The remote employee population has grown by 103 percent since 2005 and 6.5 percent in 2014, which represents the largest year over year increase since before the recession. The new reality of the modern business environment is evolving and with the development of innovative technologies, people have the ability to work remotely more than ever before. Companies should adapt to the landscape and provide flexible opportunities for their employees to work when, where and how they will be most productive in order to remain competitive, attract high caliber candidates and retain current employees.
Eighty-three percent of human resources professionals say telecommuting is going to be more relevant in the next five years. With this growing trend, there’s no doubt that business leaders need to prepare their infrastructure to accommodate, sustain and attract top talent. Technology is ready for the mobile workforce but in many ways, management techniques have not caught up. Addressing the evolving workforce needs to start at the top with the C-suite and executive leaders, serving as an example for the rest of the company. Trust, accountability and creating an inclusive corporate culture can often be challenging, yet can be accomplished with open communication, technology resources, establishing expectations and a team atmosphere as starting points.
Although they may not be in a typical office setting, at-home employees need to feel like they’re part of a team and senior managers need to create open lines of communication. Face-to-face interaction is still extremely important in business and leaders should arm their workforce with the proper resources to communicate with remote employees in high-touch ways. For example, videoconferencing, Skype, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts are tools that can help teams engage in direct dialogue with remote staff members. Senior executives should make investments in these programs to support remote communication and managers must leverage tools to increase worker productivity, overall creativity and team collaboration.
Good employee benefits packages will retain an employee but a great culture allows them to flourish. Although 79 percent of individuals want to work from home at least part-time, they are still looking for an atmosphere of a positive work culture. The C-suite should ensure their leaders have the resources to foster an inclusive working environment and business culture to retain employees and allow them to grow as professionals. For every company, sharing and celebrating business and employee successes, supporting company growth, promoting inclusion and emphasizing goal setting are essential to developing a working culture that ensures individuals do not feel isolated.
To promote inclusion, talent recognition and mentoring are effective ways of highlighting remote employees while reinforcing positivity within the workforce. In a recent study, 77 percent of companies reported corporate mentorship programs were effective in increasing employee retention while 35 percent of employees who didn’t receive regular mentoring as part of a corporate mentorship program looked for another job within 12 months. Creating mentorship programs and structuring them to accommodate remote employees is key in retention, organizational learning, leadership training and career development. Additionally, getting remote workers together regularly is a good idea to boost team camaraderie and allows managers to connect to their staff on a personal level and builds strong relationships.
Although logistical challenges exist when managing a team of remote individuals, these types of jobs are becoming more readily available, which means companies need to acclimate. FlexJobs saw a 26 percent increase in the number of remote job listings from 2013 to 2014 and job flexibility is seen as a positive benefit for workers. Keeping in mind that change and growth takes time, senior executives should be aware of progress and be open to making adjustments accordingly. Starting slowly, gaining the trust of employees, and being open to feedback will assist in implementing new processes within the company. For managers, clearly outlining expectations, providing direct feedback and keeping open lines of communication will help bolster success.
Susan Stinson, BSN, FACHE, is based in Dallas and is Senior Vice President of Operations/Clinical Services, at the Lash Group, a part of AmerisourceBergen. Lash Group is a patient support services company providing high touch to highly automated patient access and adherence programs.
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