The RemoteWork Talent Revolution – how to transform working from home to a growth strategy
The COVID–19 is the tipping point of the Remote-Work, or, if to be less dramatic, the entry gate for the next evolutionary stage in the ‘future of work’ – Officeless companies with redefined remote workforce strategy, flexible employment opportunities & global hyper performing teams.
Employees’ transition to the ‘Remote-Work’ operating model was consolidated among companies across the globe as a managerial default and quick win solution, designed to ensure employees’ health & business continuity in times of Corona. However, a report Microsoft released back in the early days of April showed the Remote is here to stay: “the world is realizing we can effectively connect across distances in a way some never thought possible before”. The fortune 100 company Nationwide concluded the largest Remote-Work experiment by saying: “Working from home during coronavirus is going so well that we are going to keep doing it—permanently” and Barclays’ CEO Jes Staley joined the spirit of Remote-Work by saying: ‘crowded offices could be ‘a thing of the past’.
It becomes clearer that ‘Remote’ is not only a desirable perk or a tactic solution but rather a growth strategy among companies with the competitive advantage of bringing together top talent & advanced technology.
Arguing over the pros & cons of the Remote-Work talent strategy is like debating whether digitation is good for humanity. Our lives will increasingly become digitalized, the question is how we maximized human potential & build a better world using technology, or in our case how we translate Remote-Work to market leadership.
As many as 2,500 companies in the global market are operating in a full or hybrid business model of distributed work, among them several companies evaluated for over one billion dollars: Gitlab, Elastic, Automattic, Hashi-Corp and InVision.
Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom, addressed the coronavirus outbreak: “The coronavirus crisis is fundamentally and irrevocably changing the world of business, the methods of communication and the workforce operating model around the world”. “If I was to start the company all over again,” Yuan says, “I would not have a single physical space. I was asked by my friends whether I’m crazy. They realize that’s a reality now”.
Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce in 2016. By 2020, Millennials (those born between about 1980 and 2000) are forecast to comprise half of the American workforce, and by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce. They will transform the physical layout of the organization & bend the companies toward higher flexibility. COVID -19 Expedite the process. Studies show that Both women and men are interested in flexibility work. They understand that the career ahead of them is an ultra-marathon, and they strive to achieve a work-life integration, unlike a work-life balance that speaks of a clear division between both worlds with a clear separation between them. The ability to work from anywhere, at flexible hours, in successful companies is undoubtedly a model of employment that matches the needs of the generation.
The technology giants Intel, Cisco, IBM, Facebook, and Google have decided in the current crisis to expand the possibility of Remote-Work. Twitter had recently joined them, extending the work from home all through the fall. They all redefined the “new normal”. Some argue that international companies that are experienced in working with global teams through internet communications have a relative advantage over small companies that are experiencing technological barriers and lack of experience in managing distributed teams. This argument is only partially correct. Remote-Work does not amount to relocating the employee’s place of work to a home office or poolside. The company’s ‘way of work’ cannot be copy-paste to Remote-Work processes & procedures. Enterprise norms cannot be duplicated into a digital infrastructure. It requires refinement & rewrite of the organizational ‘way we work’ protocol & the right people on board. We are not all cut for Remote-Work. Attempting to preserve a traditional managerial culture in a Remote-Work model will result in potential impairment to productivity, talent performance levels, and a general show of the managers’ lack of control over time.
Remote-Work, unlike what you see in today’s discourse, which is based primarily on remote employee management tips and organizing the new work environment, is a strategic workforce planning & management strategy. A distributed employment model can be applied to positions where competition for talent is particularly difficult, to task teams, organizational functions (human resources, marketing, finance) or anywhere corp: (officeless) An organization that seeks to expand the possibilities of hiring remotely is required to redefine several critical elements in implementing the Remote-Work strategy, which is contrary to the characteristics of the Israeli management of ‘improvising as we go ahead’ we are so proud of.
So, what does it take to be able to translate one of the greatest experiences of all times into a workforce strategy?
Most of us still hold to the notion that the best way to manage effectively is closely monitoring the employees’ work. ‘Look them in the eye, keep them close, watch them work, step in when required’. We measure people’s work based on efficiency rather than their effectiveness & quality of deliverables. Companies that want to transfer to a hybrid model of Remote-Work as part of the workforce strategy, need to get prepared for a new type of management. The new management type is based on four critical components:
- The first – a clear definition of tasks, production and schedules. It is all about quality work & time to market.
