Tag Archives: remote work

Creating Employee Connection Innovations in the HR, People & Culture Space

How a world-wide shutdown led to the biggest shift in Human Resource practices

Creating Employee Connection Innovations in the HR, People & Culture Space

GUEST POST from Chris Rollins

While the world was experiencing widespread shutdown and companies promptly shifted to remote work from home, the focus was on how companies would adapt to this new normal of the pandemic. At the same time, while many people were facing daily stress about their job stability, their financial livelihood, and their families’ health & safety, social justice issues were also at the forefront with the murder of George Floyd. In response, we’ve seen the evolution of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) departments in the workplace. For smaller companies and organizations with a less established DEI function, however, it’s HR leaders out front navigating these issues and leading the change, often with little support or guidance.

The Human Resources space went into crisis mode at the onset of COVID and was forced to innovate incredibly quickly as every facet of our work was impacted. HR leaders have more responsibility than ever and increased influence at the C-Suite level, especially as they implement changes to their people practices in order to keep up with what employees want and need from their employers today. HR professionals, in close partnership with the CEO, had to create covid policies, work-from-home guidelines and return-to-work plans, all in an extremely short time frame, which required innovative thinking and presented an opportunity to leverage technology to better support their employees. We also saw the rise of many HR communities, including niche groups like QueeHR, to create space for HR leaders to connect and support each other during these times.

Proactive employee mental health benefits

Another major difference between HR pre-pandemic is that although there was already a focus on employees’ mental health and wellbeing, it was being handled reactively. Now, Human Resource teams are taking note of employees’ experiences and emotional health, as well as developing skills to detect problems early and to step in to provide help. This sounds like an easy process once implemented, but with today’s massive shift towards hybrid or remote work, it’s challenging for HR professionals to constantly stay up to date with each and every employee’s experience. Creating space for more consistent coaching conversations and 1:1 meetings with managers is imperative to staying connected. Having “difficult conversations” at work used to look like a 1:1 in the boss’ office, and now has shifted to video or phone calls where body language is hard to distinguish. HR professionals must also train leaders how to be great coaches and to bring a healthy dose of empathy into the virtual environment.

The experience of LGBTQ+ employees

A common topic of conversation in the HR community is the experience of underrepresented employees. Ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts include individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) is essential for business success. Although many companies offer health benefits and other policies that support LGBTQ+ workers, a company’s culture plays a key role in whether employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work. While many LGBTQ+ workers have the skills to be great leaders, a strong sense of belonging is crucial in order to establish their leadership voice and style at work.

For companies, there is a high cost to not creating an inclusive culture where underrepresented employees feel they belong. One of the common challenges for LGBTQ+ workers is trying to do their job and lead their teams while spending valuable mental energy figuring out if or how they fit in. A lot of wasted energy goes into assessing the level of safety and comfort. Considering this impact at scale across an organization, that’s a lot of lost productivity, and puts LGBTQ+ at a disadvantage in the context of performance, promotions and career growth.

While figuring out the right approach to these challenges is not “one size fits all”, the impact and positive benefits of a more diverse workforce with a focus on employee wellness is huge. HR leaders are adopting a “people-first” approach to leading their organizations, and getting more specific with employees to understand their unique needs. Each company, industry, and workforce is entirely different, but by taking a look at the overall workforce and gathering data from employees about their experience, companies can design programs that will actually move the needle and positively impact employee experience.

Employee resource groups/ERGs emerge as a trend

ERGs, or employee resource groups, are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. Although they have been around since the 1960s, they are becoming increasingly relevant today as questions of personal identity and politics are creating difficult conversations in the workplace. Typically, ERGs are more common in companies with a minimum of 500 employees, but they are continuing to increase in prevalence.

ERGs are creating a ton of innovation and impact in the workplace, as many companies are increasingly establishing employee resource groups for various identity groups – like LGBTQ+, POC, LatinX, Women, etc. Those spaces are creating and helping build community among like-minded folks, while also creating opportunities for allyship. The groups truly serve to inform the business about things they could be doing as a whole to create more inclusive practices. For example, the LGBTQ+ resource group could make it clear that the benefit policies are not inclusive, and don’t offer gender affirming care benefits. The LGBTQ+ ERG can raise it as a group to enact real change for the company, which then has ripple effects for how they recruit new people, communicate their employer brand, etc.

