Working From Anywhere Requires Employees To Perform From Anywhere
In this commentary, originally appearing in Forbes, Gal Rimon, Centrical's CEO, shares that conversations he's had with customers over the last few weeks have been fascinating. Many of them told him what they’re thinking of doing next...as they move through the COVID-19 pandemic to a business world where working from anywhere is very much a part of the "new normal." But so should being able to perform from anywhere. He explains why and how.
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The conversations I’ve had with customers over the last few weeks have been fascinating. Many of them are telling me about what they’re thinking of doing next. For example, a fellow with a U.S.-based financial services company told me he’s considering rewriting the specs for the ideal employee in a customer service role — someone who could handle the job from anywhere without a 9-to-5 structure. All that matters is a desire to deliver exceptional customer experiences at any time.
I’ve heard lots of ideas — some outlandish, others quite practical. But the common characteristic is that they’re all about looking ahead and taking the lessons we’ve been learning during this pandemic and seeking ways to apply them in the very near future.
A mentor once told me that something isn’t a trend until the media acknowledges it. Well, The Wall Street Journal (paywall) recently reported that tech companies, many of which once competed for the coolest offices, are now embracing working from anywhere. Considering that so many of us have been working from home (WFH) over the last few months, that’s a logical next step. The firms that offered free gourmet lunches and on-site massages are now finding that worksite flexibility makes employees happy.
Frankly, I’m for anything that serves to improve the employee experience. But let’s not forget we’re still running businesses. And a business can only perform as well as its employees can. While it’s a marvelous idea, working from anywhere won’t work if employees don’t perform or, worse, don’t know how to perform at their best outside of the office. Add to that the very real challenge of managing them remotely. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that working from home is a lot easier than managing from home.
It’s my view that the work-from-anywhere construct focuses too much on the things needed to work — phones, computers, headphones and the like. It needs to key in on creating and maintaining desired behaviors, setting and achieving personal and team goals, learning new skills or refreshing old ones, and, most importantly, having managers coach effectively and empathetically from afar. Let’s look at each of these, one by one:
- Desired Behaviors: To have people do certain things a certain way isn’t easy — especially when they’re dispersed. It’s the managerial equivalent of herding cats. That’s why it’s imperative that you instill behaviors that result in the right actions being taken in the right way at the right time to achieve the desired result. This is about engaging and motivating employees in ways that produce the sort of performance you want to see from them.
- Personal And Team Goals: If an employee — or an entire team — isn’t clear on what needs to be accomplished on a weekly basis, the likelihood of achieving just about anything is low. Assisting, reminding and coaching individuals on weekly goal setting (and monthly goals for teams) is a must when employees work wherever they choose.
- Learning/Refreshing Skills: When it comes to remote work, roles and responsibilities will shift with demand. That’s why you need to implement a remote digital training effort that serves to reskill and upskill employees and onboard new hires at a fast pace. This can be done through the use of personalized microlearning, or providing bite-sized content that can be absorbed and adopted in the employees’ flow of work. The need to create and foster a culture of continuous learning may actually be greater when employees work from anywhere.
- Coaching From Afar: In an office, managers can easily observe how employees are going about their work, what their moods are like and more. It isn’t as easy when those employees are miles apart. When working from anywhere, managers need to actively check the pulse of their team members. Communicate bidirectionally with frequency, and not just about work matters. Managers have to make the effort to connect (and stay connected) with their teams to ensure a positive employee experience and drive performance. When managers are not in the same space as their teams, being empathetic is even more necessary and challenging. But it must be achieved.
While my own employees have been working from home, I’ve seen to it that the human aspect of working from anywhere is dealt with thoroughly and effectively.
Working from anywhere is not about creating an entirely new kind of employee engagement and performance management framework — far from it. It’s about realizing that if people are going to be mobile, for want of a better term, make sure they can see how they’re doing on their KPIs and, of equal importance, how their peers are doing.
Well before WFH became an acronym everyone knows, one of our clients, a Swiss company that sells financial savings and investment plans in Europe, put all its employee performance information and e-learning on a platform that could be accessed by its never-in-an-office sales force. With the aid of the platform, the company tallied a 45% increase in sales of new products, along with a 36% increase in policy sales — a clear demonstration that it’s possible to perform from anywhere.
Chances are, you’re seeing the same predictions I am. Once the health crisis has been handled, many companies will likely keep many of their employees remote. Twitter, for example, announced a “work from home forever” option.
Whatever option you choose, make sure you have the mechanisms in place to engage, motivate, train and measure your employees anywhere so they can perform from anywhere.