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Off-site Onboarding

Onboarding Top Management, in a virtual world

An interview with Alfredo Lalia Neto, CEO for Sompo Seguros (a Sompo Holdings Group company) which is one of the biggest insurance companies in Japan, and world-wide.

 

Working from home can be a challenge, even when you know the job, company, and stakeholders very well. When you are new however, you must learn everything in the virtual world.

Many things have changed during this pandemic and onboarding sure is one of them!

At Friisberg & Partners we hear from many CEOs and understand that it has been extraordinarily demanding to get into the new role when the employees and managers work from home. However, many of the CEOs are also finding benefits and new opportunities with getting an online start, instead of a physical presence.

 

Alfredo Lalia Neto, shares his thoughts about how he has coped with an unusual onboarding when he started as CEO for Sompo Seguros in Brazil in January  2021.

 

What plans did you have before you started, knowing that you would be presenting yourself to the Management Team and to the employees virtually? Did you manage to have any face-to-face meetings?

Preparation of a good onboarding process is always an important step for a new CEO. Back in 2016 I created such a process within a previous company for whom I worked, so do this a second time should have been easier! But, in this new environment this task became more complex than I could even begin to imagine.

I have two good friends who began new roles as CEOs during the second half of 2020. My first, and obvious, step was to talk with them to learn how they managed onboarding in this new virtual word, what was their major challengers and the lessons they learned.

My second step was to prepare a schedule of meetings dedicating much more time than usual (far more than I arranged in 2016) in one to one meetings with senior leaders – bearing in mind a lack of informal moments such as lunch and coffee time we are all used to having to create personal connections with team members.

Finally, I actively avoided any face-to-face meetings. I deliberately did not send the wrong message that this was a desirable practice at this time in Brazil where we were and are in the middle of the Covid pandemic.

 

What is the main downside of beginning a new challenge in the middle of a pandemic? Is there an upside?

In my view the major downside is the difficultly to respond to the non- verbal signals from the audience to whom you are speaking. Being responsive to the company´s culture is vital and paralinguistic signals are something we all intuitively use in normal times.

Probably an upside is we are forced to have a more rigid agenda and we are not so readily distracted by someone who is passing by your desk and will only take 2-3 minutes of your time as good Brazilians two or three minutes means 20-30 minutes!

 

Of all the routines implemented in remote working, are there be any that should be maintained when things return to “normal”? Is there any practice or routine that should be abandoned?

For sure, some things we accepted as “normal”, we now discover are not so essential. For example, I worked for a company where I spent 48 hours travelling to and from a meeting which lasted for 8 hours – whereas we now know this meeting can be effectively done, virtually, in 4 hours. That is a lot of time saved!

I still believe that the hard conversations should be done face to face so some feedback sessions will rarely be as productive if scheduled virtually.

In Brazil, we all know that social connections, celebrations and a warm welcome are part of our culture. Since everything was suddenly removed, what has been the impact on employee engagement and the role of leadership?

As a Latin culture our social connections are vital to expedite the confidence of the team and attain a culture where everyone feels empowered to share his/her opinions. In my case as I said I had more one to one meetings with the main leadership team (more than 35 meetings in the first 2 weeks!) to try to create this positive environment.

Luis Saverio Stateri
Partner, Brazil

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