- The second – low dependency between team members needed to perform tasks. The greater the dependency is, the more complicated it gets.
- The third is performance measurements – a solid agreeable monitoring processes, systematic definition and performance measurement as the basis for trust & alignment.
- The fourth and most important is an agreement on a clear policy of Remote-Work that clearly refers to the psychological contract (mutual expectations) between the employee and the organization. This is what we call organizational culture – modes of communication and transferring of information, norms of behavior, code of ethics, work routines.
The year to gap after the COVID-19 will change the terms of negotiation between the employees & the employer. By 2021, likely with our emergence from the current crisis, the amount of talent searching for their new opportunity will grow dramatically with the prospect of companies’ reduction. In addition, there are multiple other complementary employment models with the benefit of high flexibility & professional growth opportunities. According to the Deloitte 2019 global Human Capital Trends Survey, 77 million people are employed as freelancers or associate themselves with the gig economy. The major supporters of the remote employment model should demonstrate the unique contribution of the model compared to other models in terms of an increase in profitability, improved productivity of distributed employees and staff, strengthening of employees’ organization competencies, talent management & workforce retention & the increasing appeal among Y-generation candidates.
COVID–19 is not a sufficient enough factor to switch to a Remote-Work strategy. It will be like turning a crisis into an ideology. We have to justify the transformation as ‘must-do’ rather than ‘nice to do’. Remote-Work profitability must be argued to increase business growth & productivity.
But before we all pack our bags and relocate to the Canary Islands, It must be noted – working from home is not for everyone. Companies that implement a Remote-Work model as part of a human capital strategy are required to locate and recruit the best and most qualified people to work remotely. They need to provide an informed and systematic solution to the employee’s human need by creating a sense of belonging, social connection, and relief of loneliness. More than fifty percent of the employees at the Chinese travel agency reported experiencing loneliness 100 percent of their time working from home.
So what is the required profile for remote workers?
Many of the companies that are forced to face a test-run of Remote-Work channel their resources into the integration of technological infrastructure & the establishment of internal corporate social networks to enable the necessary collaborations between virtual teams. But technology is neither the lifeline nor the most critical component of a distributed team’s success. The most critical component is the human component.
There is not yet enough data collected on the personality characteristics of the ideal remote worker. Flatworld.co is among the first remote recruiting companies which aims to provide psychological insights based on a multidimensional assessment of the remote applicant & on successful matching between the remote employee to the job specs & company’s DNA. In 2018, Roberta Sawatzky, a researcher at Okanagan School of Business, conducted a series of meetings and interviews with people who work from home and in co-working spaces to identify the personality characteristics of a successful & highly satisfied remote worker in a virtual, technology-based work environment. She outlined eight essential personality characteristics: Interpersonal communication, personal motivation, self-discipline, credibility, curiosity and critical thinking, adaptability, responsibility and empathy.
The study of the remote worker is still in its infancy. It is likely to accelerate given the tens of millions of workers worldwide moving to the remote employment model in the year to gap. Now is the time to unfold & evaluate the human personality & competencies required to translate the world’s largest experiment of working from home into a human capital strategy that enables business growth
Companies that specialize in recruiting remote workers are engaged in locating, sorting, and placing human capital out of a pool of thousands of people divided into geographical areas (in 5-7 hour time zones away from headquarters in the case that headquarters are active). They do so according to a wide variety of parameters that are required for success in their roles such as professional knowledge, technological knowledge, cognitive skills, written and oral language skills (English speakers at an advanced C1 level), and personal characteristics (measured by personality questionnaires).
COVID–19 forced us into the most significant experience as a society. We can succeed in keeping our head above water, exhausted and convinced of the ineffectiveness of the solution, or leverage it to meaningful learning and a huge opportunity to recalculate the world of employment and employee wellbeing. The Remote-Work operating model is the future of the future-of-work.
The writer is an Organizational and Occupational psychologist, VP Strategy at FlatWorld.co, Former human capital practice leader at Deloitte Israel consulting firm, Future-of-Work & Workforce Strategy expert