Transitioning to Supporting Remote Workers in a Hurry? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Right now, schools and offices around the country are sending people home to try and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Fortunately, modern technology gives us the capability to work remotely fairly successfully. However, the task of transitioning entire workforces to working from home poses some serious challenges for business owners. 

Aside from the basic challenges that come from managing and leading a remote workforce, it becomes exponentially harder to do so without having a lot of time to prepare. While it would be impossible to transition a previously on-site workforce without setbacks and challenges, by doing their research, business owners can decrease the potential for costly mistakes.  

Start by asking the right questions 

If you’ve never lead a remote workforce before, you probably have a vague idea of the challenges that come with working remotely. To properly prepare your employees, you need to answer several questions:  

  • Do you have communication channels available for your employees to use? If so, how robust are they? 
  • Do you have a way to track and collaborate on team projects, specific tasks, and weekly/monthly goals and progress?
  • How do you deal with storing and sharing documents and files? Do you have a way to access files remotely? 
  • How do you plan to promote employee wellness, community, and culture among your remote workforce? 

While these questions may be obvious, they’re also essential to ensuring your workforce stays on task and productive. Making remote work work for your business doesn’t just require employees who can manage themselves to a certain extent, but an infrastructure—provided by you—that promotes and supports their ability to do so effectively.  

Communication 

First and foremost, your employees need to have the capability to communicate with their team efficiently. If you’re thinking that you’re covered by just using email, you’re gravely mistaken. Email is not robust enough to support your employees’ needs. Think about it. How many emails get lost in your inbox every week? How difficult is it to sort through piles of messages in your inbox coming in from your team, clients, and service requests? And how much time does it take to find the discussion you’re looking for?   

Take the time to ask yourself what your company needs specifically.  

  • If you want to give your employees the ability to chat with each other directly in a fairly casual way, you may want to provide instant messaging options. Apps such as Slack or Teams allow your employees to talk directly with each other or in curated groups and teams.  
  • Are there teams in your company that need to meet with each consistently? Conference calls can be confusing and hard to direct. Consider using video messaging apps like Zoom, where your employees can meet face-to-face, share screens, and provide presentations with visual aids.  

You may decide you want to go with more than one communication channel. To ensure they are used efficiently, train your employees to use them properly and set up systems and expectations around how and when they should be used. 

Organization 

There are many tools your teams can use to stay on track with projects, and access and share files and documents. Online project management tools like Asana and Monday.com are great ways to organize your teams online, provide assistance, accountability, and coordinate team efforts.   

Saving and sharing documents online is also a necessity to minimize the risk of losing important documents due to a malfunction on someone’s computer or human error. You also want to ensure that certain materials are always available to your employees, like their employee handbook, or other important resources. Online file storing options like DropBoxOneDriveand Templafy are useful tools your company can use to manage files.   

Again, you must create a system-wide infrastructure that is accessible to your employees. 

  • Clarify how and where files should be stored 
  • Create a company-wide nomenclature system 
  • Organize your communications, projects, and documents systematically

Culture 

Maintaining a healthy company culture during a time of transition is especially important. Take extra care to ensure your teams are provided the support they need to comfortably and efficiently move to a different format than they’re used to. Understand there will be a learning curve, and give your employees the encouragement and patience they need to adjust without the added pressure of fear of failure.  

Coach your managers in how to effectively support their teams from a distance. Adjust your meeting and communication policies to fit the changing needs of your workforce. This may mean additional one-on-one check-ins between managers and their teams or increased daily communications.  

However it is you end up moving forward, make sure you’ve done your research. You must understand the needs of your company and find the best solutions to meet those needs. Be patient, give your employees the grace they need to adjust, and always be willing to adjust your methods. With the right effort and preparation, you’ll do just fine.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

 

 

Five Signs It’s Time to Re-Train Your Managers

Employee engagement and satisfaction can make or break a business. Everything from company culture to benefits to schedule flexibility can affect the employee experience. Companies to go great lengths to maintain a happy population of employees, but what is the one thing with the most power to influence the employee experience? Managers.   

Frustratingly, many managers are placed in their position without being trained. Often high performing employees are selected to become managers because they’re great at their job. However, just because someone is excellent at organizing and executing their own work doesn’t mean they’re ready to manage a whole team of people  

When you have a manager who needs training, your employees are going to know it. But will you?  