Can ERG’s eventually become a paid role?

Currently, employee resource groups are 100% volunteer, but companies such as LinkedIn are starting to pay their ERG leaders to show their appreciation for these extra hours of work. Many ERG chairs are working overtime to host meetings, plan events, and gather information to present to the C-suite, but the positive side of this extra time are the leadership capabilities these team members learn. ERGs create a whole new opportunity for employees at any level of the organization to take on leadership roles and build their skills. It’s another way to develop talent in the organization and create opportunities for innovation across the business.

With LinkedIn being a standup example of paying their ERG leaders an additional $10,000 per year, there are infinite benefits to adding these types of leadership resources to the team. ERG leaders are getting hands-on training on how to be great leaders through leadership development programs. By encouraging and supporting employee resource groups at a corporate level, employers are truly communicating the importance of investing in their own employees, as well as considering the impact this type of experience will have on their career.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Managing Cross-Cultural Remote Teams

Closing the Virtual and Cultural Gap

Managing Cross-Cultural Remote Teams

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Learning to connect a culturally diverse virtual workforce is an essential part of managing cross cultural remote teams. Faced with the challenge of virtual team building, remote team managers also have to unite their virtual teams across any cultural differences, time zones, and other unique elements.

Recent studies show that 62% of virtual teams are comprised of workers from three or more cultures. Surprisingly, only 15% of team leaders have successfully led cross cultural remote teams. Such statistics show the dire need for improving cross cultural remote teams management.

In the following article, we’ll discuss managing cross cultural remote teams as we cover topics such as:

  • What Are Cross Cultural Remote Teams?
  • The Challenges of Cross Culture Remote Work
  • Closing the Virtual Gap for Culturally Diverse Teams
  • Essential Skills for Managing Cross Cultural Remote Teams
  • Improving Cross Cultural Leadership Skills

What Are Cross Cultural Remote Teams?

With the rise of remote work, it comes as no surprise that cross culture remote teams are the reality of today’s working world. Cross culture remote teams are teams made up of the global talent pool. Whether a company pulls freelancers from various parts of the world or hires remote team members within the same country, effectively working together requires a strategic approach to managing such a diverse group of workers.

Remote work experts suggest that culture is defined as the social expectations, customs, and achievements unique to a nation or region. One’s idea of culture frames the way they approach work, life events, and communication. While distributed teams composed of members from various cultures are an effective way to diversify the workforce, the difference in cultures and time zones can lead to collaborative and communication challenges.

The Challenges of Cross Culture Remote Work

Managing cross cultural remote teams come with unique benefits and challenges. Being able to fill your team with the world’s greatest minds is an incredibly powerful way to shore up your company’s talent pool. However, each team member will have their practices, preferences, and ideas of company culture, and as a result, may have trouble gelling with the rest of the team.

Moreover, team managers will experience the challenges of building a team in the virtual world. Without the face-to-face interaction of a shared workplace, cross-culture remote teams are more vulnerable to conflict and communication problems.

Remote team leaders face unique challenges such as:

1. Work Style

When managing cross cultural remote teams, be sure to address the individual work style of your team members. When working with team members from different cultures, it’s essential to acknowledge each person’s work style. This is especially true for team members that are of vastly different cultures. For example, certain work cultures prioritize individual opinions while others expect to follow a leader’s course of action.

2. Information Gaps

In the virtual world, information gaps are a huge threat when managing cross cultural remote teams. Any information gaps can negatively affect processes and data flows. All team members need access to the most appropriate resources to successfully collaborate.

3. Motivation Factors

Team leaders should do their best to analyze how each person’s culture may affect their motivations to better manage their team. Motivation factors for cross culture remote teams are vastly different than that of a traditional company. For example, while some team members may be motivated by a range of tangible benefits like bonuses, others focus on intangible benefits like encouragement and job satisfaction.

4. Influences

When managing cross cultural remote teams. Managers face the challenges of certain factions attempting to influence the rest of the group. If part of the team has the same cultural identity, they may use that to dominate a conversation or outcome, leading to conflict and contentious work environments.

