[Being out of the office is no impediment to turbo-charged growth, provided you adopt sound processes and practices, writes Ashley Lane, ANZ Business Development Manager, Forbury]
Has your team spent the past year holding the fort from home? Ours too – and the year of the pandemic has been a period of unprecedented expansion. Our homegrown software house has doubled its headcount, established a sales presence in the UK and China and is now formulating a strategy to launch our property valuation platform in the US.
It’s unlikely any of these things would have happened in 2020 if we hadn’t found our remote working groove early on. A year in, these are the lessons we’ve learnt about powering on productively when you’re far apart.
Hiring remotely does work
Offering an important full-time position to someone you’ve never met? A year ago, it felt like going out on a very large limb, particularly for a small enterprise like ours where every employee matters – a lot. The COVID experience has taught us that you don’t need to eyeball someone in person to get their measure, or to get the best out of them as an employee. Searching hard for top talents with maturity and a positive attitude (irrespective of geography) and empowering them to perform their roles autonomously makes it possible to grow your team smartly and get the work done.
Processes and practices must be documented
Every business has its own way of doing things. Onboarding and assimilating new hires into the team from afar is considerably easier if you have a How To guide to share with them, one that outlines your company’s policies and processes in detail. We fast felt the lack of this documentation when new people came on board and we were unable to offer them the usual orientation week in our Christchurch head office. We’ve since taken steps to rectify the situation; commissioning an external consultancy to map our procedures and document them in an easily digestible format.
Selecting a simple ICT toolset saves time and trouble
One of the few ‘blessings’ of the COVID crisis was the fact that it occurred well into the digital era. In 2020, we were spoilt for choice, as far as collaboration and communication tools were concerned. Slack, Zoom, Teams, Discord, SMS, email and the good old telephone…each has its own strengths and features. Therein lay a teething problem when we first went remote. Confusion about which channels should be used and when reigned supreme until we settled on some standards – Zoom for external calls, Teams for internal get-togethers and email, phone and text for sharing documents and touching base quickly – and stuck to them.
Getting this right has resulted in our remote workers feeling more connected with the core business and better able to interact productively with partners, customers and colleagues via digital channels.
Deals can be done faster when you’re working virtually
Prior to COVID, making a sale often entailed several face to face presentations and negotiations. If a customer was located interstate, the process could become protracted because we’d wait until we had four or five quality meetings lined up, to justify the cost of the plane ticket each time. With interstate travel off the agenda in 2020, that changed. We learnt that a virtual deal can be clinched far more quickly than a real life one and we’ll look to make more of them, even as the economy continues to open up.
Regular catch-ups keep the team cohesive
Whole of team get-togethers are easy to effect when you’re a smallish business working out of a central office. When everyone in your team is holed up at home, they take a little more effort to organise but we’ve found it’s an effort that’s well worth making. Compulsory twice a week Teams catch-ups create visibility across the enterprise and enable employees to celebrate their wins and keep abreast of the company’s progress – all pluses when it comes to maintaining motivation and morale.
Don’t ditch the office too quickly
We’ve made the best of remote working over the past year and a bit, and kicked some serious business goals. But is ‘fully remote’ a strategy that will work for us long term? I think it’s unlikely. While many of our employees may want to continue working flexibly, they’re also looking forward to a return to the office in some capacity. Despite the wonders of digital technology, it’s not a substitute for the camaraderie and collaboration that comes about when colleagues spend time in the same room. If we’d decided to rip up our leases for good last year, we’d have cut off that option too soon and it would be to our detriment.