This article first appeared in Forbes Technology Council.
Working remotely has become an important part of the lexicon for most modern enterprises. In today’s current work environment, some employees work almost 100% of the time from a remote office, while others will apply it as an ad hoc benefit. A report by Upwork suggests that 73% of all teams will have remote workers within the next decade. So, it’s clear that the future workforce will come in many shapes and sizes.
The latest annual Deloitte study on HR trends indicates that future workforces will comprise of freelance workers, gig workers, and crowd workers, in addition to employees. These new work forms have gone mainstream, and companies must prepare for a different and unchartered future than they are accustomed to managing. For companies that want to grow and attract critical skills, managing these work forms becomes an essential part of their governance model.
We know the obvious benefits to the employee with such an arrangement. These include a better work-life balance, no time wasted during a long commute, and more flexibility overall. But improving the employee experience with a future alternative workforce must go beyond these obvious HR perks.
Without proper consideration, remote work can also leave employees feeling disconnected and isolated. They can suffer from never being able to “turn off” work completely. On the other extreme, they can feel out of touch with crucial company insights, leaving them unproductive or disengaged. To elevate the employee experience for your remote teams, leaders must carefully consider and implement the following:
1. Are you regularly soliciting feedback from your remote staff?
This, of course, relates to their personal development, but it is also applicable to leadership and management. How are company leaders performing? How are their respective teams and projects performing? What gaps do they see? What is working like clockwork? Regularly gathering feedback is vital to have a pulse on remote employee engagement and to pinpoint challenges and opportunities that not only affect your employee, but that could directly flow to your customers.
2. Are you regularly analyzing feedback and making meaningful changes when needed?
Listening to remote teams builds trust and goodwill. But inertia will squander that trust if the status quo lingers.
3. Do you have the best tools and technology to facilitate remote teams?
These include everything from video conferencing, chat rooms, and other collaboration technology to file sharing, ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management), and HR systems. Remote teams must easily plugin so that communication and execution are seamless.
4. Have you provided relevant training to remote employees and their managers?
While remote working has skyrocketed, there may still be a stigma from certain managers toward employees they do not see every day. If you opt to have a company culture that accepts remote work, then you must fully embrace it and be sure that everyone is on board from the top-down. Having clear policies and communications is essential, but so are relevant training and employee onboarding, so everyone understands expectations and boundaries.
5. Do you provide regular moments for face-to-face communication?
At some point, the occasional physical meeting can do wonders for building rapport, community, and creativity.
From a company standpoint, an associate-based work policy can have several advantages. It can bring a more diverse workforce to your organization – whether it is talent from different parts of the world or talent that may benefit from added flexibility (workforce with children, aging parents, employees working on an advanced degree, etc.). Hiring and paying fairly for a diverse workforce is vital to staying ahead of your competition in terms of innovation, customer service, and creative problem-solving. In addition, the future of work, including increased automation, artificial intelligence, and a growing gig economy, will necessitate more agile teams and flexible hours.
For businesses to survive these fundamental shifts, having the right technology, training, and culture will be imperative. Otherwise, you may risk imploding under the stress of change. Organizations that grow, evolve, and manage their remote workforce effectively will reap the benefits from their employees and, ultimately their, customers.
Left wondering what else Frank is passionate about? Take a look at his Forbes article on the Currency of Trust.