Starting a new role during the pandemic – Amy Denning

My name is Amy Denning and I am the Senior Finance Manager for Central and Corporate Services at Airedale NHS Trust.

I joined the finance team at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust on the 14th April, two weeks into the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, I knew the first few weeks would be tough, but I could never have imagined how tough. Thankfully I already knew a lot of my new colleagues as I had been TUPE’d into their subsidiary company two years prior. The first week was emotional! Being a social person, I was still getting used to the idea of working from home. Being in an open plan setting, chatting across the desks to colleagues and catching up over a brew in the kitchen suits me. Sitting at my dining table at home with a 4 year old chasing about, constantly wanting me to do, look at, or play something was a whole new world! Add to that a new team, a new manager, a year end I knew very little about and a pandemic, life suddenly felt very uncertain.

I have to admit I had regrets in the first month, I had moved from a job that I knew inside out, to something that was very new, very busy, and a little bit scary! Because the team were still working on closing the year end, I had very little contact in the first few days, in fact I don’t think I actually spoke to anyone until day 3, when I decided to arrange a team meeting and ‘meet’ my team for the first time using Microsoft teams. Why I didn’t do that on day 1 I don’t know!

Three months in, I am enjoying my role. As a team we have achieved so much and have a lot to be proud of.  We have implemented a brand new COVID and Operational Reset financial governance process that has ensured financial decisions are made in an efficient and effective manner at the correct level. This has supported clinical colleagues in delivering exceptional patient care during the pandemic. In addition to this we have reviewed and improved the financial information we produce for the organisation so that we can add value as a service and really make a difference. There is a strong desire throughout the team to achieve excellence through consistent improvement despite the effects of the pandemic.
There have been a number of personnel changes in the department since the beginning of the pandemic, with some new faces joining the trust and others moving to different roles. It has also been a challenging time for recruiting managers who have had to carry out interviews and inductions virtually whilst trying to integrate new starters into the existing finance team.

We have reflected on what has worked well for us over the last few months and what we would like to introduce going forward to create the suggestions below which may help others who are recruiting / starting new roles in these unusual times:

  • MS Teams has been integral in helping us stay connected as a team and ensuring we are able to work effectively whilst physically being away from the organisation. We have regular 1:1, team and departmental catch-ups as well as Wednesday wellbeing check ins, Friday fun quizzes and general contact with each other to say hi / good morning using the chat function. It is so important to ensure colleagues do not feel remote or disconnected from the team and the organisation. Taking the time to check in on one another is key.
  • Sending a welcome email, that is waiting in the inbox when the new person logs into their emails. Give them a bit of an overview of expectations for the first few days. Follow this up with a call (on camera, so a face can be put to a name), on their first day and go over any key information they need to be aware of.
  • Clear and regular communication on what we don’t know as well as what we do in regards to the very fluid Covid situation and the world we find ourselves working in has been important. This has been delivered using a directorate wide fortnightly check in.
  • We have ensured we respond to individual concerns head on and accept that everyone has a different experience of home working.
  • Priority made to staff wellbeing. We have used emojis as a tool to check in with each other as a Wednesday wellbeing initiative and do a quiz on a Friday to maintain some of the social element that is easily lost while working virtually.
  • We have continued to recruit using Attend Anywhere and MS Teams for interviews, and the support received from the HR team to enable this has been really helpful.
  • Remote working has removed some of the barriers for potential candidates when it comes to interview. Factors such as distance and travel time are no longer an issue.
  • We have used the screen sharing functionality on MS Teams extensively to enable training for new starters.
  • Introduce a buddy system to help new starters integrate in to the team and navigate their first few weeks in the organisation.
  • Ensure 1:1’s and introductory meetings are arranged with new starters as soon as possible after they have started.
  • Enforce the use of the camera more on MS Teams. This helps to put a face to the name and makes talking to a screen a little less awkward.  
  • Ensure you arrange for a quick MS Teams test call a few days before the interview for each candidate to make sure you can see and hear one another. You can use this opportunity to iron out any hardware and software issues.  
  • Don’t delay interviewing  / recruiting to a role due to concerns with virtual interviews and being able to read and assess candidates virtually, once you get started it is very similar to having a conversation in person!