- When adapting technology to enable a flexible workforce, a common theme was expressed at The TRaD Works Forum: the technology must focus on human connection, not bells and whistles. One panel, "Selecting and Optimizing TRaD Tools & Platforms," focused specifically on how employers can handle tech more appropriately. (TRaD stands for telecommuting, remote and distributed work.)
- Innovations like video and instant messaging matter, especially when connecting a distributed workforce, but when implementing it, managers need to come from a place of humanity, the panel noted. If a high-level executive joins a team video call looking casual and relaxed from within their own home, it can set an important, positive tone for everyone else in the organization and improve engagement with not only the tools, but the company overall.
- Panelists stressed that managers must still actively manage workers. Employers need to set ground rules that explain how and when it is appropriate to use tools, whether that is expected message-back time or structure around when to use video chat versus a conference call. Companies also must remember to measure the numbers that matter to the organization, whether that is meeting time shrinkage or the number of video participants. "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," Brad Richardson, co-founder of Walkabout Office, said.
Perhaps of no surprise to HR managers, a good remote work program is dependent on proper training that begins with onboarding and continues throughout employment. Some of that training has to do with liability issues, such as how to ensure data is secure while off-premises (though all employees, regardless of location, should participate in that). But a lot of training may be about making employees and managers comfortable with the tools used to connect remote workers.
For real success, managers need to reflect on key HR principles and enable people to work the way they want to work, the panel noted. Win Khanijoun, workforce experience adviser at Cisco Systems, said employers should ask their employees three key questions when trying out new tools:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- How did it go?
- Was it easy?
The "easy" question can be particularly revealing, he said during the panel.
When done right, remote work tech is "not a tool, but a place," Richardson said. What people tend to miss most about working together in an office is that spontaneous engagement. Good tech use makes up some of that difference. Karen LeGraff, VP of North American HR operations at Xerox, described how her organization ran a "virtual holiday party." Richardson spoke of "virtual break rooms" that employees get together in after a workday to relax and discuss their days. Get creative and let employees make fun spaces for themselves.