The journey through COVID-19 and the UK lockdowns of the last 12 months has presented us all with a totally new way of doing things that has been challenging. A paradigm shift in attitude towards remote working has been one of these things. For us, we’ve also recently gone through a job advertising process to attract graduate digital marketers to join us. We’ve found through this process that a good proportion of the UK’s potential new workforce has also shifted its attitude to rules of engagement.
As we emerge from what we hope is the final lockdown in the UK, we are all hoping that we will get back to some form of normality. One of the clichés of lockdown was “the new normal“, which was a phrase that was used with such frequency that it became irritating. As we’ve been navigating this rocky road trying to create this so-called new normal, I have been unable to put my finger on a concept that has suddenly been clarified by watching this Simon Sinek video on LinkedIn recently.
Although we have all adapted very well to remote working during the UK lockdown, what resonated in this video was when Simon mentioned that it’s been made possible because we all previously had face-to-face 38 hours a week contact with each other. Simon points out that it is this factor that has made working from home with your colleagues so successful.
This is something that has crystallised for me when advertising for a new Digital Marketer to come and join our team. On the job ads I have made it a mandatory requirement that the job (where allowed under Covid restrictions, of course) will be performed in office. Nevertheless, a large number of applicants have applied for the role assuming that remote working would be a full-time feature of the job. Assuming perhaps that this feature of the job ad is negotiable?
Although we’ve handled remote working very well during Covid, I strongly believe that somebody who has only a few months unpaid internship experience under their belt cannot be fully integrated in a team without in-real-life contact.
Taking on a new job – especially your very first job – is a process of transformation. In University – try as they might with work experience and guest lectures from industry practitioners – lecturers and students nevertheless live in a University bubble. As you emerge from a University environment ready for the first step on the career ladder, you simply aren’t ready yet for the world of work.
Joining a first place of work requires that the graduate transforms into the role they are supposed to be turning into. On day one of a new job fresh out of Uni, no matter what grade was achieved, the newly graduated student has a lot to learn about how their chosen industry actually works at the sharp end of the stick. In the industry, there are real clients and non-theoretical projects that have deadlines that can’t be extended, or worse, get brought forward!
Many new graduates we’ve worked with will observe how tired they are after their first few weeks in full-time work. This is often due to the ‘early starts’ at 9am every day, 5 days a week, week-in, week-out, but also due to the multi-faceted pace of the job.
We don’t work with just one client at a time, and clients don’t wait in an orderly line, so juggling these ever-shifting responsibilities is a part of the job. This would be the reason most employers write ‘self-starter’, ‘able to work on own initiative’ and ‘ability to adapt to change’ on their job ads. The job moves about, the clients have a mind of their own and sometimes new things develop that we don’t know the answer to, so we need to figure it out. To become all of these things, you need to walk the walk and experience how the job gets done in reality in order to gain an understanding of how undefinable many aspects of a role can be.
This transformation that will turn you into a Digital Marketer cannot be undertaken without face-to-face contact and the on-the-job training for hard and soft skills that can only be done in office.
For instance, in a small business like ours part of the job is for any one of us to pick up the phone when it rings, not knowing who is on the other end. Being phone confident and communicating verbally on the hoof is not something you are taught in University, but yet it is a skill. It would be fair to say that generationally, a confident phone manner is something that has died off in the younger and ever younger generations coming through. Picking up the phone for some people is almost a phobic experience, but it’s so crucial to be able to do it.
It’s only a small thing, but listening and watching others field unwanted calls, or seeing how they respond appropriately to whatever and whomever is on the other end of the line is an act of on-the-job training that is picked up from an in-office experience. It also instils a confidence and a new soft skill in that person that wasn’t there when they joined the job.
In the first few months probationary period a new employee’s main aim is to settle into the role and demonstrate they deserve to still have that job at the end of their probation. For an employer the aim is to deduce whether they can commit to this expense for the business by figuring out if they did indeed hire the best person for the job. The function of this period is to establish a good working relationship and have a functioning individual at the end of it, and that includes personality fit as well as a skills fit.
Lots of large companies have declared that they are permanently closing down their office space and moving their workforce to homeworking permanently. In a small business however, you are less guided by strictly process orientated methods of performing a job function and it strongly relies on having a good rapport between co-workers.
As Simon points out in his video, building a good relationship with a co-worker happens in those downtime moments where you chance upon each other and have a chat – the ‘water cooler conversations’. For us in our office it’s the chats that happen when we’re making hot drinks for everyone (and remembering how everyone takes it!), or by chance if we spot an interesting trending hashtag or snippet of info whilst we’re going about our daily business. Small non-work related conversation by conversation helps us build a rapport.
I used to work in the heart of the West End in London for the Daily Mail, back in the 90s when the “.com bubble” was growing and then subsequently bursting. We were all young and all keen to progress ourselves and our jobs were largely undefined as the internet industry simply wasn’t old enough by that point. We were all also childless and without many of the constraints of family, home owning, and other things to tie us down. The Internet industry was in its infancy and it provided one of the most exciting options for someone pursuing a brand new career in the creative industries. So we were all keen to grab that chance and run with it as best we could at the time.
Our days were typically very long, and anyone who is old enough to remember Ali McBeal, will be familiar with the after-work bar scene. The same was true for us where we would all congregate in one of a handful of regular bars just off Oxford Street, away from the tourists, where we would wind down after our intense days where we had been quite literally responsible for developing the leading edge of the internet industry.
As well as getting drunk to inappropriate levels on a ‘school night’ with a frequency that was probably also quite detrimental for our collective liver health, what we got from this work together and play together culture was something that our employers couldn’t possibly have obtained in any number of ‘team building away days’. We bonded.
The bonding enabled us to work out problems as a true team and across departments. We all knew each other and learned how to communicate and collaborate with each other by being able to take our time getting to know each other at a pace that suited us. When something cropped up that we needed help with, we knew who to talk to and could make that conversation happen without the need to get it organised for us by our ‘higher ups’.
Although we wouldn’t condone regular heavy weekday drinking to bond a team, we do believe in regular human contact to help us come together and learn how to best communicate with each other. So here in our much more sedate Bakewell office, we go out for lunch, for team walks, or we eat pastries and drink coffee over a team meeting and share a little of ourselves each time. This is how we work together effectively as a small but mightily efficient team.
We aren’t a large corporate company that has strictly defined process oriented roles that enables 100% remote working from day one – but who wants a strictly defined process oriented role anyway?
If you’d like help with digital marketing, ads management, SEO, copywriting, websites, branding or social media management… or anything else related to the internet and digital, then get in touch with us. We’re a friendly bunch.