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How to engage staff when you’ve never met them face-to-face

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How to engage staff when you’ve never met them face-to-face 1

By Mark Seemann, founder/CEO of StaffCircle

A Guide To Onboarding New Employees Remotely

Onboarding remote workers presents businesses with a new set of challenges not faced when onboarding in the workplace. The familiar induction process, built around face-to-face introductions and meetings, needs to be modified for the digital sphere especially when people are forced to work from home.

Communication is often the biggest challenge for remote works. Having a timetable for the first couple of weeks with regular check-ins and clear tasks for the new employee to fulfil will enable them to adapt quickly to the culture and keep on top of their goals.

The first few weeks for an employee will stay with them throughout their career with you, thus it’s important you set clear processes for yourself as well as your new recruits.

1. Introduce them to your company’s culture

A strong company culture permeates throughout the workforce, but it’s harder to get a feel for this when everyone is working remotely. Building your company’s core values into the framework of your performance management system helps to clarify and promote it to your new hires from the outset.

Providing them with a digital version of your company handbook or a digital welcome pack, along with any other text or video resources discussing your company’s culture can help to strengthen these values. You should also update any induction packages you have so they are relevant to a digital workplace.

2. Hold virtual meetings with their team members and direct reports

When introducing a new hire to team members and key contacts, do this via video calls. While you can’t replicate the face-to-face induction process entirely, these calls will help to quickly establish relationships and strengthen communication.

Hold these initial meetings on their first day, linking them with a sponsor or mentor to help them find their way in the company and keep them connected to their team through any other channels, both work-related and informal social digital spaces. Ask co-workers, managers and direct reports to introduce themselves and explain their roles and how they might be able to help.

3. Establish their work expectations and objectives

Comprehensive performance management tools which allow everyone to track and update their objectives and key results are the backbone of your company. You can use these to clearly establish the work expectations and objectives of your new remote workers so that they are clear about their immediate tasks and longer-term goals.

Set out their key projects and short-term deliverables up front and make sure they have liaised with the relevant team members they’ll be working with. Once you have defined the goals and added them to the relevant communication channels in your performance management tools, you can establish benchmarks for performance which managers can track directly.

4. Make sure they have the software they require

Mark Seemann

Mark Seemann

From day one ensure they have access to the right software and IT to do their job, leaving them without will leave them feeling left out. Help them set up their company emails, cloud storage systems and any other programs they require. If you are providing equipment make sure all software and applications are ready installed so they’re set up to start work immediately.

Make sure they have access to your company’s internal communications platform, allowing access to goal tracking, absence requests, intranet and any other internal systems they need. You can also help them to complete any HR paperwork online such as employee contracts, making use of e-signature tools to eliminate unnecessary paperwork.

5.  Catch up weekly, monthly and quarterly

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of How To Invest Your Time Like Money, explained the importance of one-to-one meetings in an interview with Harvard Business Review. “One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager. They are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.”

Schedule regular weekly conversations as well as monthly and quarterly appraisals ensuring these regular touchpoints are maintained. If they are having any difficulties settling into the role or if they have any other feedback to pass on, these informal catch ups will help managers identify any cause for concern, both in terms of workload and mental well-being.

6. Training and development

Set up a training programme early, and get new hires used to learning news skills.   It’s important to check their training for specific tools unique to your company, make sure they are put in touch with the relevant employee and training documentation.

Build a library of training videos/documents and interactive courses and link any product demonstration videos and other resources to help them to better understand their role, making them easily accessible via your internal communications platform .

Refine your onboarding process

Onboarding processes can sometimes leave a lot to be desired, and a survey from Accountemps in 2019 revealed that 6 in 10 workers met with mishaps when starting a new job, now it’s all being done remotely. Refining the process is essential to address any problems with communication.

Conduct surveys of any previous employees who were onboarded for remote positions to see what they suggest you can do to improve the processes and provide better resources. The full cycle of onboarding is an exercise in engagement, and done well it will boost productivity, encourage collaborative working and enhance the innovative capacity of your business.

Business

Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services

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Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services 2

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Economic activity in the euro zone shrank markedly in January as lockdown restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic hit the bloc’s dominant service industry hard, a survey showed.

With hospitality and entertainment venues forced to remain closed across much of the continent the survey highlighted a sharp contraction in the services industry but also showed manufacturing remained strong as factories largely remained open.

IHS Markit’s flash composite PMI, seen as a good guide to economic health, fell further below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction to 47.5 in January from December’s 49.1. A Reuters poll had predicted a fall to 47.6.

“A double-dip recession for the euro zone economy is looking increasingly inevitable as tighter COVID-19 restrictions took a further toll on businesses in January,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

“Some encouragement comes from the downturn being less severe than in the spring of last year, reflecting the ongoing relative resilience of manufacturing, rising demand for exported goods and the lockdown measures having been less stringent on average than last year.”

The bloc’s economy was expected to grow 0.6% this quarter, a Reuters poll showed earlier this week, and will return to its pre-COVID-19 level within two years on hopes the rollout of vaccines will allow a return to some form of normality. [ECILT/EU]

A PMI covering the bloc’s dominant service industry dropped to 45.0 from 46.4, exceeding expectations in a Reuters poll that had predicted a steeper fall to 44.5 and still a long way from historic lows at the start of the pandemic.

With activity still in decline and restrictions likely to be in place for some time yet, services firms were forced to chop their charges. The output price index fell to 46.9 from 48.4, its lowest reading since June.

