We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of companies willing to embrace a remote workplace, and in turn a growing number of remote job vacancies. But the skills needed to work remotely and manage remote teams are different to those of our office-based counterparts.
The question is, what skills are needed to better equip our workforce for remote work?
To help answer this question, let’s turn to Jacob Morgan’s book, The Future of Work, where he describes some of the key trends that are shaping the new world of work and creating the remote workplace – namely, the rise of the sharing economy, the Internet of things and an increasingly connected world, the millennial workforce, mobility, and globalization.
He explains how these trends are “dramatically impacting and changing what it means to work, to be a manager, to be an employee, or to work at a company.” And he highlights how the impact will be felt by everyone and anyone, whether you’re currently working or looking for work. In fact, we’re feeling the impact already. The future of work is now.
It’s not a bad thing though. The new employee will benefit in several ways, but it does require a mindset shift on behalf of workers and their leaders, and the need to develop a new set of skills.
According to Morgan, the future employee encompasses the following 7 principles:
1. Having a flexible work environment – allowing employees to work from anywhere and at anytime, and focusing on outcomes (the quality of work completed, not how many hours worked).
2. Customising your own work – allowing employees to choose the projects they work on based on their strengths and passions.
3. Sharing information.
4. Using new ways to communicate and collaborate.
5. Becoming a leader.
6. Shifting from knowledge worker to learning worker.
7. Learning and teaching at will.
So now that we know what this new employee looks like, let’s explore the skills people and organisations need to successfully embrace this new way of working.
Essential Skills for Remote Workers
When an employee is use to having direction from a boss and working a typical 9-5 shift in an office, having the flexibility to work from anywhere and at anytime, can pose some challenges. Not everyone can manage to stay focused and use their time efficiently when working alone. Excellent time management skills are crucial. So to the ability to be self-motivated, resourceful and able to make decisions without directives.
Knowing how to setup the right remote work environment that’s conducive to being productive is also important. As well as knowing how to handle situations in your home office, or wherever you’re working from, when things don’t go to plan.
Being able to customise your own work is a relatively new concept that some forward-thinking companies are starting to adopt. Essentially it means “allowing employees to un-pigeonhole themselves in their careers … putting the career paths in the hands of employees”, says Morgan. It’s all about giving employees the right to explore other areas or roles within an organisation based on their true passion. Being able to choose projects that resonate with them so they have more control over the work they do.
To embrace this concept employees first need to know how to figure out what their strengths and passions are. What excites them and inspires them to work? Where can they add the most value to an organisation? What is their purpose in life? Knowing this, putting plans into action, and having management embrace this new way of thinking will undoubtedly lead to happier employees.
Equally as important, knowing how to balance flexible work with leisure time. How to bring harmony between work and life so work doesn’t impact in a negative way on family time and the things people enjoy doing outside of work.
Strong communication skills have always been an important skill for employees to have, but for remote workers, they are absolutely essential. Everything needs to be clear, succinct and easy to understand, particularly when you’re working with team members in different parts of the world.
And when it comes to using new tools to communicate and collaborate online, we’ve already seen a shift away from relying on email for everything. Instead, organisations are opting for collaborative platforms where team members can oversee tasks, have instant discussions, host online meetings, create documents, and keep track of anything else that needs to get done. Employees will need to learn the best practices for using these new methods of communicating and collaborating in order to remain productive.
The shift from being a knowledge worker to a learning worker is also having a big impact on the skills people need to develop in order to secure work. Your academic qualifications are no longer enough when it comes to job hunting. It’s what you can do with that knowledge that matters. The Internet provides so much information at the click of a button, but your ability to use that information in order to solve problems and innovate are far more important skills. Creative thinking and challenging the status quo will be critical to the growth of any business, and these are the skills employers want to foster in their teams.
The principle of learning and teaching at will is all about the new employee turning to each other. Gone are the days of relying on HR and managers to educate and teach employees. Once again, with so much information now available on the Internet, the new age employee is able to take a more pro-active approach when it comes to their personal and career development. It’s up to employees to ensure they develop the qualities and skills needed to succeed and thrive in the new workplace.
Essential Skills to Manage Teams from a Distance
Business owners and managers of remote teams will need to develop strong communication skills in order to successfully manage their team from a distance. And as remote teams are often distributed across the globe, building trust, understanding cultural differences, and the ability to manage conflict will be crucial to their success.
In addition, managers will need to embrace new behaviours towards sharing a lot more information – not just documents, but also ideas and feelings – fostering transparency and creative thinking in their teams in order to create an engaged and innovative workplace.
As Morgan explains in his book regarding the principle of becoming a leader, the badge of a leader is no longer confined to executives and management positions. The sharing economy has allowed individuals to create their own personal brand and become leaders themselves. In fact, we’re already seeing many examples of people creating a fan base through social media channels; being seen as an expert in their field through blogging or sharing videos, even publishing books.
This “challenges the old power authority model that many executives and managers are so used to,” Morgan says. “Employees can become leaders on anything … it’s up to the employee.” To thrive in this new workplace, managers need to grasp this concept and believe in sharing and collective intelligence. Those who are willing to work with the new employees and not fight against them, will thrive, attract the best talent to their teams, and be at a competitive advantage.