We look back at our Office Optional: Merging Culture, Technology and Remote Work webinar, and highlight some of the key points of our discussion.
Everything changed in March as states across the country issued shelter-in-place orders to combat the spread of COVID-19. Those businesses that continued operating shifted rapidly to a remote work model, and they leaned heavily on existing technology or quickly deployed new technology.
Over the past three months or so, many companies have realized that a remote model may be viable for their business. They also recognize that tech isn’t the only consideration — adapting their culture is also an important factor.
We hosted a webinar on the topic, Office Optional: Merging Culture, Technology and Remote Work. Our speakers included Larry English, President of Centric Consulting, Joe Hartsel, Enterprise Collaboration Co-Lead, and Mark Macioce, VP-IT of Synthomer (formerly Omnova Solutions). Nearly 300 guests from across the country registered for the session, and almost 200 joined us.
As we began the session, we surveyed our attendees with three quick questions.
Remote Work: Culture
Centric was founded as a remote-work company more than 20 years ago, and amazingly coincidentally, Larry recently published a book, Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture with Virtual Teams on our experiences particularly related to culture. Here are some key points on culture from his discussion.
- Trust is critical, overcome the urge to use monitoring tools. The challenge you’ll have is your staff working too much, not too little.
- You need to encourage your team to embrace the flexibility of remote work. If daily commitments and scheduling permits, encourage your team to take time for personal needs – doctor’s appointments, caring for family, or just decompressing with a walk, meditation, or exercise.
- Leadership is a major factor in scalability. Skill development around managing remote workers is central: staying engaged, one-on-one check-ins at personal and professional levels, when and how to give feedback remotely or in person.
- Skills important to learn include building relationships virtually, being authentic and modeling vulnerability help, developing healthy boundaries, and encourage staff to design a work mode that fits their style the best.
- You should invest in the tools to support both work and culture, don’t cheap out.
Remote Work: Technology
Collaboration is something many companies struggle with, whether it’s the effective use of technology or fostering a culture of collaboration. As a longtime practitioner in the space, Hartsel had several valuable observations.
- Consolidating collaboration tools became a prominent trend several years ago, and it’s accelerated with the pandemic.
- Rolling out the technology is not enough. A thoughtful and focused approach to adoption is critical to success.
- Receiving support from company leadership is also an important key to success. They must adopt it and back adoption through both words and actions.
- Sharing the roadmap openly and consistently throughout the company creates confidence in the value — both current and future.
- Following the critical success path looks like: Governance to Core Capabilities to Rapid Adoption to Culture and Engagement.
Remote Work: Synthomer Story
Synthomer, formerly Omnova Solutions, started their journey well over a year ago. Interestingly, it began with requests for chat tools on a CEO listening tour among the company’s operating groups. That request led to an eventual deployment of Office 365 and OneDrive followed afterward by a global Teams deployment. Mark Macioce, VP – IT for North American Operations, credits Teams with the valuable support of the company’s acquisition by Synthomer, (which closed during the pandemic) and invaluable support of their rapid move to a remote work model.
A few key points from Mark:
- Do your deployment in stages.
- Don’t let business line excitement or motivation accelerate your timetable.
- Be methodical with a disciplined plan. Adapt as needed, of course, but set and work a realistic plan.
Lessons we learned from Marckincluded:
- Be ready for, and support, a more relaxed and less formal work environment.
- Look for and encourage the soft sides of collaboration, not just measurable results.
- Be patient with adoption — don’t try to force it.
- Measure the willingness to adopt the technology on the front-end and design adoption plans accordingly.
The session was timely, informative and well-attended.