One of technology’s great gifts to entrepreneurs is that it vastly expands their universe of potential employees. That’s a particular boon to business owners looking for workers with very specific skills, and having access to that vast pool of talent can be a difference maker for all kinds of ventures.
The degree of connectivity and collaboration that modern technology enables means your talent pool can be dispersed over hundreds or even thousands of miles. However, technology alone is not enough to reap all the benefits remote work has to offer. Another key element is a willingness to adopt a new mindset and to embrace new strategies.
Tech is the starting point, but there’s more involved
The technology and strategic aspects are intertwined, but you have to start someplace. “Choosing the right technology is an important starting point, of course, and there are many options available in today’s marketplace,” says Yolanda Lee Conyers, Chief Diversity Officer and president of the Lenovo Foundation, and VP of Global Human Resources.
Among the technologies Lenovo utilizes are sharing platforms that disseminate and manage information, Skype-type platforms for communication, and third-party tools like Confluence and Trello for project management. “There are a number of emerging technologies, and the advent of A.I. [artificial intelligence] will make these tools even more productive,” Conyers says.
Many of the remote-work tools currently available offer user-friendly platforms with an easier learning curve. That means you can implement them at scale and across teams that may have different comfort levels with tech. “These tools are vital in helping remote workers feel connected and build camaraderie with their in-office colleagues,” says Kathleen Pai, VP of Human Resources at Ultimate Software, a provider of HR software tools.
The right strategic thinking is also critical
Even with all that technological firepower at your fingertips, you still need to adopt the right kind of thinking to recognize that difference makers for your business can now come from the most unexpected places. And once you make that leap, you need to embrace the right strategies to optimize your remote workers’ performance.
“This does require a culture shift for many organizations and their leaders,” says Beth Humberd, assistant professor of management at the University of Massachusetts Manning School of Business. “Some are able to make this shift better than others.”
Cedric Savarese, founder and CEO of FormAssembly, a fully remote software company with more than 50 employees across seven countries and 13 time zones, has firsthand knowledge of the challenges involved. “Bad culture and bad communication will hurt any business, on-site or remote,” he says, “but it will be felt more quickly and acutely in a remote team.”
Transparency is the secret sauce
To avoid that pitfall, you must instill a strong culture of transparency and open communication in your business. You must also become much more intentional about collaboration. For example, Savarese suggests setting up regular check-ins and writing down “pretty much everything.”
But the most difficult thing for many business owners is the prospect of relinquishing some degree of control. “We like to think we don’t micromanage people, that we trust them and empower them to be successful in their work,” he says. “This, of course, is just an illusion.”
It took time and effort for Savarese to reach the point where he could accept the fact that people can manage their own time, out of sight, and work how ever they wanted to be working, but he got there.
“Today, we accept this and actually encourage them to work this way, and we let the results speak for themselves,” he says. “I love bringing transparency to our business operations and decision-making. It’s a critical component of collaborating in a remote environment. It facilitates information exchange and allows more people to contribute to decisions that are nominally outside their purview.”
Savarese’s success in combining the right technology with the right kind of strategic thinking is making a difference, not only in his business, but also in the lives of his remote employees. And that same combination can be a difference maker for you and your business.
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