By Tim Houlne and Terri Maxwell
In one of the most stunning, non-progressive moves seen from a technology company, Yahoo! banned working from home.
Best Buy agreed, and cancelled the Results Only Work Environment program, which gave employees the flexibility to choose a work location.
At the same time, hosts of other companies argue that working from home options increases productivity and improves employee morale.
So, who’s right?
To illustrate the value of using a virtualization strategy to grow Texas businesses, here’s an exploration of the benefits and limitations of both models.
The justification for Yahoo! was to improve the speed of its much touted turnaround and at the same time instill a sense of ownership and responsibility for the turnaround. The same is true for Best Buy.
Is it fair to say that in-office working requirements are essential in a turnaround situation? One might think so, but then the preeminent darling of customer service lore, Zappos, claims they can better serve customers with their staff located together.
So, why all the fuss over virtual work options? And, why are more and more workers demanding virtual work or at least flexible work environments?
Because . . . There’s a New Currency
The reality is the new currency for top tier talent – in particular millennial professionals (those 31 or younger) – is freedom. Millennials are less motivated by compensation, and are more inspired by independence. The opportunity to work on projects they enjoy and the flexibility to work where – and in many cases – when they want. These professionals have come to the realization gold watch retirements are a thing of the past. Ensuring a long-term professional life means embarking on a new career journey.
Many CEOs, who are Baby Boomers, are struggling with the changing currency shift. Baby Boomers value hard work and chase success by climbing the corporate ladder. Most Baby Boomer executives bought into the corporate system that obeying authority figures would be rewarded with higher salaries, bonuses and promotions.
But, then one day the value placed on those carrots changed. Countless business leaders had an epiphany that only entrepreneurs can understand about creating a new career strategy.
After the dot.com bust, when many entrepreneurs were born, business owners took more risks – all for the sake of a new personal currency: control. Entrepreneurs launched businesses to gain control over the future, careers, and income. Servant leader business owners shifted priorities to make a difference, rather than simply make a product or service.
And, ironically, in the early formation years of many businesses, entrepreneurs struggle with the need to control every detail, including the time and location of employees’ work.
Eventually many entrepreneurs realize launching a business isn’t about control, it’s about freedom. That is what makes a virtual work strategy so powerful. Savvy professionals compete for work based on the quality of work, rather than time spent at work.
So, how do CEOs and management teams rise above the debate and determine whether a virtual work strategy makes sense?
Simple: start by defining the company’s culture.
Performance or Control?
Major corporations are building successful brands using a virtual talent strategy. But the corporate culture is based on performance and rewards that are tied to performance.
Arguably, some cultures like Zappos are so customer-centric that a virtual strategy might indeed impede success. The entire company is built around the customer in such a way that even multiple locations create barriers to communication.
Which leads to the second and most important point about a virtualization strategy: it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. In many cases using virtual talent to augment a high performance management team, locally organized, is the best strategy.
Determine the Best Functions to be Virtualized
With advanced virtual work platforms and easy access to cloud technology, a broad spectrum of jobs, roles and responsibilities are now easily served in the cloud. Examples of high-demand skills better served in the cloud include programming, engineering, and product management.
More main-stream skills, such as administrative support, project management, and graphic design, are better served in the cloud as well.
Finally, highly evolutionary skills where technology is changing rapidly, such as web and mobile interface development, are better served in the cloud.
Spend the New Currency with Better Management
Progressive companies attract creative, productive talent with the way they “manage people,” which truthfully is not to manage people at all. Rather than buy into the “productivity can only be seen” modes of thinking, companies embracing the virtualization of work product attract the always sought-after motivated self-starter.
To capitalize on a virtual work strategy, companies must:
Physical presence does not improve creativity. Creative people engaged in the idea and committed to a solid outcome do.
Tim Houlne is a visionary whose virtual workforce predictions are now a reality. He is CEO of Dallas-based Working Solutions, a leader of custom contact center solutions.
Terri Maxwell provides game-changing insights to transform businesses, people, and industries. She is CEO of Dallas-based Succeed On Purpose, a business incubator.