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Cultivating post-COVID resiliency, Adapatation 2: The transition to digital working

In this second in a four-part series, we explore how businesses can transition to digital working in order to adapt to the new future of work.
19 nov 2021 • Lettura di 6 minuti
Aggiornato il 22 nov 2021 da Jayne L.
Foto di copertina
We have already looked at how to build a resilient business in the wake of the pandemic, and how businesses need to accelerate their move to a platform-based business model to thrive in the ongoing economic and technological evolution. 
The next adaptation that all enterprises need to consider is how they can facilitate the transition towards digital working and reinforce staff capabilities to bolster these changes.

Remote Working: Enabling Your Workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that working remotely is both achievable, and for many, desirable on a full-time and sustained basis. 
The epidemic forced many industries to switch over to remote working mode within just a few days, and even those companies that were originally resistant to the idea were pressed to fully embrace this new culture. 
But how has this experience of remote working affected the willingness to return to the former norm now that lockdown and travel restrictions have eased? 
And what does this remote revamp mean for new and existing businesses alike?

COVID: an unexpected revolution

Even though many businesses allowed their staff to work remotely before the pandemic hit, for many remote working has now become the new norm. 
With the ongoing evolutions in AI, we could argue that an increased uptake in remote working was always on the cards; in fact, it has been an upward trend for nearly two decades, but COVID fast-tracked this change and brought about an unprecedented revolution for many companies.
In the wake of the pandemic, 74% of companies now plan to shift some of their employees to remote working permanently. It’s safe to say that remote working is here to stay but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its fair share of challenges. 

Skills Versus Software

Technology, software, teleconferencing, and networking are all principal drivers facilitating this work-from-home boom. But the identification and enhancement of the skills that staff need to be successful in a virtual environment continues to lag behind. 
One main downfall of many businesses is that they are requiring their staff to learn enhanced digital skills and improve their soft skills to deal with free-range working but without any guidance or support. 
Instead, there is a tendency to make staff behaviors fit into a remote environment, which can alienate workers, impact engagement and blunt productivity. 
To be a thriving remote workforce, companies need to acknowledge that success is not only about having the definitive technology in place but about equipping their staff with the secondary skills needed to succeed. 
So, what does this look like for your business?

How to build a successful remote workforce

Building a competent and thriving remote workforce involves analyzing, developing and implementing 5 key areas of operation: 
Interpersonal skills
Building high-performance teams
Facilitating effective meetings
Managing relationships
Delivering feedback

Interpersonal skills

While standard interpersonal skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership are universal, some modifications are needed to adapt to the world of remote working. 
For example, if your team leaders are used to connecting with their team through informal, face-to-face interactions, then you need to ask yourself the following questions:
How are they going to replicate this style of managing remotely? 
Can they manage in the same way when their team members are not physically present?
How will this impact on management style, staff engagement and productivity?
Staff of all levels in your business will need support and encouragement to address their interpersonal skills through the changes associated with remote working. 
To address this, you can design training on how to engage, communicate with and support the goals of all employees across the board. 
We have previously looked at the benefits of using a freelance expert to navigate you through these intermittent changes, and seeking guidance from a training development professional, or employee training specialist could benefit your company and your staff.   

Building high-performance teams

Whether you are developing a remote or in-office workforce, having a high-performance team is non-negotiable for any business. 
Think about what a high-performance team looks like to your venture. It could mean having a shared vision, a unification of goals, sound communication skills and an effective reward and recognition scheme that nurtures achievement.  
Think about how you or your management team will continue to foster these integral characteristics but without those frequent in-person interactions. 
You could consider an ongoing series of virtual meetings where goals or visions (both individual and team) are shared. Creating a forum where every team member is encouraged to have a voice can help reignite a sense of community that could otherwise be lost through a lack of in-person interaction. 
Doing this will involve adapting remote technologies where necessary, especially the use of video calls and chats to create a personalized presence for all participants. 

Facilitating effective meetings

Keeping all staff engaged when working in a virtual environment creates its own set of difficulties. 
For example, if one member of the team is outspoken it can mean they dominate any video meeting, making it difficult for others to interject. This can lead to feelings of isolation, indifference or disinterest. 
Think about how you can create a learning function that will support all employees. This could be done by offering meeting facilitation skill development, implementing meeting regulations and expectations, leveraging technology, and providing coaching.

Managing relationships

Relationship management is a difficult aspect to nurture in a remote environment. 
Holding effective virtual meetings is an important way of guaranteeing engagement, but relationship management also needs to happen outside of those meetings. 
Relationship management is an important facet of any business, regardless of scale. Remote working means that employees don’t see their peers as often or they might not connect as regularly which means that they miss opportunities to provide support and reinforce best practices.  
Think about relationship management resolutions such as team building activities which bolster the importance of continued interactions. 
This can be achieved by encouraging the use of social learning platforms, instant messaging, and speaking on the phone.
By creating actions that emphasize how employees can use technology and why they should (for example, sharing knowledge, nurturing trust, enhancing collaboration) then you can help establish a reconnect and take the remote out of remote working.  

Delivering feedback

Delivering coaching and performance feedback remotely can cause its own set of difficulties. Leaders and managers can build a sense of trust and engagement through frequent and effective feedback sessions. 
So how does this translate into the virtual workforce?
Relying too heavily on email communication can be problematic and should be avoided. Video chat means both parties can read facial cues and emotion to help express meaning and understand responses. 
Consider how you can develop training for your team leaders or management team on delivering coaching and performance feedback without an in-person presence. 
The training could encourage experiential learning opportunities that enable the manager to practice providing feedback remotely. 

How to implement these changes effectively

Now that you have a key understanding of the complexities of evolving into a remote workforce setup, you also need to consider how you will deliver and implement these changes. 
Ensuring that your staff buy into these modifications and have a desire to adopt new skills and behaviors is essential. 
Your implementation strategy should include the following aspects:
Communicating needs
Being clear and up-front
Identifying and analyzing changes
Planning transitions 

Communicating needs

Be clear about the business decisions behind moving towards a remote workforce. Some potential benefits could include expanding the pool of talent globally by not being attached to a brick-and-mortar spot, flexible scheduling, decreased costs and overhead.

Being clear and up-front 

All communication and training plans suggested above should be clear about both the pros and cons of working remotely, as well as including strategies for resolving problems that arise. 
It is only through being transparent and up-front about potential risks and problems that you can be resilient and move forward.

Identifying and analyzing changes

It is vital that you continually monitor the successes and pitfalls of any changes. Key metrics should be used to not only scrutinize effectiveness but also observe employee engagement and oversee culture and brand wellness.

Planning transitions

Whether you are planning the move to an entirely remote workforce or a mixed blend, a solid transition plan is essential. Aspects you need to think about include remote working policies, technological needs, skill assessments and training. 
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can implement a digital strategy, then there are a plethora of experts on waiting to guide you through the process today.
In the next article of this series, we will look at how to assess your current skill set and develop it as needed. 
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