Remote workers are not going to go away as soon as this pandemic is over. Make sure they still feel connected to your firm.
Let’s face it – remote workers in A/E firms are not going to go away as soon as this pandemic is over. We’ve all figured out that it actually can work out. Some people are every bit as (or even more) productive working from home every day instead of having to come to the office. Firms are discovering they are better able to hire the people they need if the best candidate doesn’t have to relocate. There may be less drama and conflict between people. And firms may have been able to cut their office overhead. All good stuff.
So assuming that some (if not all) of this remote work is going to continue into the future, how can we be sure that our people still feel they are connected to the enterprise so they work hard to make the business successful and stick around for the long haul? Here are my thoughts:
- Shared business planning. This was the topic of my article in The Zweig Letter last week so I won’t flog it here. But it is worth restating that getting everyone’s involvement in the business planning process in some way – along with sharing the full plan with all employees – is a critical part of the effort to keep them plugged into the business. And don’t forget to track the actual results achieved throughout the year compared to your goals and share those numbers with everyone as well.
- Open-book management. Share the key financial performance metrics with every single employee. I will probably be saying this until I can no longer write or speak. It’s just so important and it costs so little to do. It helps train everyone in how the business operates and makes money. I’m sorry, but your excuses for NOT doing it just aren’t valid. Open-book firms perform better than those that don’t share this information and it is an important part of how you can keep people connected to your enterprise.
- Shared rewards. This is another key element to keep people feeling like they are part of something bigger than themselves. When the firm performs well, everyone who is there should benefit. Some firm principals are hell-bent on only sharing the spoils amongst the smallest, high-performing group of individuals they can, thinking that is what being a good manager is all about. But it isn’t. What constitutes being a good manager is having an ENTIRE business that as a whole consistently performs and achieves its goals. Getting everyone sharing in some of the spoils is doubly important when workers are not in the office. It’s another way to tether them to the company.
- Lots of communication from the direct supervisor. People need to hear often from their managers. Calls, Zoom meetings, and emails all contribute to that. You cannot minimize the importance of this stuff if you want to keep people from feeling they have been forgotten or left behind. And you want to be sure they don’t get critical information through the grapevine. You want to control the messaging and explain the “why” of things to your remote workers.
- Shared social events. Yes, Zoom coffee sessions and lunches and happy hours can be awkward and feel like a waste of time sometimes. But these things are important if you want to keep your people feeling like they still have co-workers and a (work) “place” to call home. So do them!
There’s no magic bullet in any of this stuff. But business is not the same and it won’t return to what we used to call “normal.” You just have to do it and adapt – or you will get left behind. It really is that simple.
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.