Ideas to successfully integrate a new member of staff.
In March this year, a long established senior library assistant in my team is due to retire. We are a Trust in financial special measures, the site libraries in our Trust only have the capacity to hold one staff member behind the counter areas and ensure social distancing. The question is, how am I going to induct and train a new staff member if there can only be one person on site at any one time? The likelihood is that if I do not recruit to the post, not only will we be unable to cover all of our services adequately, but we will probably lose the funding for the post.
This is a question that I posed on the Library and Knowledge Services (LKS) Library Managers e-mail discussion list in England, and to which I received nine extremely useful responses. Most of those who responded, had gone through the recruitment, induction and training route with new staff since the start of the pandemic. A few had not, but nonetheless imparted some really good ideas, including some of my staff, one of whom is the senior library assistant who is retiring imminently.
The following is an anonymised, condensed version of the responses, which I hope will be of help to many others in a similar situation. I would like to thank those nine individuals who responded to me, your comments have helped me immensely.
I have focused this to represent work areas where staff cannot easily work within a safe distance of each other due to office/library design and size.
Personal qualities or prior knowledge:
• The person you recruit needs to be keen, willing to take every day as it comes, and happy to learn remotely.
• The new recruit needs to understand that the service is not usually a virtual one and that face to face working and looking after the library environment will be required once normal service provision resumes.
• Recruiting someone who has already worked for your organisation is helpful as they will already know the environment and know how things, in a general sense, work within the organisation.
Various methods of offering support:
Support the new recruit with:
• Many phone calls
• Online training
• Distant hand-holding
• Ensure an established staff member working on the library desk/counter interacts with the new recruit via MS Teams, to get them involved. Include screen-sharing.
• Ensure that jobs that come to the desk that can be carried out remotely are passed on to the new recruit to complete.
Alternative tasks devised for remote working until the new recruit can come onto site:
• Reorganising the library section of the Trust Intranet, making it easier to access.
• Create specialist library guides
• Look after marketing campaigns
• Develop a wellbeing guide to support colleagues
• Compile a list of ‘days’ i.e. world water day/heart day etc in order to tie-in with Library and Knowledge Service (LKS) tweets
Preparation prior to the new recruit starting:
• How to use the catalogue
• Complete internal quality spreadsheets.
• How to use HDAS
• Prepare short videos (filmed using mobile phone) of administrative tasks that are then saved on a library shared drive.
• Have current staff complete a worklog to explain the breadth and depth of all tasks that need completion.
• Create a work plan that is focused on tasks that can be completed remotely initially. This builds confidence, then build in more physical stuff on-site once restrictions ease.
• Ensure that all procedures are up to date
• Ensure that the new staff member will have adequate equipment i.e. a laptop, access to Teams (or similar) e-mail account is set up, enable them to contact staff on site by phone.
Ways of having the new staff member work on site but supported:
• Have a senior staff member agile working on site, not necessarily in the library, to be called upon for support.
• Have an established staff member working at the counter, and the new staff member working elsewhere in the library practising using the library management system (LMS) and other resources, and reading through documents relevant to their new role.
Some face to face training is essential:
• A room was booked in the Trust for the new recruit to have face to face discussions with their line manager. This was agreed in advance and reviewed the type of tasks the new person could do at home until up to speed and confident to cope with lone working.
• New person worked 4 weeks onsite with another colleague, included some email work whilst onsite to ensure preparedness for working from home also.
• Despite email support and phone calls from colleagues as well as some Teams sessions, there have been a few days when she [new recruit] has come onsite (rather than work from home) to work alongside a colleague to work through things.
• E-Mail/Teams instructions take much longer, it is so much easier to grasp instructions when sitting next to somebody.
• Working onsite also helped foster relationships, so that the new person was confident to ask for help, and did not sit worrying that they did not know what to do.
• Shelving and tidying can be done with another staff member on site, and perhaps a FAQ sheet can be given to the new recruit.
Length of induction:
• Induction took a lot longer than normal.
• The new recruit is still learning due to the fact that some things are asked for infrequently. Getting up to speed takes so much longer than you think.
• It’s the understanding of why we do things, and when, that has taken the longest for us, as there are so many anomalies.
Will posts be lost?:
• The Trust steer was that posts would not be lost due to the pandemic (comment made by one respondent).
Give established staff a lead on developing the new staff member, this will give some variation to the established staff member’s day-to-day work. Takes pressure off more senior staff too.
It is clearly a very complicated process to both recruit and train a new member of LKS in the midst of a pandemic where the restrictions upon us are changing all the time, frequently at very short notice.
Those who have already gone through this process, and who willingly shared their experiences with me, have invested an awful lot of time in their new recruits, adapting to the new situation admirably.
Having read through their comments, I feel much more prepared to tackle the taking on of a new recruit.
The message that came through loud and clear is that you must recruit new people who are clearly passionate about becoming part of your service and team. The new recruit’s investment is going to be trickier in the current circumstances, as well as your investment in welcoming and training them.
As well as being prepared to provide all of the e-mail, telephone, MS Teams etc , hand-holding support; have a series of projects ready that the new recruit can usefully work upon which will be beneficial to the service and also a good way of them building reservoirs of appropriate knowledge.
Also ensure that spreadsheets of crucial websites, passwords and usernames are up to date and available to them, in a secure way, naturally.
Some early on-site working is going to be crucial, think outside of or elsewhere in the library environment if siting an established member of the team somewhere else will help support the new person. They will build their confidence if they can call upon someone who is near to hand. It will also help them to more easily foster relationships with the other staff.
Videos of carrying out administrative tasks, saved onto a shared library drive is something that I had not thought of, but could be so effective, in both demonstrating where appropriate spreadsheets, websites and the like are to be found, as well as the processes that are necessary as part of the task in hand.
My greatest fear was that we would take on a new member of staff, take them through an induction and training programme, only for us still to be in lockdown and the new staff member still working from home and twiddling their thumbs because we had run out of things to prepare them about in terms of delivering our service. This, I think, was largely due to the fact that I have a long established team, and have not recruited from scratch for nearly nineteen years. I had forgotten that in our line of work, there is so very much to learn, and even in normal circumstances this takes a long time for someone new, let alone the continual development that is required thereafter.
I hope that this may be of some help to others who may need to consider recruiting a new member of staff during the rollercoaster times that we are experiencing at present!
Trust Library Services Manager
Northern Lincolnshire & Goole NFT