How to know your managers need some help

1. Employee frustration at seemingly small internal hiccups  

If you’re finding that group morale dips when relatively small issues need to be addressed, you might be seeing a symptom of poor leadership. Employees that are already at the end of their rope dealing with poor communication or direction, due to lack of leadership, are going to get easily frustrated when issues arise, even if they’re relatively small.  

There is a threshold for the amount of juggling and direction change a group can take, and if their manager is adding to it, they’re going to have a much lower bar for what frustrates them. Are you familiar with the term “the straw that broke the camel’s back?” Then you get the gist. 

2. Confusion about role clarity 

As a team is organizing a project, do you see confusion around responsibilities? Do things slip through the cracks?   

If employees are unclear about their responsibilities, it could mean they aren’t getting enough direction from leadership. Or it could mean their manager isn’t following a consistent plan when delegating projects. If you have a manager assigning projects and tasks based on whom they prefer, and bypassing employees’ job roles, it’s going to create confusion at bestand downright resentment at worst. 

3. You don’t hear new ideas from your employees
 

If you’re wondering why your employees aren’t offering up new ideas and solutions to streamline processes, fix issues, and strengthen your company, you’ve probably got a problem with management. The fact is, everyone working at your company is going to have opinions and ideas. They just won’t share them if they’ve been shut down in the past, or if they’re afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes.  

Your employees are your best resource because they’re on the line doing the work. Your managers should be doing everything in their power to engage them and get them thinking about how to improve the company. If your managers are critical, dismissive, or even uninterested in their team’s ideas, all you’re going to get is a lot of silence and wasted opportunity.  

4. You get pushback when things change
 

Company culture comes from the top down, and if you have a manager or leader who is resistant to change, you’re going to see that translate to the way employees handle change. Lets face it, you can’t run a successful business without continually looking for ways to improve and grow, which means you have to be open to change.   

Managers who resist change are working against the natural flow of any company and ultimately end up stifling innovation and growth. Train your managers to expect change as part of the job, so they take it in stride and see it as an opportunity for growth. By doing so, you’ll develop a more agile and robust company.  

5. You only hear about the same few people on their team
 

If a manager only ever reports on the same people, this could mean one of two things. Your manager has favorites among their team who get special attention and recognition. Or your manager is failing to properly coach and lead their entire team, leaving people to become isolated and lose support.   

Either way, your manager likely isn’t looking at their team holistically but is picking out (either subconsciously or consciously) people they more readily connect with. This favoritism is detrimental to promoting diversity, which has proven to be an excellent resource for building teams. Plus, you never know what Shy Sam from tech might have to offer if he isn’t coached into being more comfortable sharing his thoughts.  

If any of these are hitting home for you, don’t lose hope! There are countless ways to train your managers and help them learn the skills they need to become great leaders. Chances are, you just need to give them the opportunity. When you provide your leadership team with development and learning opportunities to help them grow as leaders, you’re investing in them, in everyone they manage, and in your company 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Rachata Teyparsit

Building A Foundation for Communication

Internal communication is at the very heart of making sure your company is running smoothly. Not just within each department, but between departments, leadership, and HR. You’re probably nodding your head (or rolling your eyes) because this is basic, like really basic, for every company ever. So why are we writing about it? Because lack of communication is something many businesses struggle with and it can cause big problems. 

When a company suffers from a lack of communication, there’s always fallout: 

  • Accountability drops 
  • Resentment builds 
  • Important information gets lost  
  • Initiatives fail 
  • Employees start looking for other employment 

The list can go on and on and on. Lack of communication can leave employees feeling directionless and disengaged at the very least, and at worst, cost the business serious money in wasted initiatives, botched sales, and confused and frustrated customers.   

So how do you ensure your company is communicating effectively? Start by pick your channels. 

In-person meetings 

Setting up a reliable schedule for meetings is a key part of maintaining consistent communication. There’s a lot of talk about how meetings can be a waste of time if executed improperly and without an agenda, but that’s not a reason to stop having them. Instead, make them better.  

  • Set up weekly or monthly meetings between team leaders to review overall company goalsupdate each other on current projects and challenges, and stay uptodate on interdepartmental projects. Come into the meeting with an agenda and stick to it. If new topics come up during the meeting, make a note and address them at another time. 
  • Set up 5minute startofday meetings within departments for managers to highlight daily goals and agenda. 
  • Set up endofday (or week) meetings covering what has been accomplished and/or what needs to get done next.  

