Businesses are about people. And people are about skills, thinking and action. If your people are less than that, you should be looking at technology to do that person’s job. It’s more reliable, dependable and far easier to manage. But it won’t create magic, innovation or culture across your business. People will and do. Remote working puts a question mark on that.
Here are some reasons why.
When a problem arises, the ability to immediately resolve it by pulling people into a room before it cannot be done remotely. And if the problem and its solution need a multidisciplinary approach, which most problems do, then the right people in the room can step out after and all do what needs doing to get the job done.
As your business grows, it is even more critical because the people in the room might have to coordinate and organise their teams to get the job done. It’s instant, and when it comes to retaining clients and building a brand (problem resolution builds a brand better than any marketing campaign), you need to get it done there and then.
Culture and value
Culture is nebulous, yet without one, your business creates a staccato experience for suppliers, customers, and employees. Values create the nous that enables your business and its employees to operate against an intuitive framework when needed. This intuition or unconscious response develops over time. It doesn’t build from the values stated in your website or reception wall but through living, breathing and observing the behaviour of all business employees, especially its leaders.
If values create the framework and culture of the behaviour about what a company stands for, the best way to learn it is in person. Imagine a scenario where an employee enters the office of a manager. The door closes. A few minutes later, the employee leaves the office, pale and slightly stressed. Your colleague sitting next to you asks what went down. You explain what that employee did, and through that, you learn the authentic culture and values of that company. A word indicating a value, be it integrity, honesty, etc. means very little until it is understood and witnessed in practice.
Learning and training
While aspects of employee training are best offered online and therefore accessible remotely, the context, the application and the improvement of an employee’s performance arguably cannot be. We learn by doing not online engagements and content. Observation and “show and tell” are far more impactful ways of developing capability in your employees. Imagine trying to learn kung fu remotely rather than in the ring. Only when a punch lands do you genuinely understand how to take the theory and put it into a useful practice suited to your inherent abilities. The same goes for riding a bicycle, managing a project, managing a team, collecting a debtor book or selling.
Beyond a job, why do people opt to work in your business? I’ll put it into context in a recent meeting with a global law firm specialising in tax. Their brand exciting and innovative brand operates across a federation of autonomous companies operating in 169 countries. In the past, they won recruits with their innovative approach to tax, assured learning and very quick exposure to exciting clients. Their vibrancy won them talent before bigger firms’ cold, hard salary packages. But, they have found that remote working has directly prevented the handover of relationships from senior partners to junior partners and associates. It has harmed the transfer of knowledge on the subject matter, the personalities making up a client, the industry, and it has stunted the ability of senior partners to pick junior partners effectively and for junior partners in return to compete to work with promising associates.
Remote working is a privilege, not a right. If you are attracting employees who demand it, consider moving on. They are there for their comfort rather than the well-being of the business as active, engaged, committed contributors who go beyond fulfilling a functional role.
When is there a case for remote work? It should be part of your business-building toolkit. How to use it, when and where and then how to manage it is a future article.