The global remote working transition
What’s happening today will impact businesses for the next decade. But with the right approach, today's challenges could inspire tomorrow’s breakthroughs.
The global remote working transition
The challenges of today could inspire tomorrow’s breakthroughs
Brian Salkowski – COO, Guidant Global
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has triggered a mass transition to remote work. But with the right insight and approach, the challenges of today could inspire tomorrow’s breakthroughs.
Over the course of just a few weeks, our world has changed beyond recognition. Schools are closed, transport arteries are empty, and work is more likely to be done from a living room sofa than a conventional office space or boardroom. It’s been said many times already, but these really are unprecedented times.
While this upheaval is proving difficult, in some ways it poses an exciting challenge to businesses and the people they employ.
Working from home has become increasingly normalized over the past few years, but not every business was set up to accommodate universal remote work prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Shaking off the traditional understanding of how work gets done was also a challenge for many businesses.
In response, the digital transformation of companies is happening at a rate that would’ve seemed impossible just a few months ago.
New technology has been embraced overnight, and the oft-discussed flexible working practices that workers have craved for decades have become the new norm. While COVID-19 is a truly tragic event, there are silver threads of positivity to be found.
On the other hand, there are challenges that accompany such rapid transformation. Learning new technology usually takes months of planning. Today, it has to happen in hours.
Managing remote workers would, in normal times, need deep research and a change management strategy.
Today, managers are having to adapt overnight.
Enhancing digital skills usually requires designing and implementing training programs and hiring expert teams. In recent weeks, businesses have had to do this on the fly.
There are communities who already have valuable experience of flexible, remote work, however.
One such “community” is working moms. Mothers are often more experienced remote workers, particularly those that have flexibility built-in to their roles.
Much can be learnt from these remote-working masters. To uncover more insights, we’ve partnered with The Mom Project — a digital talent marketplace and community that connects professionally accomplished women with world-class companies.
Ultimately, the purpose of this report is to give you support to help you adequately deal with the now and better prepare for the future.
What’s happening today will impact businesses for the next decade.
My hope is that by reading this report, you and your business will have a well-rounded understanding of how to ride the waves of change and come out of this once-in-a-lifetime crisis better prepared for the future.
Drivers for an engaged (*and productive*) remote workforce
Dr. Pamela Cohen – President, WerkLabs
Dr. Pamela Cohen
Employees are asking for more flexibility in the workplace, but many companies have struggled to respond: only 47% of employees cite having access to the flexibility they need(1).
As companies across the globe adapt to the current environment, addressing the need for productive remote teams is no longer optional.
Creating a successful remote work experience will be critical for companies — both now and long-term.
The first step is understanding the drivers that matter most to employees based on each company’s unique work environment.
Here are some key questions business leaders need to be asking to create a successful remote work experience.
(1) “The Future is Flexible: The Importance of Flexibility in the Modern Workplace,” Werk Flexibility Study, https://werk.co/research
- How often should team members check in with managers and leadership?
- How should managers best communicate with their remote team?
- What should whole team communications contain in order to be most effective?
- How will company leadership quickly train managers on what's necessary to keep in touch with employees and keep projects moving forward?
- How will company leadership communicate with transparency?
What channels serve best for various types of communications
When should teams use video conferencing or phone? Company chat system or email? Text?
What equipment do employees need to effectively work remotely?
Do equipment and technology needs vary by teams or individuals?
What are the optimal ways for managers to keep up with team projects to ensure quality and content?
What are the best ways to keep up morale, especially for team members who are potentially more isolated?
How will managers identify employees who need more coaching versus less coaching during enforced remote work?
- How will company leadership keep employees future-focused and looking forward?
- What are effective remote leadership skills and how will managers be trained on them?
- How will the company keep up with CSR efforts?
While it’s helpful to know what to ask, it’s more difficult to know the answers that will have the most impact on your organization.
Could predictive analytics provide the answer?
Predictive people analytics might be the solution you’re looking for.
Fusing employee engagement with predictive modeling, WerkLabs’ people analytics enables business leaders to understand and predict how employee experience impacts company performance, and provides prescription and actionable results to help their workforce excel.
By uncovering the company-specific critical performance drivers and using predictive analytics, companies can leverage these insights to understand the cause and effect relationships between drivers and performance outcomes, and which changes will have the biggest impact on key performance outcomes such as productivity, retention, and recommendation as a place to work.
With the ability to look at the overall employee experience or drill down into specific areas—including the remote experience — companies can work to create successful work environments both now and long-term.
For more information about WerkLab’s remote experience analytics, click here.
About The Mom Project
We turned recruitment into a movement. We connect talented women with world-class employers that respect work and life integration.
WerkLabs partners with business leaders to understand the unique drivers that will drive their workforce to be successful, leveraging predictive analytics to identify changes that will have the biggest impact on key performance outcomes — for both the employee and the company.
