Remote control: developing leaders in a virtual workplace

Companies offering remote work are finding it’s difficult to offer adequate training and development in a virtual environment.

More work is happening outside the office setting than ever before. A recent Gallup poll cited in The New York Times found that 43% of Americans worked remotely at least part of the time last year.

Many successful, innovative businesses have all-remote workforces, including Basecamp and Citrix. A remote workforce can be every bit as productive and cohesive as a team that works under the same roof — even more so. But leading remotely requires commitment, planning and a deliberate approach.

>See also: AI and analytics accelerating digital workplace transformation

The same employee engagement principles apply to traditional and remote workforces (and us too, of course!). Employers must clearly communicate the company’s values and gain staff buy-in to ensure those values are expressed across operations.

Leaders must create cohesive teams and facilitate collaboration. Companies need to develop employee leadership potential and keep managers motivated. But the techniques and technologies companies use to accomplish these goals may differ with remote workforces.

Developing and retaining leaders is an essential task at every company. Businesses with onsite staff might hold in-person training sessions to develop new leaders, but executives with a remote workforce would likely find a different way to accomplish the same task. Incorporating training into routine virtual leadership and management meetings is one way to address development.

Authorising conference or seminar attendance is also a good way to get developing leaders the training they need, as are virtual one-on-one meetings between executives and the managers they supervise.

>See also: Pursuing a digital workplace: the challenges and solutions

Executive-manager meetings using telepresence technology are an excellent setting to provide advice and encouragement. They are also an ideal way for executives to discuss scenarios that come up during manager-employee interactions, giving the executive an opportunity to walk the manager though approaches to resolve leadership challenges.

When thinking about learning programs for developing leaders who are remote workers, company executives should consider options for people who keep non-traditional hours. Group book clubs and workbook studies can be a great choice since they allow people to learn at their own pace.

Formal learning platforms can also be helpful; they typically provide a record of when employees complete digital modules and analysis of the progress the company is making toward its learning objectives.

Open forums and peer groups enable developing leaders to share tips and strategies with fellow managers, and it’s easy to set up space online for these activities. A private Facebook page can serve as a virtual water cooler, allowing managers to build relationships with peers while discussing ways to address leadership challenges and applying their collective wisdom to solve persistent problems. Forums like this can go a long way toward building a cohesive, engaged team among employees who rarely if ever meet in person.

Beyond the technology and leadership development techniques, executives who want to build an engaged and motivated management team should start by investing in managers as people, not just employees. Make a commitment to help them grow personally and professionally. Make sure they know their supervisors care about their success and happiness. The personal touch earns loyalty.

>See also: The increasing impact of the digital workplace

It’s also important to let developing leaders know that the status quo is not acceptable — that they should continuously reach higher and work with the people they supervise to take productivity and creativity to the next level. Leading by example is crucial — developing managers should understand that the executive team is always striving to improve as well.

Above all, it’s critical that developing leaders understand that the company values them and has faith in their potential. By seeking developing leaders’ feedback, involving them in staff training and allowing them to facilitate meetings, executives demonstrate their belief in their management team.

That’s true whether everyone is in the same room or dispersed around the world. Remote control — developing leaders in a virtual workplace — is about inspiring leaders to believe in themselves.


Sourced by Krisha Buehler, HR Manager and Culture Cultivator at BELAY

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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