Closing the Virtual Gap for Culturally Diverse Teams

Navigating virtual cross-cultural teams starts with first addressing virtual team building. While your team’s cultural background may play a role in the unique challenges you face, everything comes back to your ability to work together as a team. Level the playing field with an effective strategy to close the gaps and facilitate stronger personal relationships among team members.

By making an effort to strengthen connections between your team members, you’ll be able to bridge initial gaps created by remote work. Moreover, team members that share a common bond will be able to better navigate any cross-cultural challenges that may arise. Consider using intentionally designed games and activities like icebreakers to help strengthen connections between team members.

Essential Skills for Managing Cross Cultural Remote Teams

In the virtual world, company culture is constantly changing. To effectively run a diverse group of remote workers, team leaders must be open to learning the most appropriate skills to bring the best out of their team.

Lead your remote team to success by honing skills such as:

1. Adaptability

Cross cultural management hinges upon the leader’s ability to understand each team member’s work style and make the necessary adjustments. While you shouldn’t completely abandon your leadership style, you will need to integrate other behaviors, worldviews, commonalities, and perspectives to find more relatable ways to manage your team.

2. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a key skill for leaders of cross-culture teams. Conflicts can arise quickly in a virtual workspace, so it’s important for you to regularly monitor and manage your own biases as you exercise patience and grace in your communications. Make an effort to frequently challenge your perspective and take a step back in your interactions with team members. This will help you navigate complex cultural challenges as you take note of where your perspective and behavior may require adjustment.

3. Articulation

When working with a virtual team from different cultural backgrounds, clear communication is essential. By prioritizing articulation and careful and deliberate conversation, team leaders will be better able to ensure that every member of their team understands what they’re saying. Similarly, if other team members tend to speak too quickly, don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat themselves or speak at a slower pace.

4. Writing Proficiency

In virtual meetings, calls, or voice notes, words can easily get lost in translation. Team leaders should develop the habit of communicating in writing to make sure all their team members have access to a document they can refer to at a later point in time.

Improving Cross-Cultural Leadership Skills

Remote work opens a world of possibilities in the way of team leadership. As your team expands to include a more culturally-diverse group, your leadership skills should improve as well. At Voltage Control, we offer facilitation courses, remote collaboration resources, and team-building workshops to help you navigate the pitfalls of managing remote teams and connecting culturally diverse groups.

Work with our team of expert facilitators to learn more about managing cross cultural remote teams. With the help of workshops and resources, you’ll learn to expertly lead a virtual session, unite a distributed team, and appreciate and highlight the cultural differences that make your team a well-oiled virtual machine. Contact us to learn more about our custom programs for leadership development, master facilitation certification, and change management.

Article originally posted at VoltageControl.com

Image Credit: Pexels

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How to Effectively Manage Remotely

How to Effectively Manage Remotely

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Consider five best practices for managing remotely.

Remote work was once associated with poor accountability, incohesive teamwork, and confusing communication practices. Fortunately, that’s now easily preventable. With the right management practices and tools, remote management should feel empowering, productive, and streamlined. Consider these five best practices for managing remotely.

Hybrid and remote work is something to embrace.

Managing remote teams takes a focused and thoughtful approach. The role of a manager is to guide, support, and connect the team. Approach the responsibility with a proper strategy, and hybrid or remote work becomes an asset to both the employees and the employer.

As the benefits of remote work become apparent, it’s safe to say that remote and hybrid work are here to stay. There’s plenty of existing research for remote work. According to a Forbes study, “Teleworkers are an average of 35-40% more productive than their office counterparts, and have measured an output increase of at least 4.4%.” Below are a few more positive consequences of remote work.

  1. Employees have location independence, and employers have the option to recruit top talent worldwide.
  2. Employees can be more productive, in turn reflecting on the company’s performance.
  3. Employee engagement tends to rise.
  4. Both sides tend to save money, enhancing profitability for the company.

With an effective manager, confidence and trust become apparent on a team. Build best practices into place, and you can expect game-changing results.

Effectively Managing a Remote Team

How can you effectively manage a remote team?

It takes practice and the right mindset to master effective management. We recommend practicing the steps below, and considering our Workshop Design course to build lasting results.