The Story of The Mom Project
Successfully managing a *remote, distributed workforce*
Robin Sanders – Senior Vice President, Client Solutions, Guidant Global
Senior Vice President - Client Solutions
A few years back, I read a Global Workplace Analytics report which revealed that 80-90% of employees wanted to work remotely. Today, that wish has become a reality.
But some of the concerns about remote work have also come to the fore. How can HR leaders and people managers ensure that their business continues to run smoothly, while simultaneously ensuring its people are happy and engaged?
It’s a difficult problem to face. But if there’s one positive to take, it’s this: we’re all in this boat together.
For HR leaders, particularly those with teams spread across the globe, some of the challenges of managing a remote, distributed workforce are already clear: getting teams across multiple sites and time zones to collaborate on projects being one of these.
So what’s the solution?
Technology: the solution to today’s remote work problems?
Successfully managing a remote, distributed workforce is heavily reliant on having the right technology integrated within a business. For some, these technologies will already be there.
For others — particularly those who haven’t previously worked with a remote, distributed workforce — they’ve had to rapidly embrace digital transformation. Zoom’s stock price doubling since the start of the year is a reflection of this trend.
So how do these technologies work in practice with remote teams?
Let’s take a single, unspecified project as an example. An ideation session can be held using a video platform like Zoom or Skype.
Sharing project updates and organizing work are enabled using a project management tool like Microsoft Planner or Trello. Regularly communicating with project members can be facilitated using a secure chat platform such as Workplace or Slack.
While there may be some issues for people using these technologies for the first time, we know that we’re going to be reliant on them going forward. Coronavirus has simply accelerated this transition. And with the technological infrastructure in place, planning for the future becomes much easier.
This infrastructure also enables HR leaders and people managers to have a full, holistic view of what people are working on, what projects they’re part of, and how they’re measuring up against strategic goals. Even when so-called business-as-usual returns, this is an asset worth having.
Communicating with teams doesn’t have to be difficult
After speaking to HR leaders and people managers in my network, a common concern that frequently crops up is how to effectively communicate with a remote workforce.
Though Skype and Workplace might pick up some of the slack for meetings, communications and business updates, how are people managers expected to hold meaningful one-to-ones with their teams?
Again, technology may prove to be the answer. At Guidant Global, we use a technology — OpenBlend — that ensures people engage in effective, meaningful and regular one-to-ones.
While one-to-ones often work better in a face-to-face setting, the philosophy that underpins the platform enables remote one-to-ones to be effective, too.
Though some may doubt the validity or potential of virtual feedback, from our experience, empowering people and giving managers visibility can be digitized.
Transitioning the role of HR from bit-part player to a strategic leader
So what does this all mean for HR leaders and people managers once we’ve passed through the storm?
With a smart approach and the right tools in place, we can create more effective teams. With an effective transition, this can move the role of an HR leader from tactics and people management to leadership and strategy.
If an HR leader can effectively manage their remote workforce today, having a bigger seat at the table seems almost inevitable once the coronavirus crisis starts to alleviate.
A more *flexible future*
Allison Robinson, CEO & Founder, The Mom Project
CEO & Founder
The Mom Project
The global workforce was already shifting towards the need for more flexible workplaces, but the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has accelerated this rate of change.
Now, with social distancing orders in place and the abrupt transition to working from home, companies are being forced to support remote teams, and keep their employees productive and engaged from a distance.
Prior to this pandemic, employees wanted more flexibility for better work-life integration, but few were given it. 96% of professionals in the United States expressed the desire for flexibility in the workplace, while only 47% said they have access to the types of flexibility they need.
The gap is even more pronounced for women: only 34% said they have the workplace flexibility they need(1). Though women are a large part of the workforce, they already faced significant challenges when trying to integrate work and family.
These challenges are only being exacerbated by the current environment.
"96% of professionals in the United States expressed the desire for flexibility in the workplace, while only 47% said they have access to the types of flexibility they need."
Harvard Business Review
It’s estimated that the toll of mothers juggling work and home life during the pandemic will cost the economy $341 billion(2).
While COVID-19 is amplifying the pressure of engaging in work and caring for a family, it’s simultaneously shedding light on the critical need for companies to increase their support for work-life integration.
Flexibility plays a critical role in workplace satisfaction and employee retention, which ultimately impacts a company’s bottom line: 83% of women would leave their current employer for an opportunity that better supports their work-life needs(3).
I founded The Mom Project on the belief that women shouldn’t be forced to choose between having a family or having a career.
We’re a digital marketplace that connects talented, diverse women with leading family-friendly companies that offer the flexibility to balance needs for both work and life.
Economists predict that the coronavirus pandemic may only worsen existing inequalities that women face(4), so now more than ever is the time to end the motherhood penalty and unlock the potential of moms in the workforce.
It’s essential that corporate and public leaders enact cultural and policy-driven changes both now for long-term success. Creating more flexible and inclusive workplaces isn’t just good for parents; it’s good for everyone. While the negative impacts of COVID-19 are undeniable, this is the time to build a better workplace for the future, for everyone.
To learn more about how The Mom Project can help connect you with highly qualified, diverse talent, visit our website.
