Over the past few months in The Virtual Edge, Sumner Grace's Geoffrey Dubiski has reviewed the impact of remote employment engagements in terms of business continuity and recovery planning (BCRP), absenteeism, cost savings, and recruiting and retaining talent. In the final part of the series, he will address key factors and hurdles you might face as you review or implement a virtual employment program. Thanks again to Geoff for sharing his insight and expertise on virtual employment with us. ~ Mike Zambon
We've seen that there are numerous benefits to virtual employment, but undoubtedly, as with any new technology or progressive movement, challenges and questions, or even objections will arise. In fact, in some cases companies might not even consider a remote work program unless warranted by some previous disaster or event, such as Hurricane Katrina.
Many companies and business leaders have preconceived beliefs that jobs can't be performed, or performed well, remotely; that the organization does not possess or cannot afford the technology to effectively support a remote workforce; or that employees cannot be trusted to complete their tasks without direct and proximate supervision.
To determine the validity of these concerns and make an informed decision on whether to create (or continue) a virtual employment program, management should perform a thorough review of the policies and protocols, the potential pros and cons, and the company culture and values. They should assess the:
Organization's managers and their need for line-of-sight supervision
Talent needs and the flexibility to wait for the right talent that is available locally, or willing to relocate, to be part of your organization
Current technology and investment outlook
Loss of talent due to lack of connection or inclusion
Reduced productivity and potential impact on customers if the employee is not screened well for the capability to work remotely
Expanded help desk requirements
Information systems vulnerability
Many of these issues are easily addressed. Due diligence and business case/impact studies will let you remedy technology shortfalls, enact process and protocol changes, and address concerns that employees must be within the company or customer's line of sight.
However, the one hurdle that is not easily overcome is trust. Without it, a remote work policy will not work. There are many managers and organizations that require employees to punch in and out and be visible throughout the day.
Interestingly enough there are also many examples of companies that have local and regional offices staffed with very few employees, and are an effective part of a well-oiled corporate strategy. In addition, salespeople, embedded technical employees, and others have long been in the field with little or no direct supervision. Their output is measured by customer feedback and touch points with management.
We pointed out earlier that a thorough screening of employees is necessary for virtual work, as not everyone is cut out for the remote nature of this arrangement. Some employees will pass that screen, but still might fail. But if you have established solid screening protocols and have regular intervals to engage your remote staff, as well as resources for them to tap into, you will see positive results.
Those companies willing to explore and execute virtual employment in a wider range of skills and customer delivery, will be the true winners in the recruitment and retention of talent.