Management, take note:
Employee expectations have changed since the onset of the pandemic.
It’s 2021 and businesses are navigating a new normal. In hindsight, 2020 truly was a wake-up call to organizations relying on legacy technology to engage customers and employees.
In response to suddenly fully remote workforces:
For most, it was a mad scramble to simply connect. For others, it was anxiety around security and scaling. For all, there’s still urgency in future-proofing their organizations to maintain resiliency and trust.
That’s because distributed workforce environments are still facing challenges, including:
And leaders are looking for an “anywhere workforce” solution to not only ease pandemic burdens, but also benefit employees and the organization.
Before global stay-at-home mandates, organizations feared that productivity would plummet, teams would lose touch and morale would suffer. By and large, those fears were disproven. In fact, positive work culture is alive and well, said respondents. Individuals saw benefits that they’d be hard pressed to give up now they successfully adapted their work cultures. The question on everyone’s mind, though, is whether leadership will adjust.
Managers never expected that a majority of their workplaces could be both remote and successful. But I believe change is still to come. I expect there to be not only a rethink of powers but also of employee ownership.
Maribel Lopez, technology industry analyst and strategic advisor at Lopez Research
We’re not ever going back. We’re going forward. We have the power to shape this crisis to make the world a better place.
Pat Gelsinger, Board member and former CEO, VMware
Today, more employees believe the ability to work remotely is not merely a perk, but a prerequisite—up from 30% to 42% globally since the pandemic. And although a majority of survey respondents have experienced personal benefits—from improved connections to increased empowerment—in the near term, they understand long-term success requires a strategic approach for their particular organization.
But something is missing. And it’s a much-needed update to management practices and boardroom cultures. Line-of-sight management styles need to change to reflect that work doesn’t happen only in the office. This means managers no longer worrying their teams will stray off task (42%) and relieving the pressure employees feel to be online longer (60%).
“Key strategies are needed to transform the turmoil of this challenging time and to truly create opportunities for everyone—but also for those who need it most,” said Gelsinger in a recent podcast conversation with Lopez.
The two agree the most important strategies for managers right now are fusing empathy and urgency, as well as democratizing digital access.
As that process goes further, organizations will build more diverse workforces. They’ll also improve the ability to attract talent that might not have been available to the organization before. Culture and collaboration are two potential risks.
Both Gelsinger and Lopez believe leaders must be vigilant about addressing those concerns.
What organizations really need is cultural ambassadors who are empathetic. And these managers must have the appropriate soft skills and expertise to inspire employees, making them feel part of the bigger organization. The opportunity before us is to rethink management dynamics.
Maribel Lopez, technology industry analyst and strategic advisor, Lopez Research
MAKING THE “ANYWHERE WORKFORCE”
For leaders willing to make changes, remote work creates greater opportunities for employees—from boosting diversity to making new ideas heard.
Survey respondents said they feel a greater share of voice, including:
Although diversity is a huge gain, “managers also have to keep inclusivity top of mind as we choose communication and collaboration approaches—and even performance metrics going forward into our new normal of working,” advised Shanis Windland, vice president of diversity and inclusion at VMware.
“When technology is working well, it connects us. And everyone is equally represented. In the case of video, on the screen, individuals can hear better, participate easily and feel more included,” she said.
She advances top tips that management consultancies, such as McKinsey & Company, do to bring more inclusivity into distributed workforces:
Working from home raises new questions around inclusivity, communication and employee engagement. It’s important that companies remedy traditional and new power dynamics in a distributed workforce.
Shanis Windland, vice president of diversity and inclusion, VMware
It turns out that the art of celebrating people from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s smart business.
SHANIS WINDLAND, VICE PRESIDENT OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, VMWARE
I think there’s only two things that could double the world’s GDP in my lifetime. One is artificial intelligence. The other is the mass proliferation of remote work. By just giving people an internet connection, you allow people to inject innovation and ideas into companies. That is immensely powerful.
Darren Murph, head of remote, GitLab
MAKING THE “ANYWHERE WORKFORCE” A REALITY
Watch the highlights of this lively debate, featuring:
Rapid response was critical to continued business at the start of the pandemic. But establishing a successful distributed workforce strategy for business resiliency requires rethinking where and how teams work.
“Future Ready Workforce” principles from VMware offer practical steps. Key tenets include:
So, leaders, the next move is yours.
Your employees want the freedom and flexibility to work as they are. It’s up to you to deliver.
*Global survey of 5,700 business, HR and IT decision makers across 20 countries was conducted in June and July 2020 by Vanson Bourne in partnership with VMware. Access the report: The Remote Work Era: Trends in the Distributed Workforce.
**Asked to respondents who had some form of active remote workforce during the COVID-19 peak in their country, percentages showing the combination of responses ranked first, second and third.
***Subset of respondents who were from a “local or national organization with defined headquarters and branch offices” or “multinational organization with defined headquarters and regional hubs.”