To get the most out of your remote team, however, your team members need to have all of the relevant information – and a few golden nuggets of advice – at their disposal.
How to make remote collaboration real
Communicating and collaborating with your team is key, but this is especially true with remote employees. After all, you can’t simply stop by their office to ask them a question or resolve a misunderstanding. You aren’t gaining the subtle information about their motivations and habits that you pick up in working side by side every day.
So how can you effectively communicate and collaborate with team members who aren’t in your immediate proximity? First, look in the mirror, and strengthen your communication skills so you can explain yourself clearly and concisely. That includes learning to identify the right tools for the specific communication job, from email to Slack to video conferencing. You shouldn’t have serious conversations about performance via Slack; you also don’t need to burden a staffer with a 10-page memo for two kernels of information that apply to her situation. Keep your team notified of any workflow or company changes though group emails.
Make sure that each communication channel has a purpose and that your team knows how to use each; attempt to occasionally have in-person meetings or retreats for the team to maintain a collegial vibe and keep up a feeling of team camaraderie. Encourage your team to ask questions and raise concerns.
More tactical tools can also be helpful. Calendar and management tools should be streamlined and accessible to your entire team so you can schedule meetings and track productivity across multiple time zones. Take into account time zones when scheduling meetings; if an employee can’t attend, record the meeting so it’s accessible later.
Provide contact information or a staff directory. This eliminates the middleman, allowing your remote team members to go directly to the source. Give your team access to relevant files and software, and share everything from company mission statements to long-term plans. Ensuring your remote team members are still absorbing the culture of your company is crucial to consistent work and employee retention and engagement.
Empower employees by handing them the reins
If you hired a content specialist for your company’s website, for example, that’s her responsibility. She’s churning out written content for your blog and helping your marketing team develop sales collateral. Hand the reins over, simply ensuring the remote worker is actually doing the work she was hired to do. Empowering her by making yourself available – while avoiding hovering – will spur increased productivity for both of you.
Once remote workers are on board, you also need to provide them with guidelines and procedures. This allows the writer to jump right into an article, knowing exactly what’s expected. And if she has a question down the road, she can turn to the document instead of waiting for me to respond. If she finds a problem not addressed by the document, that triggers an update to our procedures so others who run into the same problem know what to do.
Can remote workers achieve work-life balance?
Even seasoned remote workers struggle with work-life balance. Because they’re not clocking in and out, remote workers tend to overwork, not underwork. There’s no clear divide between their home space and their workspace. This can eventually lead to burnout, which isn’t good for you or them.
As a leader, you can work against this tendency. Don’t assign more work than your remote workers can handle in an allotted time period, and encourage them to step away occasionally. The only way to find out whether this is happening is by communicating with them frequently so you can gauge how they’re doing. You can also use time-tracking tools to see how long they’re actually working on a task, and then plan accordingly.
Experiment with schedules
We all have different times of the day when we’re most productive. For some of us, that could be first thing in the morning; for others, it’s at night. Encourage your remote team members to find out when they’re most productive by experimenting with their schedules until they find their “prime time.”
Generally, our prime time is based on our own ultradian rhythm. This is a recurrent cycle that our bodies go through daily. Have your team members download this Prime Time Calculator Spreadsheet so they can determine when they’re most productive.
An even easier method is having them track their time. This can be as simple as writing down how they spend their time each day for a week or so, noting how long they spent on specific tasks or how long communication with a certain client required. There’s also time-tracking software you could invest in to easily view the team’s productivity at a glance.
Also, remind remote workers to note how they felt. If they’re tired and spending 45 minutes on social media in the early afternoon, that’s definitely not when they’re most productive.
Remote workers struggle daily with unclear priorities and constant distractions. Be empathetic as they sort this out. It may involve some trial and error, but if you guide them, your team members will get this down pat.
To steer your team in the right direction in regard to priorities and distractions, encourage your team to keep their to-do-lists short. This should include only their top two or three goals for the day. (On your end, this means not bogging them down with lengthy to-do-lists.)
To meet those select high-value goals, let them know the power of scheduling. I plan my entire day the evening before; this keeps me focused and prevents anything that’s unplanned from wasting my day. To that end, give them tips on how to eliminate distractions. I let my remote team in on my secrets: This includes turning off email and message notifications on my phone and batching similar tasks together. If I work from home, I sometimes place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my office door.
If you have something important to discuss with an employee, don’t email him throughout the day. You’re better off scheduling a five-minute phone call to address the matter. This way, everyone can stay focused on work instead of sending back-and-forth emails for hours.
Encourage employees to be their own tech support
Remote workers are completely at the mercy of technology. This means if a computer crashes, their internet connection fails or their power goes out, they have to fix it ASAP or make their way to another location. Either solution results in time spent not working. And if they don’t seek out those solutions, they’re not making money, as well as falling behind on the work you’ve assigned.
