By Chris Gandy
The so-called virtual workforce is snowballing – and for good reason. According to one source, in the USA businesses can achieve an average saving of $11,000 for each virtual worker they bring on board. On top of this are the intangible benefits that could potentially arise from perhaps tapping into the best talent available within the state, country or planet.
Sure the potential benefits are there but for leaders to take advantage of them the right organisational climate needs to be established. To me having the “right climate” hinges on 3 things:
1. Top level support for an integrated workforce made up of in-house and remote workers. Support that is not merely lip service but is transparent via established group norms and values that stress openness, innovation and collaborative solutions. And ensuring all employees have clear goals and time lines and that their performance is monitored and timely feedback is given.
2. Recognising that remote workers are real, living, breathing, feeling human beings. They have the same emotions and needs as the people sitting outside your office or down the corridor. Such sensitivity to individual team members’ needs builds higher levels of commitment and job satisfaction. And if all this means ditching the term “virtual” from your organisation’s vocabulary, so be it.
3 Introducing a comprehensive organisation wide communication strategy – and sticking to it. We are all familiar with Thomas Kempis’ quote: “When a man is out of sight, it is not too long before he is out of mind”. An effective communication strategy that is inclusive of all team members needs to keep everyone“in sight and in mind”, no matter where they are located. Such a strategy needs to be built on the basic fundamentals of good communication – context, information exchange and meaning/interpretation. This can be further supported by such measures as:
- Meeting face to face with remote workers one or twice a year
- Using e-mail sparingly. While it is very tempting to use this channel as your main form of communication, try to restrict it to the most straightforward messages.
- Regular telephone or videoconferencing communications are a must. These mediums are particularly important for discussions involving problem solving, conflict resolution, personal feedback and recognition and acknowledge and reinforce the human element of the working relationship.
A remote workforce certainly does present some challenges. But none are insurmountable and the benefits clearly warrant the effort.
About Chris: Chris Gandy is the founder and director of Cause and Effective – a provider of contingent resourcing and leadership search services to cause-based organisations.