Digital communication 

Inperson (or video) meetings are critically important to developing relationshipsbut they shouldn’t be the only way of communicating. Supplement regular meetings with a digital communication channel to keep the communication flowing and document what’s been discussed.  

Thankfully, there are countless apps and programs companies can use for internal communication channels. While email is a standardit’s also so overused that it’s not always the most efficient way for companies to communicate internally. Think about your inbox—there are probably emails waiting to be sorted, emails you haven’t had time respond to, and emails you’ve forgotten entirely. Add in the back-and-forth messiness that comes with email conversations and you’ve got a recipe for poor communication.  

While email can be a good option for some communications, it shouldn’t be the only one you use. There are plenty of apps such as Slack or Microsoft Teams that are great for more efficient and effective communication.  

With digital apps, you can have direct conversations between individuals. And you can also have conversations in a group format where everyone in the group can see what’s being discussed. Keep this really focused by setting up multiple discussion groups, and have each be for a specific topic. This lets people choose the topics relevant to themselves and their roles. 

Whether it’s a direct or group conversation, the digital apps provide a great way to have a string of conversation that is saved and easily searchable.  

Keep it consistent  

Consistency is at the core of good communication. Once you choose your channels, stick with them. Create an expectation that everyone from the top down consistently participates in the meetings and uses the technology. Make it clear how and when the different channels of communication will be used. The more they’re used effectively, the more people will depend on them, and the more efficient everyone will become. 

Leadership must set the example and take the lead in adopting any new technology. If your leaders are still stuck using email or the whiteboard in the common area, the time you spend training your employees to use the program will be wasted.  

If your company is struggling with a lack of clarity and communication, ask yourself if everyone has a reliable way to contact one another and discuss internal topics in a timely manner. Then ask if your leaders are committed to using those channelsPeople will do as you do far more than they’ll do what you say.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Bonzami Emmanuelle 

 

Create an Atmosphere for Employee Contribution

In our world of rapidly changing business practices and marketing techniques, innovation is essential for keeping businesses in the race. Fostering a business that thrives off change and innovation may seem illustrious and distant, but it isn’t out of reach—even if you’re working with a small team. 

There are plenty of unique ways to get creative, but without first implementing these key concepts, your efforts won’t be as successful as you hope 

1. Create an atmosphere of psychological safety 

This may seem obvious, but its all too often taken for granted. At some point, most of us have worked under a manager who valued their position of power and resisted anything that might threaten it. Like that great idea you had about how to attract a new type of customer.   

“That’s great, but we like how things are now and we don’t want to upset the balance we’ve created.” In other words: “I am comfortable being the shot caller and I don’t want anything to change in case it affects my position.”  

This behavior is not only toxic to the future of the company, but to the employees working around it. No one wants to be shot down for their idea, or to see their ideas get pushed aside over and over again. Eventually, they’ll stop speaking up and start looking for a job where the contribution of their ideas is welcomed. 

Ensuring that every employee from each level of the company has the opportunity to share ideas expands your resources. Each employee is exposed to unique challenges and experiences based on their job, and they just might come up with something that management would never have thought of.  

Your employees are the driving force behind your vision and accomplishing your goals. Without a culture that praises and encourages new solutions, ideas, and tools offered up by employees, no one will want to contribute, and you’ll lose their buy-in. Show them you value their ideas by giving them the opportunity to share and act on them.   

2. Encourage collaboration  

Collaboration fosters imagination, productivity, and inspiration. Think back to the last time you had a great meeting with a group of people that fed off each other’s energy and ideas, where you got more done in an hour together than you had all month alone.  

Take advantage of this collaborative approach in your organization by giving employees opportunities to learn and expand their vision. 

  • Conferences are a great opportunity to get people working with each other and expose your employees to new ideas and techniques. They also provide a chance for you to stay up-to-date on what your competitors and peers are doing. Encouraging employees to attend conferences is also a great way to give them a refresher—get them out of the office and into something new so when they come back, they’ll be full of new ideas and energy.   
     
  • Teams 

Great teamwork is one of the most coveted accomplishments in business. Nothing generates productivity and success like a team that works together to implement new ideas and challenge the status quo. Building teams and a culture of collaboration is a huge part of getting ideas flowing and generating momentum within your company. Assign team leaders who are responsible for bringing new ideas to leadership to ensure they get heard and considered. 

