Headquartered in Germany, Siemens is one of the largest companies in the world--a member of the Global Fortune 500 with over 380,000 employees. You probably know Siemens for its electronics or appliances, although the company is also a leader in multiple industries including transportation, renewable energy, and medical equipment.
At first glance, Siemens's recent announcement doesn't seem very exciting. Yes, the company is adopting a new model that will allow employees worldwide to work from anywhere they feel comfortable "for an average of two to three days a week." And yes, this is a permanent standard that extends beyond the current pandemic.
But it was the next part of the announcement, direct from incoming CEO Roland Busch, that really stood out:
The basis for this forward-looking working model is further development [of] our corporate culture. These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office. We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results. With the new way of working, we're motivating our employees while improving the company's performance capabilities and sharpening Siemens' profile as a flexible and attractive employer.
There is so much good here, but I'd like to emphasize two points:
1. Focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office.
2. Trust and empower your employees.
Put together, these two points make up a brilliant management strategy founded on emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you. Let's examine why they'd prove invaluable to any company.
Focus on outcomes. Not hours.
Most companies pay their people based on how many hours they spend at work. But this is kind of dumb, if you think about it. After all, those same companies are paid for a result: the end product or service they provide, not the amount of time it takes to produce them.
But this statement from Siemens's CEO sets a new standard for company leaders. Instead of focusing on hours, the goal is to focus on results.
After all, what's more important:
The fact that your employees do good work, that they are able to finish a series of tasks or move a project forward?
Or the amount of hours it took them to do it?
Netflix has found success with a similar philosophy. For example, with its "no vacation policy," Netflix doesn't formally track vacation days for salaried employees. Instead, the company allows its people to take time off as desired, as long as it meets certain guidelines.
By focusing on outcomes, strategies like these help employees make their time count, instead of simply count time.
Takeaway: Don't measure success by how many hours your employees work. Instead, focus on what they are accomplishing.
After all, if a team or individual is able to produce something great in less time than expected, they should be rewarded for that, not penalized.
Trust and empower your employees.
"But," you may ask, "if I don't keep strict watch over my employees, how do I know they'll work hard?"
It's all a matter of trust.
Trust doesn't mean leaving employees high and dry, to figure things out all by themselves. Rather, it's about empowering them. Companies must provide an environment where people have what they need to do successful work.
1. Managers who show they care about their people, by taking the time to get to know them and their individual circumstances;
2. Clear communication regarding the scope of the work and milestones;
3. Establishing clear guidelines regarding expected response times for emails or messages, as well as meeting times;
4. Good coaching (instead of micromanaging);
5. Freedom for employees to work when and where they feel most comfortable and productive, as well as freedom to explore ideas, take (smart) risks, and make mistakes;
6. Lots of praise for things done right;
7. Constructive comments when things are done wrong--given in a way to help, not harm.
Of course, none of this is new. These are basic management principles that have been established over years to make for effective work. The key is to adapt these principles to the virtual workplace.
Takeaway: If you can't trust your people, you have a hiring problem.
But once you have people in place who have proved they do good work, give them the freedom and support they need to get the job done. And they will.
So, if you're a company that's considering going remote, or one that already has and is struggling, learn from Siemens's recent announcement and:
- Focus on outcomes, not hours.
- Trust and empower your employees.
Do this right, and your people will surpass your expectations. And you'll find that remote work not only allows your company to survive, but also to thrive.