(1) “The Future is Flexible: The Importance of Flexibility in the Modern Workplace,” Werk Flexibility Study.
(2) Navaroli, Gina. “Working Moms Are Struggling to Engage at Work - and It Will Cost the Economy $341B.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 17/04/20. (3) Dr. Pamela Cohen, Mom Project Labs, 2019.
(4) Shane, Cari. “In Times of Health and Economic Distress, Girls and Women Are the Biggest Losers.” Fortune, Fortune, 02/04/20.
Today’s challenges will *inspire the workforce solutions of tomorrow*
Andrew Erlichman – Vice President, Sales Strategy, Guidant Global
Vice President, Sales Strategy
What we’re experiencing today has opened up significant fault lines in the way businesses operate. For many, they’re significantly scaling back operations to weather the storm.
For others — particularly those who deliver essential goods, supply medical equipment and sustain everyday life — the answer is to rapidly hire temporary staff to meet increasing demands.
This brings two unique sets of challenges.
First, let’s take the companies scaling back operations. Operating with a reduced workforce makes sense when business isn’t strong and staff can’t work to the same levels as they could previously. So, as hard as it is for millions of people across the US, from a business perspective, letting workers go seems relatively sensible.
So far, so logical.
However, assuming the business emerges intact once the coronavirus crisis is over, they’ll need to attract talented people back to the business as quickly as possible in order to make up the losses sustained under lockdown.
Hiring people at such a scale requires a great deal of expertise, especially to ensure the best rates, keep the business as lean as possible, remain compliant, and still find the best talent. To achieve such targets, businesses will need to procure a workforce solution that can match such needs.
Second, let’s take the business rapidly employing temporary workers at scale to meet current demands. These businesses are not only the bedrock of society, but they’re also enabling people who have lost their jobs to find employment.
So far, so good.
The issue for businesses here is that hiring hundreds or thousands of temporary workers can lead to spiraling costs and accelerate risk, particularly when hiring managers are working under relentless pressure.
In this scenario, this business is likely to need an MSP program to ensure compliance and optimize their temporary workforce now, and when the crisis is over.
Elements such as talent analytics and strategic workforce planning will contribute towards ensuring fully optimized, fully compliant workforces.
Given that the demand for workforce solutions is set to grow over the next few years, will the workforce solutions themselves change?
From my years of experience working in this sector, the answer is most definitely yes.
Even before this crisis, direct sourcing, Contingent RPO, AI-powered talent analytics, services procurement and strategic workforce planning were all beginning to permeate the workforce solutions marketplace — at least among forward-thinking MSPs.
Some of these additions will continue to grow once we’ve exited this crisis.
By the same token, contingent RPO and direct sourcing will ensure that businesses can hire and retain the best talent at the best possible rates.
Meanwhile, services procurement and statement-of-work management will save businesses money for complex and project-based work.
"By working together, we can help drive greater productivity, rebuild our businesses, and inject life back into the US economy."
Simon Blockley – CEO, Guidant Global
Ultimately, the workforce solutions of tomorrow will have to build on the advances we’ve made in the years prior to the coronavirus crisis.
Only by looking to past progress can we help businesses navigate the economic downturns of tomorrow.
MSP providers like Guidant Global have always looked to get the best deal for their clients.
But given the challenges ahead, we will learn from this experience and accelerate our solutions to ensure businesses survive today and excel tomorrow.
Conclusion: *uncovering positive signs* in unprecedented times
We can’t predict exactly what the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic will look like, or how long this period of change is set to last.
But it’s becoming clear that today’s great remote working transition is set to change the way people work and how businesses operate.
It’s already demanding innovation, speeding up digital transformation, and inspiring those who had doubts about remote work to reassess long-held assumptions.
Long-term, the more flexible working world being built today will lead to more inclusive workplaces — giving the chance to working parents, disabled and neurodivergent people to thrive in a way that works best for them.
Collectively, we will learn much from this unprecedented experience. Invariably, the first virtual team call almost always encounters some kind of technical problem.
But as the lockdown continues, we will learn to use new technologies better. Given time, these technologies might even bring teams closer together.
It’s also likely to enhance the profile of HR leaders within businesses. While this is of secondary importance to the macroeconomic picture, the role of HR is as important now as it’s ever been.
Those who can actively engage a remote workforce today, even during these times of crisis, will have a far bigger voice when it comes to decision-making in the future.
The crisis will also tell us a lot about the way we manage our workforces. As rosters shift rapidly up and down, we’ll discover that thousands of people are misclassified, under- or overpaid. Meanwhile, we’ll uncover the hidden talent within our businesses.
With the right workforce solution in place, we’ll also better understand how to attract the right talent at the right times, reduce risk, and ensure compliance.
The ever-changing world we live in today is nothing like we could have imagined just a few months ago. The tragedy that’s unfolding will no doubt affect us all in some way, whether directly or indirectly.
But the more we assess the great remote work transition, the more we see glimmers of hope resting underneath the surface.