Is the workforce ready for on-demand leadership?

The workforce is changing, and successful leadership models are too. More and more workers are delivering on a contract/project-basis rather than in a full-time role, and more full-time employees are working remotely at least part-time.

Colorado has the highest percentage of home-based workers in the country according to a recent survey by online insurance agency Haven Life. Denver South is home to telecommuting hot spots, with 10.4 percent of Highlands Ranch’s population and 11.4 percent of Centennial’s population working remotely.

And, they are paid well to do it, with the median income in both regions above 100k.

But, an office full of telecommuters (pun intended) can make it difficult for managers to feel in control of much at all. The new model of on-demand work requires on-demand leadership, and a mindset shift.

Are business leaders ready? Here’s how to lead successfully in the empty office.

Embrace, don’t curse, managing an agile team.

A full 83 percent of human resource professionals say they had difficulty recruiting suitable candidates over the past 12 months, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. This challenge of filling positions with the right people is in large part what’s propelling a shift towards more project- and contract-based team members and more work flexibility for full-time employees. So, if your team is remote, but you have the right people, rejoice. It’s better than office space filled with mediocre employees or empty, unfillable seats. You have the talent and the exciting opportunity to lead it.

Cultivate trust with both full-time employees and freelance workers.

Establishing trust with your employees starts with being a trustworthy leader. This means being as transparent as possible. Establishing trust will encourage your employees to confide in you about challenges they might be experiencing, rather than just dealing with them and becoming increasingly frustrated and disengaged. And, they will be more likely to share honest and open feedback, which moves everyone forward. When it comes to managing remote workers, relationships are the key, and like any successful relationship, they are based on trust.

Foster effective collaboration.

When one or more workers is remote, the left hand must know what the right hand of the team is doing, even if the respective hands are working in different states. This requires effective communication that allows workers to get questions answered quickly and to share documents and files as needed. It also requires a compelling vision that keeps all wheels turning in the same shared direction. As the leader, it’s important to communicate that vision in a way that gets employees excited and gives them a common goal. It’s also crucial to make sure that team members are connecting effectively. This might be through consistent team meetings or shared project tracking tools.

Monitor Productivity.

Workers need to know what their deliverables are from week to week, month to month, and quarter to quarter, and how they contribute to larger company goals. Regular check-ins that establish goals and discuss progress are required.  While it can be counter-productive to catch employees off-guard and check-in on a whim, established check-ins at which the employee and the manager are both prepared for the discussion about the status of various projects can keep things moving and encourage collaboration across the remote team.

Invest in the right technology.

The shift towards an increasingly remote workforce is largely driven by technology, and so it should also be supported by it. Employees need platforms that allow for file sharing, project management, video conferencing, screen sharing, and likely real-time communication. Investing in the right tools and training workers to use them effectively will help everyone to work together like they are in the same office, or perhaps even better.

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