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Leading Differently For Today’s Workforce

By YPO member Russell P. Reeder 

Today, it makes no difference if you have a mobile and remote workforce or an office-based workforce. As a business leader, you must evolve how you manage your workforce, whether your company is a large or small enterprise. The trend is to bring the employees back into the office. Marissa Mayer famously did this as she worked to right the ship at Yahoo!. The goal of bringing everyone back into the office is to create a more collaborative and productive workforce, as well as build a strong culture of teamwork and friendship.

Even if you are a fan of working from home, most workers agree that when people are in the office activities that require team involvement go better. That said, in most companies it’s not possible to have everyone working out of the same office, especially when you are in a larger company with multiple locations. I’ve also seen the most effective employees be highly productive wherever they are — inside and outside the office.

With today’s evolving workforce, we all need to lead and manage differently. More than one-in-three American workers today are millennials, and 69 percent of millennials believe office attendance on a regular basis is unnecessary.

Why do I need to lead differently? 

As someone in a leadership position, you must come to terms with the fact that today’s workplace has evolved. You cannot just expect to create and execute on traditional communication procedures. Even if you think that you have everyone working out of the same office, it’s a fact that today’s employees expect more flexible time. On any given day, many of your employees may be out of the office, but still capable of taking a conference call, and better yet, a video call.

I think we can all agree that technology has removed barriers and the term “long distance” today really only means you’re dealing with multiple time zones and not an increased cost or inability to communicate. As you look to retain your best employees and recruit new talent, you will be forced to grow your communication toolset. If you choose not to, you are essentially telling your team that you are okay with settling for a less productive workforce.

So how do I lead differently? 

It is your responsibility to reinvent your workforce communication expectations, policies and tools as you take on more remote and flexible workers. Go into the planning process with the understanding that it’s much harder to create the same type of synergies, teamwork and outcomes with a mobile and remote workforce — but it’s not impossible. In fact, another outcome of creating new processes and implementing new tools is automatically creating a more productive and scalable workforce. Too often, if the status quo is “fine,” there is never an impetus to change. You need to go into the planning stage with expectations of an evolved workforce in mind and a willingness to try new things and make sure that everyone is following the new process.

Basic guidelines

Even if all your employees are in the same office, you still need to follow these basic meeting guidelines. If you are leading a mobile and remote workforce, these guidelines are a requirement!

Make sure all meetings have:

  • An agenda ready and attached to the meeting invite.
  • An invite that was sent out with enough time for everyone to come prepared.
  • An invite list of relevant and necessary participants – you might not want to leave out people, but it is a huge waste of time for others to attend a meeting where their involvement is not required.
  • A hard start time.
  • A strict “no electronics” rule in place, unless it’s being used for notes, presentation or demonstration.
  • A facilitator who is responsible for upholding the rules — preferably the person who called the meeting.
  • A hard end time — try to end five minutes before the hour or half hour so people can make their next meeting.
  • A designated notetaker — ask that they make note of “parking lot” issues that come up and everyone agreed to “take offline” and distribute the note once the meeting is over.

The death of the conference call

If you have not already figured out that conference calls are dead, please make sure to read this twice! It’s a fact. When people join conference calls and are not on video, they are much more likely to be distracted (at best) and not even involved at all (more likely).

I can tell you firsthand, I’ve brought on hundreds of employees this year and work with our offices all around the world. The teams immediately start to bond and get to know each other over the video calls. It’s great to see employees who have been working together finally meet each other in person over video conferencing systems. Not to mention, you can look in their eyes to see if they are 100 percent engaged the conversation. When people are out of the office, they will have to join from a location where they can be productive — not the golf course. Of course, it’s a reality that people are going to have to join some of the meetings without video, so make sure to choose a video conferencing system that people can also access through a dial-in. Most services even have local dial-in numbers.

We are in a time when leaders must increase their flexibility and evolve their tactics and solutions to create a productive workforce. In 2016, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely. It’s not a question of where your employees work, but what processes, solutions and expectations you create as a leader to ensure that they are productive regardless of where they are. The best leaders will adapt and do what it takes to create a happy and productive work environment. The worst leaders will not evolve and will unfortunately lose their top employees to more productive, competitive, and happy teams that empower their employees to be productive — no matter their location.

YPO member Russell P. Reeder is CEO and President of OVH US and a veteran technologist and chief executive who has spent the last 25+ years managing high-growth global organizations that transform industries. Throughout his career and his life beyond business, Russ has been an attentive student of change and innovation. He continues to hone and apply a leadership philosophy inspired first by his family and then by his professional mentors. More than anything, Russ is committed to helping others live happier, more productive lives. Connect with Russ Reeder. 

With more than 26,000 members in more than 130 countries, members of YPO are peers who share in common the achievement of success at an early age; a commitment to learning as a lifelong adventure; and a desire to connect authentically in an environment of trust and confidentiality. If you are a member interested in contributing, please email blog@ypo.org.