Over my long career, I have seen many changes in how we work and interact. Technologies are of course one of the biggest drivers, but the rapid transition to remote work as a result of the 2020 virus crisis has required the adoption of technology enablers on a grand scale! With so many people working from home and finding work environments less than desirable, innovative solutions are cropping up everywhere – tiny houses in back yards, second rooms in basements and atop and in garages, second home retreats converted for work, and RV offices for travelers at heart.
Remote Work à la 1989
I could not help but reflect back on 1989 when my husband Ken, who at the time was also my business partner, suggested we buy an RV and hit the road. Always the practical one in our home and business, I arranged for a fax and computer in the RV along with our “new” cell phone! Always prone to be on the leading edge of innovation, we planned a marketing trip via our enhanced RV with traveling office! Having just launched our first edition of Job Search: The Total System, now in its fourth edition, we scheduled promotional interviews along the way and a newspaper photographer took this classic picture of our journey…
On the road to plug their book:Consultants, Ken and Sheryl Dawson have taken to the open road with their 40-foot RV, 20-foot custom trailer with Honda Goldwing motorcycle, 12-foot white-water raft and Jeep 4×4, on a cross-country promotional tour … A cellular communication system lets the Dawsons bring their office along for the ride!
With our toys in tow we managed to maintain contact with our main Houston office to keep projects humming despite the rather crude remote technologies of the day! Fortunately, our trips were limited to a few weeks at a time!
Challenges of Remote Work
Of course, there are many pros and cons to remote work and companies are finding that some people seem to adapt well, while others struggle. Those with limited space to accommodate full-time work with family demands are particularly challenged. Those with occupations that require tools and resources inappropriate for the home are forced to innovate solutions that can still accommodate safe health practices.
Once workspace, resource and technological enablers are addressed, the human side of remote work becomes the dominant consideration. After a few weeks, most organizations were finding that productivity and communication seemed very positive. Many were pleasantly surprised how well remote work adaptation was going for both companies and employees. But as the crisis has worn on, cracks in the remote work solution started to show:
Work/life balance challenges many, especially when children with homeschooling needs are involved
Others are experiencing social isolation and loneliness
Extensive team project work has confronted collaboration challenges resulting in time delays and performance issues
Innovation projects experience similar issues as teams in general
Boss/direct report interactions are strained, partly driven by the old adage, out of sight, out of mind
Onboarding and training new employees and reassigned employees are complex and not as effective as in-person
Career development concerns are prevalent as feedback and coaching sessions are relegated a lower priority
Stress from these and other employee/family issues have increased EAP and health concerns beyond direct COVID-related challenges
These challenges are by no means exhaustive, yet illustrate what employees and organizations are confronting in primarily remote work scenarios. One executive shared, “The early productivity gains may well have been partly due to employees being terrified of losing their jobs, and that fear-driven productivity is not sustainable.” Laszlo Bock, CHRO of Humu
HR Innovation & Analytics
In fact, HR executives and departments are facing a plethora of new issues related to the crisis and remote work across functions, work requirements, talent processes and practices. Adaptability and innovation have been throttled into high gear to address mission, culture, leadership, teams, career development, diversity, rewards and workplace health/safety. Belonging, wellness, as well as the evolving role of HR and reskilling have been elevated to the top of the agenda from the Boardroom and leadership to supervisors and employees.
The Achieving the Social Enterprise Deloitte 2020 Human Capital Trends report documents these and other top HR concerns and readiness to meet them (see graph). Given that two thirds of responders rate their organizations as lacking readiness, technological and analytical solutions have become even more important to HR than prior to the crisis. For instance, to address many of organizational issues and demands of remote work, HR leaders are seeking more effective engagement solutions such as mobile pulse surveys, dashboards and action plans, and integrated action tools.
Just-in-time Remote Work Analysis Solution
A just-in-time solution is Harrison Assessments’ Remote Work Analysis that addresses a number of key dynamics for employee, boss, and organization success. Many of the challenges related to remote work are impacted by the relationship between leaders and employees. Dr. Dan Harrison, CEO of Harrison Assessments, states, “The talent relationship is the foundation of performance.” Separation of employees from each other and their leaders clearly complicates both the relationship and performance results in many dynamic ways. Dan shared that since he has operated his company primarily through remote work for many years, he immediately anticipated the challenges organizations would face with wholesale remote work. Harrison’s highly customizable predictive behavioral analytics system provides solutions across the talent cycle enabling his team to quickly innovate and develop a solution to address the “human” side of this complex challenge. Following is a brief overview of the critical elements impacting remote work and how the Remote Work Analysis enables organizations and employees to adapt and overcome challenges more effectively.
Predictive Analytics for Key Remote Work Competencies
Harrison Assessments has developed Remote Work Behavioral Competencies to help organizations maximize performance and meet the challenges of working and communicating in a remote environment. Using this unique behavioral competency framework, there are two new competencies for:
Remote Leaders who manage remote workers– Leaders of remote workers and teams can gain insights into their own management style and potential adjustments that will benefit direct reports and team members and positively impact organizational performance (See sample report).
Remote Workers — Employees working remotely can compare their own behavioral tendencies to those that are most likely to produce positive outcomes.
Selection, Development & Engagement in Remote Work Environments
Through this comprehensive predictive behavioral analysis leaders are able to support employees in their areas of concern whether related to the job fit, engagement and retention factors, as well as remote worker/leader competencies. This cost-effective set of reports can be transformative as both leaders and employees gain insight into their behavioral preferences and how to best adjust for increased performance and improved relationships. Leaders are provided predictive tools for improved leadership, coaching and mentoring.
To effectively identify potential development and training needs, the Remote Work Analysis reports target three distinct areas (as listed in assessment scores for the adjacent sample Remote Leader Report cover page):
Behavioral Success Analysis (BSA) identifies an individual’s fit with the job which is the primary foundation for successful working whether remotely or in the normal work environment. Essential, desirable and traits to be avoided or derailers are revealed to show specific potential traits of improvement.
Engagement & Retention Analysis (Engagement) assesses the individual’s level of engagement also foundational for successful working whether remotely or in the normal work environment. Employee engagement expectations, motivations, and fulfillment gaps are revealed in 8 categories of work with detailed recommendations on coaching/mentoring.
Conquering the Brave New World
Meeting the many challenges of this “brave new world” of remote work requires the collaborative efforts of the entire organization. HR and leadership must embrace new analytical solutions that facilitate a highly interactive boss-employee relationship, enhanced employee experience, individual and action-focused engagement, and a more purpose-driven talent relationship between employee and organization. Transformational leadership, cultural adaptability, individualized learning and operational agility are some of the strategies that will enable organizations to conquer this brave new world to achieve sustainable growth, competitive advantage, and performance success.