For some jobs, you must be in a certain place at a certain time. If you're building planes, you must be in the production hanger. But for many, many jobs, if you have an Internet connection, you can work anywhere and with a lot of schedule flexibility. Yet executives continue to mount an epic fight against working remotely. It would be a heroic battle if they were fighting on the side of right, but they're not.
Working virtually has many compelling advantages: It reduces overhead costs and it's green, it's highly valued by Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce (and others, too), and virtual employees are more productive.
Take for example the success of ConnectSolutions, the private-cloud solutions provider for Adobe Connect. When the company surveyed its remote workforce they found 77 percent reported greater productivity, while 53 percent were less likely to take time off, even when sick. On average, over half of employees reported having less work-related stress, more time to spend with family and were more likely to stay with the company as a result. These are all big wins in my book.
When contemplating moving Decision Toolbox (DT) to a virtual company, the biggest selling point for me was that it promotes employee engagement, which benefits both employees and employers. Organizations that give employees what they want outperform those that don't. In fact, companies with highly engaged employees produce 250 percent better performance-related business outcomes, according to PWC's 2015 Employee Engagement Landscape Study.
So why is the C-suite digging in their heels? I think it gets down to stubborn close-mindedness: If a CEO can't visualize it, it's not going to happen. When Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer notoriously made the decision to ban telecommuting in 2013, because she believed "speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home," what she actually sacrificed was employee engagement and productive workers. Mayer made this decision to get Yahoo! back on track, but the company struggles to this day.
Executives think they can't measure what they can't see. Not true -- let's think this through. You wouldn't base next month's forecasts based on what you see when you survey the cubicles. You need metrics.
You have them, of course. But they don't hover over the heads of your employees like holographs. In the solitude of your office you look at Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Return on Investments (ROIs), Profit and Loss Statements (P&Ls) and more. In the same way, you're already collaborating virtually when you email or IM other executives -- they might be in the office next door or in another city. The technology for virtual collaboration exists and you're already using it.
Still, it takes a little effort to make virtual work. DT has been 100 percent virtual for years. Here are some tips, based on what we've learned.
Hire with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Hire professionals who have an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for excellence. "A Self-discipline is essential, and the right employees know how to micromanage themselves better than you ever could. They have experience tracking metrics, and in fact, they see it as an opportunity to strut their stuff and display their results, rather than as a way to be watched over by "big brother". And look for passion on resumes in the form of awards, advanced degrees and leadership roles.
Operate with respect.
Ensure your culture delivers what top performers really want -- good ol' fashioned RESPECT. Developed by Dr. Jack Wiley, Chief Scientific Officer for DT's parent company Engage2Excel, the RESPECT framework is based on three decades of research on what employees really want, which is Recognition, Exciting Work, Security, Pay, Education and career growth, good working Conditions, and Trust. It's a two-way street: When employees feel respected and valued, they perform better. You'll get the results you want and your employees will have the flexibility to maintain a healthy life balance.
The 'why' is more important than the 'what'.
Make sure your company mission focuses less on what you do and more on why you do it. People are motivated by being part of something that's bigger than themselves, something that is going to make a difference in the world. For example, at DT we strive to be experts and innovators in recruitment because recruiting is important -- it has an impact on companies and on candidates and their families. It feels good wrapping up a day knowing you helped a client find the right candidate or the perfect job, and that feeling is a high motivator to do well.
Promote virtual interaction so that no employee is an island, which can be tricky as you grow. This is where real creativity comes in. At DT our Recruitment Partners are organized into small groups, or "pods." These groups hold regular pod calls to share issues, ideas and insights. Additionally, we have weekly team meetings, virtual water coolers and chat rooms, internal newsletters, unique onboarding and training processes, annual all-staff meetings -- and the list goes on -- all designed to keep employees connected, engaged and drinking the DT Kool-Aid.
Virtualophobes are simply out of reasons to resist, and the benefits are too yummy to pass up. To compete for the top talent in today's market, you have to offer remote options.