The contemporary business landscape is in an almost constant state of flux. Between shifts in trends, the development of new technologies, and even the rise of new industries, changes are frequent—especially as COVID-19 continues to have ramifications on a global scale.
One of the most notable shifts in the last couple of years is remote work becoming a more practical and more popular approach to operations.
In order for companies to navigate this new style of work, business leaders need to make sure that there is a strong culture of agility present. When you cultivate flexibility among your staff, you have the opportunity to gain a competitive edge in an uncertain commercial environment.
Fostering this agility is especially important if, like a growing number of companies, you are currently functioning with a primarily remote workforce. After all, your staff is addressing multiple challenges while also being physically distant from their colleagues and traditional support systems.
We’re going to take a moment to review where you should be placing focus in order to cultivate agility among your remote workers. What strategies should you employ, and why can they make a difference?
Engage Your Workforce
Your remote workers might have the skills to be agile, but they don’t have any motivation to use them for the benefit of the business if they are not fully engaged with what you do and where your goals lie. This is particularly important in remote circumstances where workers might not be surrounded by the positive elements of your culture every day that encourage them to engage.
Some areas of focus here should include:
Among the most important things that your remote team needs to keep engaged is clear and consistent communications protocols. Set up channels that are designed to support agility — platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams provide voice, video, and text-based options that give workers the tools they need to react flexibly during any given situation. It’s important to make sure there are channels for social interaction, too, to forge stronger bonds among colleagues. As a leader, you must formalize protocols for using these platforms, follow them yourself, and encourage remote workers to embrace them. This way, you can keep them connected and engaged at all times, and give them the confidence and tools to respond with agility during challenging times.
When employees are satisfied in their jobs, they not only tend to be more engaged in what they are doing, they are more enthused to apply their agile and innovative skills to their tasks. A key element affecting satisfaction is regular positive feedback and demonstrations that you appreciate what they bring to the organization. Taking time to connect with them, both privately and in online meetings, to acknowledge their efforts boosts morale and pushes them to improve their standards and skills. It also tends to encourage the remote workforce to collaborate with one another more effectively, improving their likelihood of being agile as a team. Strive to use varied forms to show your appreciation through praise, remote events and celebrations, and recognition programs that provide rewards.
Bridge the Gap
It’s important to acknowledge that both in-person operations and remote working have their distinct advantages. However, it’s difficult to cultivate an agile workforce when efforts are entirely invested in a single method.
Rather, there is the potential for your remote workers to be more flexible, productive, and creative when you bridge the gap between the two by aiming to provide the best of both worlds.
It’s not always possible or practical to create a hybrid approach where your remote workers come into the office a couple of days per week. Fortunately, most major towns and cities have multiple coworking spaces for your workforce to take advantage of.
If there are multiple workers living in the same area, you can arrange for them to use the same space occasionally, which allows them to learn from each other and make them stronger, more agile collaborators.
This approach also means that they get to mix with remote workers in other industries and roles within the space. As such, they network with a more diverse range of people and gain useful insights that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to either in the office or at home.
Bridging the gap with a coworking space also provides workers with resources that cultivate agility in their role within the business. In most cases, home workers would be unable to meet face-to-face with clients or with project partners.
In a coworking space, remote workers can utilize meeting rooms to provide a professional, quiet environment to engage in discussions. This gives them the opportunity to take on more diverse tasks for the business when needed, such as landing new clients or leading multi-company projects.
Commit to Development
An element that is too often overlooked in remote operations is making the effort to ensure there is a solid talent development program. When you put time and investment into ensuring that your remote workers have strong and diverse skillsets, they are better equipped to handle challenges in an agile and confident manner.
This is a key component of long-term retention. Among the primary elements that keep both Gen Z and Millennials committed to a business are continuous skill development and opportunities for growth.
As such, talent development needs to be a central aspect of your remote working culture and present from the onboarding phase. Make a point of formalizing the development program in the employee handbook and discussing it during introductions on the first day.
During employee evaluations, talk about what skills your remote workers have and what you would both like them to develop in order to make them more knowledgeable and agile. Invest in providing them with access to either in-person or e-learning training courses. You can also provide paid time off to study and take examinations.
As a leader of both your business and your industry, it is also important to remember that these remote workers could also represent the future of leadership in your business. As such, part of your talent development program should be geared toward ensuring that they are not just agile workers, but can be agile leaders.
Provide mentorship opportunities that instill skills that ensure they grow into the influencers your business needs in the digital age. This should incorporate aspects of critical thinking, an understanding of the value of collaborative knowledge creation, and cultivating an innovative mindset. However, it is equally important to ensure this program is open to everyone in the business so this agility can also benefit from a diversity of perspectives.
An agile remote workforce is essential in an industry that is in a frequent state of change.
Ensuring that your distant employees remain engaged and that they have opportunities to benefit from a collaborative environment can be instrumental in fostering this valuable flexibility. Just as important, though, is putting time and investment into cultivating your workers’ skillsets and preparing them for a future of leadership.