  • Networking 

There are countless professionals in every area of business that are interested in helping and collaborating with each other. There isn’t anything to be gained from keeping your employees separate from other professionals in their field just because you don’t want to share with competition. There is plenty to go around, so don’t hesitate to send your employees out into their professional community to sus out new ideas, technology, and techniques.  

  • Aligning Departments 

Interdepartmental collaboration is so important, not just for creating an innovative culture, but to help align your business with your core goals and values. Set up meetings between departments to talk about the challenges they face and crowdsource ideas about how to address them. You never know, Sadie from marketing might just have the perfect solution for dealing with a common roadblock that is stopping sales from closing their leads. 

Taking full advantage 

It’s critical to remember that each employee at your company has something unique to offer. Each person has their own strengths, interests, and motivations. By building a culture that encourages and enables each employee to bring all their tools to the table, you’re diversifying your pool of potential solutions to any problem.  

The key is to remember the individuality of your employees and incorporate it into the heart of how you run your company. When employees can tell their ideas and solutions are valued, they are more likely to feel a sense of loyalty to their workplace. Not to mention heightened engagement. That’s what smart business is all about.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Aleksandr Davydov

 

How to be an Employer of Choice

Is there a magical way to become an employer of choice and attract top talent? Nope. But there are a couple of quick and easy tricks to recruiting and retaining great employees.

  1. Find out what they care about.
  2. Provide it.

Just what do employees care about?

Lots of things! That said, every employee is different, and what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Employee motivations are wide-ranging and can change over time. The more diverse your group is, the more diversity you’ll want to build into your employee benefits. This doesn’t mean your company has to start offering everything under the sun. It just means you‘ll want to think about the kinds of people you want on your team and the kinds of perks and benefits that will be most attractive to them.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a very simple idea: Ask your current employees what they love most about working for you. If the answer is “The Paycheck!” this could mean that your employees care most about financial security. It could also mean they aren’t super excited about your culture— or anything else you’re currently offering.

If you want a more well-rounded answer, follow up by asking your employees for one thing they wish they could change. This will provide additional insight into what motivates them and what they feel is missing from the current environment. If the top answer here is “More vacation days!” it could mean they need more time to rest and recharge. Reading between the lines, it could also mean they value flexibility, or that workloads have gotten out of control, and it’s time to hire additional team members.

As an employer, you have the power to dig as deep as you want on these topics. There is one caveat here: If you love your current business model, aren’t ready to make major changes, or don’t want to stir up a bunch of negative feedback, a survey may not be your best course of action. If this is the case, you can simply look to the research that’s already out there to get an idea of what employees want and how you can deliver on those things.

Top employee desires

While it’s true that each person, company, and work group is different, it’s also true that the majority of employees are looking for a few key things. Today’s employees want to work for organizations that provide the following:

Financial security

While many things matter to employees, money is still the top deciding factor for the majority of job seekers when taking or leaving positions. Employees aren’t just looking for financial stability, they also want the hope of a secure future.

Things employees value: competitive compensation, tuition assistance, student loan repayment programs, retirement plans

Health benefits

Having great healthcare doesn’t just keep employees well physically. It also helps with financial  and mental health. Many employees can’t afford healthcare on their own, and they value the security and wellness this benefit brings to their lives. (According to one survey, 88% of respondents said they would give this benefit “some consideration” or “heavy consideration” when choosing a job.)

Things employees value: low cost medical, dental and vision plans, HSAs, telemedicine

Work/Life balance

All work and no play makes for an unhappy team. Both work and life can get incredibly complex and busy, and employees are looking for ways to artfully manage it all. At the end of the day, even the “Rise and grind” types want to be able to work when, where, and how they want to. The good news here is that flexible hours and remote work often cost nothing for employers to provide. These things can actually make employees happy AND save companies money at the same time.

Things employees value: flexible schedules, remote work options, unlimited vacation policies, paid time off, parental leave

A sense of belonging and purpose

The lines between work and personal lives are blurring. More and more employees want to feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. They want to be accepted as individuals and they want to feel like they are making a difference in the world. For today’s workers and job seekers, culture has become nearly as important as compensation.

Things employees value: company culture, workplace diversity, paid volunteer time, defined career paths, professional development

The bottom line

Talented employees have options. They aren’t afraid to leave bad bosses or bad companies. More importantly, they will be inspired to seek out organizations who have solid values, do great work, and treat employees well. Investing in your people and your benefits program is a great way to increase employee retention and make sure you stay on the nice list.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners
 
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