020

Joining a new company can be an unsettling experience at the best of times, but changing jobs during the worst pandemic in over a century is enough to make the most confident among us feel a little unnerved. 

Nicki Kelland, Leonardo’s Senior Learning and Development (L&D) Advisor, was one of the team challenged with ensuring that those joining Leonardo during this time felt at home in as short a time as possible without the usual welcoming handshake!

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get our ‘e-duction’ process up and running,” says Nicki, “but ultimately, it’s been intensely satisfying, especially with all the positive feedback we’ve been receiving from both those joining us and the team managers we’re helping.”

Following the company’s decision to send the majority of staff home, the L&D team had just three days to get the updated process ready for the first of the company’s new joiners.

“Some of the projects we work on at Leonardo are critical to supporting the UK armed forces’ response to COVID-19 and our overall national security, so we knew we needed to help those joining the company to take on their new role as quickly as possible, in order to enable our project teams to keep pace with the demands of our customers,” explains Nicki.

“We have had a small number of starters joining our key workers who have continued to attend site during the crisis, and we’ve been able to welcome them in person (ensuring that social distancing guidelines are observed). However, the overwhelming majority of our new starters needed to embed themselves in teams no longer onsite.

“Many of the people were understandably nervous about the situation as this is obviously not the ideal climate to change or start a new job. We needed to make sure that those joining us felt part of the family as soon as possible, despite the lack of human interaction.”

Taking Control

The challenge for the L&D team was to find an approach that enabled the unprecedented number of new people joining the company to understand not only their role within the organisation, but to connect with their new colleagues and learn more about the culture of the business.

The process is evolving all the time from the original concept but ultimately comprises:

  • Information – a comprehensive welcome pack covering all company matters
  • Learning – library of e-learning material and virtual classrooms
  • Interaction – ‘digital handshakes’ and L&D hosted touchpoints including:
    • Webex, skype or a phone call with their management team
    • question and answer forums to support e-learning
    • a work buddy to provide an additional source of knowledge and support.

Nicki points out that the most important part of the new process is allowing new joiners to have control of their own induction.

“We want our new colleagues to take ownership of their own introduction to Leonardo; to get them up and running at a pace that works for them,” she says. “We suggest a timetable which includes e-learning courses on our company values; on corporate functions, such as HR, Health and Safety and Security; as well as Virtual Classrooms on our various UK business areas such as Cyber, Electronic Warfare, Radar and Advanced Target Systems.

“We also encourage people to schedule time to meet key colleagues, as we want them to reach out and understand what each one does and how this in turn impacts their role. As well as learning about their team, we want them to get an idea about our culture such as our approach to diversity and inclusion.”

To provide as much flexibility to the schedule as possible, joiners can access all their essential learning material securely through any device, not just their new work equipment.

“This is really important if we want to allow people to manage their own time,” says Nicki. “Having said that, our IT teams have been tremendous in providing our new joiners with their equipment as soon as they can – either by couriering it to their home address or having joiners visit their site at a scheduled time.

“Remember, this is at a time when a significant number of our current employees also needed to have the appropriate tools to continue to do their jobs at home!”

Part of the team

Outside of the official induction process, the L&D team and many colleagues across the UK have been doing what they can to build team spirit – not just for those new to our business, but for everyone who is missing the normal social interaction of the work environment.

“We’ve had quite a few digital coffee mornings as well as virtual ‘meet the team’ sessions that are being held by the L&D team or the project teams themselves,” adds Nicki.

“We’ve also been holding online quizzes and games such as Catchphrase, Fact or Fib, Who am I? and Trivial Pursuit. We had great some fun and hopefully they’ve been a nice ice breaker for those taking part.”

One recent appointment at Leonardo during this period is the company’s new VP Indirect Procurement, Kristina Drysdale, who is settling into her new role.

“I started in the middle of April right at the peak of the pandemic. I was quite apprehensive about starting a new job remotely. However, there was no disadvantage to the timing – everyone has been so welcoming and it’s been really easy to feel part of the team,” says Kristina.

“The induction course was really informative and the technology has been key to connect with everyone – this was really important to me as my team is spread across our UK sites. I’ve been able to have many 1-2-1 and team meetings, and even a two-day bid summit with suppliers! 

“The culture here is very welcoming – many people have been at the company for a long time and everyone seems to care about what they do.”

The way ahead

Since the lockdown begun, Nicki and her colleagues have e-ducted over 60 new joiners across the Edinburgh, Luton, Lincoln, Basildon and Southampton sites of Leonardo Electronics business, with even more joining the Helicopter business in Yeovil and the Cyber team in Bristol. This is expected to exceed 100 people by the end of July.

“For me, the induction process is of vital importance, no matter what the circumstances,” reflects Nicki. “People have made a significant life choice to join our business and we have a duty to make them feel part of the team ASAP.

“If anything, the current situation and the work we’ve done over these last few months has only gone to show the value of providing a world-class welcome to Leonardo.

“From a purely business perspective, if there is such a thing as a silver-lining to come out of these extraordinary times we are living in, it is that this has been an incubator for a path we were already on – helping deliver an induction process that meets the expectations of the talented people joining us to further their careers.

“I hope that this is one thing that our new colleagues can look back on positively when they reflect on this difficult time.”

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