As such, they need to serve as their own tech support when they experience hardware or software problems. The first place to start is to let them know who to speak to. If their internet goes down, they should have the direct tech support number for their internet service provider. That eliminates time wasted on the phone with an employee who can’t assist them. It also helps to ensure employees have a mobile hotspot in case of emergencies.
If you have an employee who seems to excel at IT problem solving, you may even suggest that she take some online tech support classes. For a small pay bump and reimbursement for the classes, she can add to her skill set and serve as your team’s go-to tech assistant in addition to her regular duties. This can empower your employee and provide others who are less tech-savvy with some needed relief.
Remote workers tend to be self-sufficient employees who excel at figuring things out. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t need tools and resources only you can provide. Think through the ways you could be hampering your remote workers’ productivity, and do your best to get out of their way so you can both reap the rewards of remote work.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Are Our Workplaces Gen Z And Gen Alpha Proof?
Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to generation proof their workplaces before Gen Z and Gen Alpha enter the workforce, only to retreat into their technology bubbles. The question is, how do companies get the balance right?
Preparing for a new generation to enter the workplace is a lot like baby proofing your house. You spend a lot of time and money making sure this vulnerable creature, with very specific needs, has everything they need to play, grow and thrive in their new environment, without too many run ins with sharp objects that will inevitably lead to tears. But who are you future proofing for and how?
The challenge in 2018, is that your house has only just become Millennial proof. And yes, while it’s great that you’re so On Fleek with all the latest open office concepts, flexible working spaces, new internal communication channels and social media influencers that these hashtaggers thrive on, that aint gonna fly with the more independent multi-multitasking Gen Z, who will favour private enclaves and online collaborations with global teams and communities of influence. And what of Gen Alpha, the Google Glass generation who will view technology as a physical appendage and glass screens as their genuine, not virtual, reality?
The good news is that Gen Z, or iGen as they are commonly known for being weaned off milk with iPads, will pave the way for the even more self-sufficient, independent Gen Alpha. So, if you get the foundations right you can start building a generation-proof business that will stand you in good stead for the next 50 years, give or take.
The challenge with generation proofing is that we often spend all our time focusing on the hard, tangible stuff – the tech and spatial environment – and not enough on the soft issues that will actually help retain and motivate employees to not only stay and play but thrive and grow. And when we consider that Gen Z is heavily driven by career growth and is likely to have 17 jobs and 5 careers in a lifetime, we should be focusing a lot more on getting the work/culture balance right. In fact, engaging and retaining Gen Z will be a balancing act like no other, where two seemingly opposite needs play out in the workplace. Get it right and you win the prize – a loyal, integrated workforce that is connected on more levels than one.
Balancing career growth with the need for retention
Every generation is born into an era that shapes, motivates and influences their decisions. Gen Z’s world view may be largely shaped by technology, but they are also the product of economic uncertainty, having been born into a recession. So, it’s not surprising that they value financial security, job promotion and learning. As expert online collaborators who are also capable of working independently, companies would do well to embrace online learning as a powerful tool for mentorship, training and growth, especially one that promotes career promotion and professional advancement.
Balancing technology with the need for focus
Eight seconds – that’s how long the average attention span of a Gen Z employee will be. Gen Alpha will be even less. Immersed in technology from an early age, these serious multi-multi-taskers will work tirelessly across different technologies and will process information at the speed of light. The downside is that it’s going to be a challenge to keep their focus, even more so than Millennials. More than ever, companies will need to create multipurpose private spaces or pods, where these workers can retreat to in order to focus on the task at hand. These spaces should also support their need for blended face-to-face/online groups.
Balancing independence with the need for shared culture and meaning
Yes, this generation will be fiercely independent and shun micromanagement and a desk bound culture, but it will also crave meaningful work, regular interaction with management and opportunities to make a valuable contribution to society. Companies that only focus on creating opportunities for remote working and online collaborations, will miss the mark.
To retain this group, you need to focus on creating a shared corporate culture and opportunities for regular engagement. In this way internal communication will become a key driver in bridging the gap between a non-desk and desk-bound workforce and finding new ways to engage and inspire an increasingly disparate workforce.
Employee apps will become the most important channel in workplace communication bringing information, social connection and engagement together in a way that resonates with these digital natives.
Balancing privacy with the need for engagement
Internal communication will become a balancing act unto itself. How companies communicate with employees will become as important as how often and how much. Internal communication will need to move beyond intranet, SharePoint and ESN like Workplace and Yammer to embrace wearables, robotics, and virtual reality, all of which will not only reflect but drive the digital native.
As the vital link between company and employees, internal communication will need to engage employees through validated channels using curated content that not only drives the message but embeds the company’s shared values and brand ethos. And did we mention the maximum reading time should not exceed 10 minutes per day? Tough ask right?
Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to proof their workplaces to embrace Gen Z and the AI generations to follow. The mistake would be to focus only on the tangibles and neglect the soft issues that really drive retention and shape corporate culture. Making sure internal communications teams are properly trained, equipped and mandated to handle the enormous challenge, will be key to cracking the generational code and claiming your share of its human capital.
