One wonders if there is anything that technology cannot achieve today.
Companies now a days are no longer bound by infrastructural challenges or definite office spaces – A team of 2000 does not have to necessarily sit at a single place in a particular building and sign in and out in strict work hours.
Employees can now contribute from anywhere in the world and productivity is not impacted. If you disagree at any level with this claim, then here’s a number for you – 25 million individuals in the United States of America work outside of a corporate facility at least one day a week. That’s over 15% of the total workforce.
Welcome to the era of distributed workforce.
This leads to saving millions on real estate and office equipment, and reaching out to a far more talented audience spread across geographies without the worry of reallocation packages and much more. And as they say a dollar saved is a dollar earned, having a distributed workforce training thus makes it a win-win situation for organization of any size.
And let’s not forget the people on the other end of this sweet bargain – the employees. They get to work in a flexible environment, they appreciate the convenience and have a higher chance of being retained.
You, in that case add happy, talented employees to your company at a low budget. Aren’t you a superhero or what! But as they say with great power comes great responsibility.
Responsibility of getting the distributed workforce 100 percent right means – getting the right kind of people on board; keeping them enthusiastic about work sitting miles always from the team; communicating with them; assuring that the work is getting done; providing them with the right training and grooming, and a lot more.
Phew! That seems like a lot of work! But I believe once you have got the right tools and systems in place, all this can happen smoothly with just a little bit of management at your end.
Before I start to elaborate on the various tools and technologies that you have at your disposal to make each step of your employee lifecycle digital, if your organization is a one which has short turnaround times, poor collaborative structure, lack of time to vet developers – all this might not be of much use.
The list is just a few of many options available. Most of them are small, fresh and in a way, more enthusiastic and flexible options for you to manage your distributed workforce digitally.
1. Hire digitally, and hire people with digital mind-sets
Your future employees are going to learn digitally, collaborate and communicate digitally. In short, if your new hire is not good with technology and collaborative platforms, you would be spending a crazy amount of time on teaching them things rather than having them to hit the ground running. So, hire digitally.
- Technology: Video resumes and video interviewing
- How it works: All you would need to do is upload questions (like role plays), the usual ones – General introductions, work history, generic questions, or even detailed ones depending on your organization and share it with probable employees. See their answers, share it across concerned stakeholders and shortlist the good ones. Go ahead with video interviewing them where you can judge the spontaneity and aptitude and voila! You have a tech savvy new hire!
- Tools: There are many out there. But some making the maximum noise in the market are – wepow, sparkhire, hirevue (please feel free to mention your favorites by commenting on this blog post)
2. Managing, what seems unmanageable
Working with a distributed workforce is definitely more taxing than being in close proximity with your entire team. However, this phenomena is here to stay, so no point running away.
No company can afford to spend money that is required to have all the resources working at one place. The most important thing to make a distributed team work is by keeping the members connected and to provide them with the much needed tech support
- Technology: From product management to visualization charts, from mock ups to team chats and testing/insight sharing can all happen on cloud with almost no tech support or involvement. All you need is to log on to the website to get started.
- Tools: Again the list is endless but here is just a glimpse for you.
- Skype/slack: for instant messages and meetings and day to day friendly banter
- Zoom: video conf software for daily standup meetings or project specific meeting
- Jing: for tutorials and when you want to demonstrate something
- Hackpad/docusign: collaborative document sharing tool, a must for distributed workforce
- Trello: to organize tasks in our marketing teams
- Pivotal Tracker: for project management and development teams
- Hubstaff: for time tracking, productivity insights and automated payroll
You should also give this post on The Qustn Cafe about managing a distributed workforce a read as well.
3. On-boarding/Employee Training
How can an organization in today’s distributed scenario ensure that a consistent level of service and experience is given to all their customers at various levels of value chain? In short, how can all the employees be aligned with the company goals, vision, mission, updates and brand-experience at all times.
The answer is training.
More accurately mobile-first training. Mobile-first training is a solution to all problems that arise from a distributed workforce. It is independent of geographical constraints and therefore provides a custom solution for distributed work teams.
- Technology: Video based learning, role plays, assessments, simulation-based learning, gamification, on-demand learning – the possibilities are limitless and the right one can be picked based on your organizational requirements.
- Tools: You could refer to my earlier blog post on tools for enterprise learning here.
While technology is empowering employees to work and contribute from anywhere, rendering the 9-5 office culture as obsolete, many managers adhere to the outdated philosophy of rewarding only those employees they can see in their office doing work. Thus along with all these tools and technology being implemented, it is also important to simultaneously change the mind-sets of key stakeholders who account work being done with the number of office hours being clocked.
“For their part, millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work done,” states PwC’s NextGen: A global generational study. Understanding these differences and providing the right tools to the workers in an increasingly distributed environment is the only way forward.
Distributed workforce, along with the various benefits attached to it, is also harder to manage than a traditional office structure. But with the right hiring, managing and learning tools in place, go the digital route in full strength!