It seems eons ago that I dared to mention the term ‘re-onboarding’ in my blog post The Challenges of a Fluid Workforce. In reality it was mere weeks, yet here we are, again in a work environment gripped in fear of lockdowns, new strains and vaccine roll-out logistics. Whilst even at that point, my purpose was to highlight how our workforces are changing, forced into a more flexible and fluid character, it was possible to underestimate how vital it would be for business leaders to truly and whole-heartedly approach a flexible, remote and dynamic workforce future.
Since March 2020, and until now, there’s been a sense of the changes to our workforce being largely temporary. We’ve viewed it as a case of treading water, managing a stop-gap, and ploughing on as best as we can using our existing approaches and tools.
However, that approach was already short-sighted. It already failed to focus on the fact that we were already shifting towards more fluid workforces. We were already parting with the 9-5 model, using more contract and freelance workers to bring onboard the skills we need. Our workforce management was already undergoing a seismic shift.
What happened, when the coronavirus put rocket-fuel behind remote working, was simply acceleration. We were always heading in this direction. We were always going to have to learn to manage this different workforce if we were to survive and thrive in the future.
The future of remote teams is now
But what we don’t have is the luxury of time. We can no longer argue that ‘we’re doing our best’ with the resources we have under surprising and temporary circumstances. We have to get our workforce management right. And we have to do that right now if we want to succeed. And what’s more, we now need to do it in a climate of job losses and low morale.
This brings me back to my primary argument of late: engagement matters.
Businesses need to meaningfully engage their workforce when their workforce has shifted and morphed into something they partially don’t recognise, and which is out of their grasp – working remotely, separated by miles, a virus and a computer screen.
Each individual employee is now separated from the sense of ‘wholeness’. Their concerns may differ sharply from their colleagues, for example with one wishing to return to the office with ardent desperation, and the other equally desperate to stay at home. And managers may not even realise this.
The shift for HR and managers
Firstly, HR and managers need to realise that the shift has happened, and it was always going to happen. Management is now about managing flexible remote teams.
Secondly, they need to learn how to manage these distinctly different teams, rather than simply attempt to apply old-school management models on top of a radically different landscape.
This requires fuelling genuine engagement through conscious feedback and conversations. It requires marrying performance with learning and development so that you have the right skills, in the right person, in order to drive commitment. It requires accepting that you’re no longer treading water, and if you are, you’re stagnating and your talent won’t hang around whilst you drown.
Fundamentally, it requires knowing how to manage a remote team. Managers need to have their finger on the pulse of their employees’ wellbeing, aspirations, and how they are working day-to-day. Remote management requires a completely new agenda.
The right tools for the job
It’s impossible for managers to do this without a change in thinking. But it’s also impossible for managers to do this without the right tools for the job. Performance management and learning and development need to sit so closely under the same umbrella, through the same platform, that you can be forgiven for struggling to see where one ends and the other starts.
Technology makes remote team management possible, but choosing that technology requires a drive to do things for the future that’s here now, not our reluctance to change and wishful thinking that things will return to how they were before.
We need to equip our managers and our individual workers with the tools to engage, develop and drive a remote company culture, where cohesiveness, overall success and future potential are given centre stage. We need to give them the tools to make remote team management and remote team working not just possible, but exceptional. And we need to do it today.
YOU’RE SECONDS AWAY FROM BETTER WORK
Go ahead, take Bridge LMS for a little spin