November 13, 2019
Kim Taylor, longtime information technology and legal service executive, started out as a skeptic of remote work. Now, the chief executive officer of Innovative Discovery leads a company where many of the personnel works remotely some, or all, of the time.
He now sees remote employees as a beneficial part of a company, providing flexibility and room for creativity in operating a business. With the right culture, remote employees can both thrive and provide considerable advantages to a company, especially in terms of attracting and retaining talent, he said.
The CEO offered some tips on how to make remote workers a business success and to foster a positive culture for employees who may be far away from the center of the action.
Communication: “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Working remotely can leave some employees feeling isolated like they live on another planet, so-to-speak.
“Communication is what you lose sometimes with remote work. When you are out of sight and out of mind, you don’t feel connected,” Kim said.
Kim notes that company leaders can help foster a feeling of connection through communication via technology.
Innovative Discovery uses Microsoft Teams to help connect employees and organize groups who are working on projects together. With the communication and collaboration platform, the teams have all their information and files in one place and can communicate about issues as they go through the workflow.
When he transitioned from an on-premise work environment to a company with mostly remote offices, Kim quickly saw that phone calls were the worst mode of communication for remote employees.
“While I was on the call, I was doodling, I was reading the paper, I was doing everything but listening to the call, so I quickly said everybody must turn their video on, and that drastically improved the participation level and attitude. The meetings were shorter because they were more focused.”
Isolation can be another drawback of remote work. Taylor came up with creative ways to help remote employees to feel more connected to the rest of the team.
“One of the things I’ve been doing since 1995 is this thing called Popsicle Fridays,” Kim said.
When Kim was CEO and president of Lex Solutio, he spontaneously decided to bring popsicles to the office in Arizona to celebrate winning a big contract. He went around the company’s conference rooms and started talking about the team’s successes and where they wanted to go in the future.
Thus began a regular monthly event where employees shut down their phones, hear updates from department heads on the company’s and employees’ programs and give recognition to those who have done a good job. Remote employees who can’t be there physically are beamed in via video conference. Taylor has continued the event at each of the companies he’s led since.
Additionally, Taylor makes himself available once a quarter for an “Ask Kim” session that allows employees to see him face-to-face, ask him questions, and give feedback.
Instead of an annual review, Innovative Discovery is working toward monthly face-to-face check-ins using a software program called Lattice. With remote employees, face-to-face could be done virtually. Whether on-premise or remote, monthly reviews can be more effective in creating a positive work culture because it allows employees the chance to discuss ongoing issues instead of trying to remember what went right or wrong up to a year ago. Lattice allows supervisors and their employees to manage and track objectives and key results (OKR).
“It might be 15 or 20 minutes of succinct discussion: I want to let you know how you are performing and what are we doing for your career and personal development. Also, this system employees can give ‘attaboys’ out, and the system tracks ‘attaboys’. It is a way for any person to have an ongoing understanding of how they are performing and contributing to the company.”
Affordable top talent
Arguably the strongest benefit to remote work is that it allows companies to hire employees who are the strongest in their disciplines without being restricted by geography.
“The biggest thing remote employment gives me as CEO is it allows me to attract the best person no matter where they live. Innovative Discovery is in (Washington,) D.C. If I didn’t embrace having a hybrid remote and on-premise team, then I would only be able to attract the talent out of D.C. and at D.C. prices,” Taylor said, referring the District of Columbia’s high cost of living.
Around the globe, around the clock
“When you hire remote workers, you can have employees in various locations around the globe to take advantage of the different time zones”, Taylor said. This could potentially mean that your company’s operations continue nonstop, providing a significant edge over the competition.
Making remote offices and employees advantageous is a result of putting in the work. If you are dedicated to finding top talent, fostering it, and making employees part of a productive team, remote employment can be a valuable solution for all.