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Employees and companies have flexible schedules. Pew Research says that about 7 in 10 of those who are eligible work virtually. And McKinsey reports that more than half would like to work from home at least three days a week in the future. Instead of waiting for a “return to normalcy,” business leaders need to prioritize remote teams within their capabilities.
Becoming a better leader in the world of remote work is not as simple as increasing the frequency of video conferencing. Business leaders need to understand how to build and nurture relationships with employees or customers, even in a digital workforce.
Managing change (especially during a pandemic) is a challenge that needs to be addressed more effectively and creatively.
How can remote team leaders ensure their team members benefit from face-to-face instructor training for upskilling or retraining? What are some ways to keep virtual associates motivated and engaged beyond offering aggressive and progressive benefits? Where can you get a variety of remote workers to better serve customers, and how can you keep current employees from leaving after the big layoff?
Related: Remote work is here to stay: Are you ready for a new way of life?
Retool your leadership talents to meet remote and hybrid challenges
These questions are difficult to answer, but not impossible. Anyone can learn to be a leader at work – even when everyone feels scattered or working on different personal schedules. The key is to understand what your team needs. McKinsey & Co. reports that employers often underestimate the relational aspects of work, such as being valued by their managers and organizations and feeling a sense of belonging. On the other hand, employees said that it is one of the most important aspects of job satisfaction.
If you’ve been responsible for leading change, read the following remote leadership tips to stay connected across the board. Improve your empathy, be open to new opportunities, attract new talent, retain top performers, and create a clear picture for your partners to follow. This way, you can be successful no matter where you work in the future leads
Related: 6 Ways to Connect to Create a Sense of Belonging Anywhere, Any Workplace
1. Look for mentors outside of your business or industry
When you’re at the top of the org chart, you won’t always be able to find a mentor from your own company, but it’s not always necessary. Mentors can play any role, from cautionary advisor to sounding board, so be open to potential mentors outside of your field.
Are you considering joining a board? Do it. Being on a board outside of your industry, such as a non-profit board, will give you greater access to potential mentors. You will learn what strategies have worked for them in their business and what tactics have failed. One of the most valuable aspects of my service on the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools is being able to share the challenges and opportunities of serving the adult learner. Like me, you may find that your interactions as a board member can become a launching pad for creative solutions to keep you leading even as the world of work continues to evolve.
Related: Research proves the benefits of mentors, so how do you find them?
2. To teach others
Knowing your craft is one thing; sharing your knowledge is another. When you teach, you position yourself as an expert. You also push yourself to find ways to communicate your knowledge to learners. By developing employees or promoting mentoring programs in your company, you create an empathetic connection with your subordinates and create more opportunities for active participation.
Figures from Gallup show that employee disengagement hovers around 85%. And with loneliness affecting an estimated two-thirds of young adults, you can’t afford to ignore the importance of remote workers connecting with you, each other, and your company. The more attached employees feel, the less likely they are to leave.
Your training doesn’t have to be formal mentoring either. Create short sessions where you work as a teacher. Feel free to come up with other ways to share what you know, such as writing articles, making videos, and creating infographics. Who knows? You can become a key thought leader not only in your company but also in your field, increasing your credibility with employees, colleagues and clients.
Related: How entrepreneurs connect in an age of isolation
3. Initiate focus groups
You may think you know how to lead the people you influence every day, but don’t let boring lead you. Explore the gut by creating custom focus groups. Employee and even customer focus groups can provide one of the greatest learning experiences you’ll ever have. Although it can be difficult to listen without reacting during intense focus group sessions, try to use only your ears.
Focus groups with remote and hybrid workers can help uncover any communication or workflow gaps. You’ll have a better pulse on every approach, not to mention any roadblocks that keep your team members from reaching their true potential, day and night. Allow time for reflection after each focus group. Then use what you hear as a springboard for future decisions.
There is currently no exceptional workplace rate. Every company faces a unique internal experiment when implementing change. As a part-time or full-time manager of virtual workers, you need to focus on improving your core competencies so that you can be vital to yourself, your team, and your organization.