Why A Generous Paternity Leave Policy Can Be Bad For Equality
Gender-neutral parental leave policies can be great for women – but only if fathers take full advantage of the time off.
A few months ago, I had dinner with my wife to celebrate her birthday. Shortly after, as we rode along the Hudson River toward our apartment, we sighed in relief with the certainty that our son wouldn’t be born that night – because, let’s be honest, nobody wants to share a birthday with their mother. We went to bed only to wake up just past midnight to rush to the hospital. Esteban was born the next day.
As it happens, my employer recently implemented a new parental leave policy that offers 16 weeks of full paid leave to any employee in care of a newborn or adoptive child. Generous and equalitarian parental leave policies like this have a well-documented impact on curbing gender discrimination at the workplace. But, this is only the case if men take advantage of them. So, as one of the first employees to have this benefit available to me, I am going to use it fully and I plan to be very vocal about it. I have to. I owe it myself and to those who come after me.
There are three key ways that policies like this can work against gender disparities in the workplace. First, their gender-blindness is inclusive of gender nonconforming parents. No company benefit should depend upon the employee’s gender identity, though, sadly, it is still the norm.
Second, an extended period of full paid leave allows families to fully recover from the financial, physical and, often, medical impact of having or adopting a child. Finally, by doing away with the concept of a primary caregiver, which typically defaults to the mother, it removes the unfair career opportunities advantage men get when their colleagues are out caring for their offspring.
That said, this last powerful mechanism of gender equality is only effective if men take the benefit in full, too. In fact, if the norm becomes that mothers take the 16 weeks of leave and fathers return to work earlier, the policy may even work against women by removing them even longer from their careers in comparison to men.
Discrimination at work toward mothers, and more broadly toward women in child-rearing age, is a multi-faceted problem. One of these being the perception that motherhood makes women less valuable workers due to their domestic responsibilities. In fact, while women take a 7 percent hit on expected income per child – the so-called “mommy-tax” – dads actually see bump in theirs.
Countries like Sweden, Quebec and Germany have a long history of providing a generous parental leave that can be divided at will between both parents. What these countries have recently realised is these policies, on their own, are widely ineffective in fighting the traditional gender division of childcare. Fathers made little use of the benefit, which reinforced the role of women as primary caregivers. Child-rearing age for women is when the gender pay gap starts to grow. This is widely attributed to women being perceived as less valuable workers because of their role as primary caregivers. This vicious cycle needs to be broken. To close the gender pay gap, men and women workers need to be equally expected to care for their children. In order for this to happen, it is necessary for men to use parental leave benefits at the same rate of women.
Nobody can force men to take paternity leave, but we can create a culture where it is expected and accepted.
Culture is easier to build than change, which is why it is essential that the fathers of those first few babies included in new leave policies understand the implications of their actions. We have an opportunity and responsibility to set the right precedent, to serve as an example to other men in our organisation.
Gender inequality is a serious problem in our society and we must seize every opportunity to combat it – one family, one company and one industry at a time. As a man in a leadership position I have the responsibility to use my influence to combat it. Esteban has given me this immediate opportunity to make things better and I am not planning to disappoint.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Training Is A Two-Way Trick
It’s a win for everyone involved.
Training your team and having them leave your business soon after is a frustrating expense, but not training them is a risk you can’t afford to take if you want to hold on to your best people and attract and retain new talent that will help you grow.
Why should training your teams be part of your retention strategy?
- It takes time to build institutional knowledge – and time to build relationships. Training and opportunities for improvement build loyalty among staff, so your business will benefit from having loyal, upskilled team members who know your business, and who know your clients too.
- Relationships are not just between your people and your clients – the employer-employee relationship is vital too. Training – whether it’s basic onboarding and effective internal communications, or NQF-level programmes – tells your people you respect them, you believe in them, and you want them to grow with you. What else grows? Their loyalty to your business.
- Find out what people want to learn and how they want to grow, rather than choosing a path for them – they’ll appreciate your investment and will reward it with growth in your business.
My focus while building The Capital Hotels and Apartments over the last 10 years has always been training and empowering my teams, but it has to be done strategically so that both parties’ benefit. We view training and development as a two-way relationship, though, with investment from both sides.
What does this mean?
- We offer world-class training programmes
- We encourage our people to identify the roles they would like to grow into, and the responsibilities they would like to adopt. They’re then tasked with finding someone already in that position, and to spend free time job shadowing to be sure they’re confident of the growth path they’ve chosen.
- Once they’ve got this insight, and they’ve researched how they’re going to complete their growth journey, they approach us for support in training.
People that are prepared to invest their own time in this way demonstrates that they’ve got what it takes to go places – with us – and we’re happy to invest in their training and development.
The success of this approach is evident in the low attrition we’ve seen among people who have grown through the ranks within the company. The company has benefited too, because our teams are more skilled, and they know our business and our clients so well that they’re less likely to make mistakes along the way.
It’s a win for everyone involved.
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