Remote work has presented a challenge for many organisations and in several aspects of operations: engagement and motivation, trust, culture, all of which naturally impact an organisation’s overall revenue and long-term presence. For us at Visiba, the ‘work from home’ guideline was not a game-changer – it was motivation to better define our way of working and pay some extra attention to the well-being of our employees.
What for many is a crisis, for me was an opportunity, and sharing my strategy will hopefully help other organisations turn it into one as well.
For Visiba, flexibility is embedded in our DNA, consequently remote work was not a new concept. With 4 offices across Europe and quite a large percentage of our employees working remotely full-time or part-time, we essentially had to just tune up our existing remote work infrastructure. However, it was not all roses from the beginning. As we operate within digital health and our customers are healthcare providers, we had to pick up a pace that was up to par with theirs. During 2020, we saw our company grow by 200% in revenue, our team grow by 50% and on top of this, Visiba completed an investment round – all of which of course meant a vast increase in everyone’s workload; the stakes were high.
In my role as Head of People and Culture, I was sharply focused on supporting our leaders to stay close to our employees and really see them, even from afar and in the most hectic time Visiba had ever seen. We had never been busier and our customers needed our support at extraordinary levels. In this setting, the question was how do we make sure that we see every employee’s personal needs in a time of crisis and keep up the high level of engagement we have had throughout the previous years. Let’s dig into that.
As any other aspect of an organisation that is focused on results, remote work too begins and ends with culture of engagement: Engaged employees are self-propelled, productive, generate effective results independently, and ultimately create revenue. But how can an organisation keep up the engagement when a large portion of the ad hoc feedback loop is taken away? It takes 3 actors to keep up the traction even remotely: The Organisation, the Leaders, and the Employees; It takes 3 components to deliver the final result of engagement: Supportive leadership, Clear Expectations, and Trust.
Support & Leadership: Make it available
As an organisation, we already had a structure that keeps the feedback loop ongoing: daily stand-up meetings, weekly team planning, semi-monthly one-on-one meetings between leaders and team members, monthly Townhall gatherings. With these processes for frequent communication, our organisation provides the leaders with the opportunity to offer the support the employees need to succeed and the employees to have a frequent and transparent relationship to ask for that support, and to get the information they need to carve their own path. The frequent cycles of the different feedback loops in the company proved to be a major cornerstone in maintaining our trust, culture, knowledge sharing, and employee well-being even remotely and in a crisis. All we had to do to keep them going was take the ones that were not already online digitally.
Our close communication practices always build on the bigger picture and setting that riverbed is what gets the engagement flow in Visiba going. Our organisation works with quarterly OKRs, the ‘Objectives and Key Results’ measurable goal-setting framework. Apart from enabling organisational alignment and cross-functionality, OKRs are an important tool in setting expectations, which are often affected in remote work when communication is less direct.
Set up clear expectations
According to the latest Gallup survey on employee engagement, the most important factor in motivation and engagement is clear expectations, something that is well known to my peers in human resources. Employees want to do a great job and as long as they have clear expectations, they know where they are heading, what they should be doing, and how to reach success. OKRs clear out the clouds for us. Our OKRs start at a company level and are then actualised within every department. However, this should not be mistaken for a top-down process that breeds micromanagement. The teams and their leaders determine their own OKRs, ensuring that each employee has a chance to buy in on what is expected of them and know what they are accountable for.
...but start with Trust
The last ingredient is the one that most organisations switching to remote work have struggled with: Trust. For this one, we need to take a step back and introduce a plot twist: Has the organisation hired the right people? This is something we have been keeping in mind at Visiba from the very start of our company. In today’s ever-changing society, knowledge is not the key competence when recruiting – a mindset of growth is. Industries change, companies change, the markets change. Organisations recruiting in the world we live in today should be looking for people who can adapt to new situations and build new competence; people who want to change with the world, with the company, and within themselves. Once an organisation’s force is built on such profiles, it’s up to the organisation and its leaders to provide the right tools and support and trust them to do the job they were hired to do. If your answer to the above is yes, then when an employee is not succeeding it becomes a question of 1) whether they were supported in the right way, 2) whether they had the right resources to adapt to a new situation, 3) whether what was expected from them was clear.
The pandemic unveiled a lot of trust issues within companies worldwide. I hear a lot of other organisations wonder ‘how can you trust your employees?’, ‘how do you make sure that they are really working when they are at home?’. For me that is a no brainer. An organisation cannot be built on monitoring and distrust. ‘Tracking’ your own employees moves an organisation backwards where management and employees are working against each other. If that feels like a necessity in an organisation, then the wrong people have been recruited. Instead, focus on hiring the right people, with the right mindset, give them the tools, and trust them to do the teamwork they were hired to do – and if they stumble, provide the leadership to help them succeed and be the best they can be. Creating ever-flowing trust within the organisation starts from having the right people on board.
After 2020, we are never going back to the old 9-17 office day, where everything is a sprint. Adapting and ultimately thriving as a company in this ever-changing world is a marathon, and every single person in an organisation needs to be able to finish this race. A team of engaged employees and supportive leaders in a forward-thinking organisation is bound to trust In each other’s work and race this marathon together. What I have seen from Visiba’s days of upscaled remote work has not only made me more confident that we are heading in the right direction, but has also deeply moved me by all the extra miles our employees have been willing to take – at 6 feet or 600 miles apart.