This post was originally published by Axcient.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly moved a lot of employees from the office to their homes, the number of remote workers has been expanding for some time. Regardless of your professional environment, it’s important for business leaders to keep their company culture growing. Creating a strong virtual culture is critical for continued success, and employee retention and happiness – which directly impacts your bottom line.
During a recent Facebook Live Event, Rick Porter, President of Cinch IT, Marc Haskelson, President of Compliancy Group, and Suzanne Straub, Vice President of People at Axcient, shared how they’re supporting a strong virtual culture.
One of the biggest challenges of working remote is trust. Employers worry employees are not working when they’re at home, but does the amount of work matter? Regardless of where people are located, company culture should drive self-motivated, performance driven results. Key performance indicators (KPIs), create expectations between employees and employers that are mutually agreed upon, measurable, signals that gauge success over time. Using KPIs as the barometer for productivity gives employees the freedom to complete their work without strict policies of when and where.
Because all at-home work environments are different, employers need to leave room for the constraints of childcare or the responsibility of tending to a sick loved one. I’ll talk more about managing these personal duties later, but the grade of a good employee shouldn’t depend on the number hours, or the time of day that they work. Rather than micromanaging your remote workforce, an old school management style that leads to employee frustration, anger, and eventually, high turnover, rely on KPIs. These true measurements of success showcase how people are contributing to the business, spending their time at home, and performing overall.
Let’s be honest, leadership doesn’t always have all the answers. In fact, if you’re navigating something catastrophic, like a pandemic, no one has all the answers – but business must continue. When the COVID-19 pandemic did hit, Marc was honest with his employees about what was necessary to ensure job security. He announced that 30% of expenses would need to be cut without affecting customer care relationships, and he opened the door for suggestions. Not only did his team deliver on innovative ideas, but they became part of the solution.
Demanding blind loyalty without question is not a culture, it’s a dictatorship. Encouraging teamwork and active participation for a greater goal is exactly the community-based approach to problem solving people want. Overall, transparency motivates action.
One of the biggest losses in a virtual culture is the face-to-face interaction. There’s no ride up the elevator talks or chats next to the coffee machine, but that doesn’t mean human connection isn’t possible. As Rick says, you just have to get creative. Here are some suggestions from Marc, Rick and Suzanne on how to stay connected, both professionally and for fun.
Above all, make remote work connections authentic. Don’t force people to participate if they don’t want to. Make rewards something desirable, and understand that there will be interruptions. Whether it’s people and animals, internet connections, noise or novice tech users, remote work comes with it’s own special set of bumps.
Of course because a virtual environment takes place online, communication is more important than ever. All the things listed above are only successful with open and honest communication. When setting KPIs, both employees and employers need to be forthcoming about realistic expectations in order to create goals that can be met. Transparency can only be achieved with open discussion, and connection activities only work if you’re both receptive to hearing something new, as well as revealing something about yourself. Most organizations struggle with communication, so don’t be afraid to try new tools and frequencies until everyone feels as included as is necessary.
This is where those personal responsibilities come into play. Employees need to feel comfortable discussing their at-home work environment with their employer. Parents with young children might need to work odd hours, but that doesn’t mean they can’t achieve their KPIs. Similarly, if someone is caring for a sick loved one, they might be unavailable at times, but blocking time in their calendar could be the right workaround. Using empathy, technology and communication, employers should feel comfortable with the work their team is completing at home.
Both Marc and Rick were asked how they would know if they got their virtual culture right…and both presidents of their companies were stumped. Instead, they agreed it’s a lot easier to tell when it’s wrong – and if that’s how you’re feeling, change course. There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for creating a virtual culture, so be agile, welcome input, and know that it will probably take more than one attempt to get it right.
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