1. Embrace technology and tools.

Technology is on your side. There are countless tools made specifically to improve, and manage remote work, especially remote management. Make the most of the tools you have, and use them consistently. Focus on empowering your team to value available resources. Here are a few tools that we recommend.

Make sure each person understands how to use the tools in place. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. If your team depends on a project management tool to share and develop work, everyone should know or be taught how to use it effectively. It’s your job to oversee processes and enable people to work efficiently.

Define clear communication practices. Everyone benefits from guidelines for communication, and technology is on your side. Clarify when and where to share certain messages. For example, urgent messages should be shared via Slack or another instant messaging tool, while they should use email for higher level communication about projects.

Technology should enable you, as a manager, to manage less. Redundant tasks are easily minimized with the right tools. If your team is confident in how to use them, you can focus on more important tasks.

2. Implement boundaries and state expectations.

Boundaries are especially important with hybrid and remote work. They’re a sign of respect for employees. Working from wherever should not equate to always available. People work from different time zones and schedules, so align on a work schedule and respect those hours. Constant notifications outside of work hours often have a negative impact on engagement and morale.

Stating expectations clearly defines how to respect the team. Outline expectations for work hours, available hours, assignments and deadlines, email turnaround time, meeting timeliness, and communication practices. If you’re following a hybrid model, be sure to clarify when and how often in-office work is expected.

Individual Remote Work

3. Check in on individuals.

Remember the value of face-to-face interaction and use tools to continue it. This is especially important to newly remote teams. As an employee, it’s affirming to know that leadership values your work and recognizes your productivity.

As an employee, it’s affirming to know that leadership values your work and recognizes your productivity.

One-on-one check-ins offer space for connection. Having a regular check-in on the calendar is motivating, especially when the work is acknowledged and rewarded. While it will take practice to know the right cadence, it’s important to start with something on the calendar. Try weekly check-ins to start. If you have the option, schedule those for while you’re both in the office.

Clean up before hanging up. Outline current projects and align priorities before the next check-in. Looking to improve the structure of your current meetings? Look to our expert facilitators for guidance through a meeting systems workshop. We’re here to help.

4. Check in on them, not just their work.

Understand that people are working from a variety of environments. Some may work in solitude, others in a coffee shop or at home with young children. It’s important to provide opportunities to connect.

Countless benefits can arise from open conversation and listening. Working remotely means working with differing experiences and viewpoints. It also means that acknowledging shared stress of work goes a long way. Your employees sense the emotions you convey. Focus on conveying calm and empathy when it’s appropriate. When people sense space for sharing their experiences, camaraderie is built and they feel invested in.

Provide opportunities for connection whenever possible, including in-person. Consider monthly happy hours outside of work.

Communicate Priorities and Manage Your Team

5. Communicate priorities and values to manage your team.

Proactive communication lends itself useful. Communicate values from the start. Aligning on values gives individuals a tool for navigating decisions and managers’ confidence in employees. Values serve as the first resort for help.

Keeping the team aligned on priorities is also essential. Focus on goals and outcomes rather than how people are accomplishing their work. It minimizes micromanaging and enables employees to settle into their own style of work. Different people work differently.

Make sure that you’re finding ways to lead the team, not just manage it. Constantly tracking progress is a waste of time on both ends. Communicate tasks that need to be accomplished, but don’t use that as an excuse to check in on their work more often than is necessary. Trust communication practices you put into place, and use your time for accomplishing work.

Explaining the “why” behind priorities and deadlines is also important. Employees have a greater sense of purpose when they understand the reason for a project.

How should I go about implementing these five strategies?

Practice. Practice in our workshops and with our library of tools. Practice with other leaders and with your team. We want you to see a lasting impact from your work, and we’ve seen it many times over with our toolkit.

This article originally appeared at VoltageControl.com

Voltage Control offers workshops and courses for a forward-looking workplace. Managing teams remotely effectively takes practice with an advanced toolkit. Just like you should exit a meeting with a plan for action, you’ll complete our Workshop Design course with experience and valuable feedback for how you specifically can effectively manage a remote team. Please reach out to us at hello@voltagecontrol.com to discuss what we offer.

Image credit: Pixabay

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