Effectively managing remote workforces promises to be vital to success as the need for virtual, distributed teams continues. 

2020 was the year of unexpected change and facing harsh realities, on repeat. For some, transitioning to a remote workforce was easy, but for others it was a challenge to the status quo, forcing those to take a hard look at the way things have always been and seeking meaningful change. We are experiencing a completely new, decentralized workforce that can operate almost anytime, anywhere. In this article, we take a look at four aspects to consider for managing and maintaining a distributed workforce.

Create an engaging digital workplace

Last year, thousands of companies successfully shifted their employees to work from home environments. With this, keeping eyes and ears on the day-to-day became a major concern for many hands-on managers. How could one ensure that everyone was still communicating their questions and issues? These concerns are very real for anyone operating a distributed workforce, but as we’ve seen in 2020, there are plenty of tools and software that can help employees and managers remain both connected and engaged. If being in constant contact with a coworker is required, Slack may be a good tool to quickly send and receive messages within a moment’s notice. If a group is deadline-driven and must see all moving parts at one time, Asana is a project management software that specifically helps with distributed and remote teams. The point is there are tools for teams of all shapes and sizes, but being aware of how your team operates and choosing intuitive tools will help increase efficiency among your program.

Reduce costs and increase flexibility

You can’t think about managing a workforce without considering what’s keeping the lights on- your bottom line. One obvious benefit to having a remote workforce is not paying for a physical location, but there are other factors to consider around this.

  • Eliminating physical barriers to where your employees can work opens up the talent pool significantly. For example, a call center that was once located in Boston, MA, (where the median cost of living is $602,600) can now choose to employ resources out of the Texas or Florida, where the median cost of living is nearly half.
  • For short term projects that do not require full time resources, companies may consider using contract labor (from anywhere in the country or within a specific time zone) to also help cut costs.
  • If offshore outsourcing was based on the idea to reduce costs, will remote work make offshoring obsolete? Companies must consider why they would choose a workforce on the other side of the world with time and language constraints, when they can implement a remote workforce here at home, albeit a few states away.

Our new, decentralized workforce can operate almost anytime, anywhere.

Align benefits programs and perks

For college grads in recent years, one of the major attractions to companies were all of the cool in-office perks. We’ve seen benefits that include large-scaled cafeterias for cheap or free, laundry units, day care for children (or pets!), private break out rooms with collaborative technology, state-of-the-art gyms, and transportation from local bus routes with WiFi, the list goes on. Companies have invested millions to build sprawling college style campuses so that their employees wouldn’t need to run home for these things. Then the unforeseeable Covid-19 hit and the need for many of these perks came to a screeching halt. Today, we see businesses that are planning to bring their entire workforce back into the office (pending vaccination rollouts), but how are the companies that want to maintain this remote workstyle, going to reinvent their benefits to fit the modern workforce? HR departments are finding new ways to reinvent the benefits wheel. Some of these offerings include stipends that help offset the cost of employees having to use their own materials like- internet and phone, remote work desk set up (i.e., money for an office chair, lamp, notepads/pens, whiteboards, etc.), continuous learning, health and wellness, or daily/weekly/monthly meals or coffees.

Redesign processes and methodologies

With a decentralized workforce, companies should consider how to effectively implement enterprise-wide strategies that both attract new and retain existing employees.

  • Talent acquisition strategies are evolving to meet the needs of the remote worker. For example, Apex’s Corporate Recruiting department has adopted a remote hiring strategy that focuses on helping the new hire feel connected and engaged. This includes recruiters and hiring managers sharing their personal stories and successes within the organization so the candidate really feels the connection to Apex. Another strategy seen lately are companies leveraging internal mobility (i.e., prioritizing employee engagement and seeking opportunities to redeploy talent) to build an agile workforce. Doing this keeps top employees working hard and feeling like a valued member of an organization.
  • When utilizing consultants within blended teams, management methods can vary based on the project and team structure.  It should be a priority to ensure that both the contracted and full time resources are committed to the common goal of the project or team. Also, clearly defining outcomes and metrics to assess performance will boost agility throughout the team, enabling operations to run smoother.

We can confidently say that in March 2020, no one anticipated that we’d be where we are today, but as our roles and meanings of positions have evolved, so have our ways of managing our workforce. Is it time to start considering remote-based positions like Chief Virtual Officer? VP of Virtual Cultural Strategy? The possibilities are endless, but we challenge you to consider these new ways of thinking and strategizing.

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