That will be disappointing for policymakers at the European Central Bank – who on Thursday left policy unchanged – as uncomfortably low inflation has been a thorn in the ECB’s side for years.

Factory activity remained strong and the manufacturing PMI held well above breakeven at 54.7, albeit weaker than December’s 55.2. The Reuters poll had predicted a drop to 54.5.

An index measuring output which feeds into the composite PMI fell to 54.5 from 56.3.

But despite strong demand factories again cut headcount, as they have every month since May 2019. The employment index fell to 48.9 from 49.2.

As immunisation programmes are being ramped up after a slow start in Europe optimism about the coming year remained strong. The composite future output index dipped to 63.6 from December’s near three-year high of 64.5.

“The roll out of vaccines has meanwhile helped sustain a strong degree of confidence about prospects for the year ahead, though the recent rise in virus case numbers has caused some pull-back in optimism,” Williamson said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Cable; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Business

Volkswagen’s profit halves, but deliveries recovering

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Volkswagen's profit halves, but deliveries recovering 3

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen reported a nearly 50% drop in its 2020 adjusted operating profit on Friday but said car deliveries had recovered strongly in the fourth quarter, lifting its shares.

The world’s largest carmaker said full-year operating profit, excluding costs related to its diesel emissions scandal, came in at 10 billion euros ($12.2 billion), compared with 19.3 billion in 2019.

Net cash flow at its automotive division was around 6 billion euros and car deliveries picked up towards the end of the year, the German group said in a statement.

“The deliveries to customers of the Volkswagen Group continued to recover strongly in the fourth quarter and even exceeded the deliveries of the third quarter 2020,” it said.

Volkswagen’s shares, which had been down as much as 2%, turned positive and were up 1.5% at 164.32 euros by 1158 GMT.

Sales at the automaker rose 1.7% in December, at a time when new car registrations in Europe dropped nearly 4%, data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association showed.

Like its rivals, Volkswagen is facing several challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as a global shortage of chips needed for production.

It also sees tough competition in developing electrified and self-driving cars. The merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot-owner PSA to create the world’s fourth-biggest automaker Stellantis adds to the pressure.

Volkswagen said on Thursday it missed EU targets on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its passenger car fleet last year and faces a fine of more than 100 million euros.

The group is expected to release detailed 2020 figures on March 16.

($1 = 0.8215 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter)

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Global chip shortage hits China’s bitcoin mining sector

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Global chip shortage hits China's bitcoin mining sector 4

By Samuel Shen and Alun John

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – A global chip shortage is choking the production of machines used to “mine” bitcoin, a sector dominated by China, sending prices of the computer equipment soaring as a surge in the cryptocurrency drives demand.

The scramble is pricing out smaller miners and accelerating an industry consolidation that could see deep-pocketed players, many outside China, profit from the bitcoin bull run.

Bitcoin mining is closely watched by traders and users of the world’s largest cryptocurrency, as the amount of bitcoin they make and sell into the market affects its supply and price.

Trading around $32,000 on Friday, bitcoin is down 20% from the record highs it struck two weeks ago but still up some 700% from its March low of $3,850.

“There are not enough chips to support the production of mining rigs,” said Alex Ao, vice president of Innosilicon, a chip designer and major provider of mining equipment.

Bitcoin miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify bitcoin transactions in a process which produces newly minted bitcoins.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Samsung Electronics Co, the main producers of specially designed chips used in mining rigs, would also prioritise supplies to sectors such as consumer electronics, whose chip demand is seen as more stable, Ao said.

The global chip shortage is disrupting production across a global array of products, including automobiles, laptops and mobile phones. [L1N2JP2MY]

Mining’s profitability depends on bitcoin’s price, the cost of the electricity used to power the rig, the rig’s efficiency, and how much computing power is needed to mine a bitcoin.

Demand for rigs has boomed as bitcoin prices soared, said Gordon Chen, co-founder of cryptocurrency asset manager and miner GMR.

“When gold prices jump, you need more shovels. When milk prices rise, you want more cows.”

CONSOLIDATION

Lei Tong, managing director of financial services at Babel Finance, which lends to miners, said that “almost all major miners are scouring the market for rigs, and they are willing to pay high prices for second-hand machines.”

“Purchase volumes from North America have been huge, squeezing supply in China,” he said, adding that many miners are placing orders for products that can only be delivered in August and September.

Most of the products of Bitmain, one of the biggest rig makers in China, are sold out, according the company’s website.

A sales manager at Jiangsu Haifanxin Technology, a rig merchant, said prices on the second-hand market have jumped 50% to 60% over the past year, while prices of new equipment more than doubled. High-end, second-hand mining machines were quoted around $5,000.

“It’s natural if you look at how much bitcoin has risen,” said the manager, who identified himself on by his surname Li.

The cryptocurrency surge is affecting who is able to mine.

The increasing cost of investment is eliminating smaller players, said Raymond Yuan, founder of Atlas Mining, which owns one of China’s biggest mining business.

“Institutional investors benefit from both large scale and proficiency in management whereas retail investors who couldn’t keep up will be weeded out,” said Yuan, whose company has invested over $500 million in cryptocurrency mining and plans to keep investing heavily.

Many of the larger players growing their mining operations are based outside of China, often in North America and the Middle East, said Wayne Zhao, chief operating officer of crypto research company TokenInsight.

“China used to have low electricity costs as one core advantage, but as the bitcoin price rises now, that has gone,” he said.

Zhao said that while previously bitcoin mining in China used to account for as much as 80% of the world’s total, it now accounted for around 50%.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Alun John; Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and William Mallard)

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