Written by Heather L. Cole, May 26th 2022
I recently spent significant time reaching out to executives and senior managers in IT and Finance to discover what challenges they were facing as they emerge from the pandemic. There was a common theme! Many Finance and IT, analytic professionals don’t want to return to the office full time. But can analytic teams thrive in a hybrid or remote world?
For 2 years analytic professionals have been called into action to provide new views of data and insights to help executives navigate the uncertain times. The data was essential to help organizations pivot. And not surprisingly analytic teams rose to the occasion and did it remotely.
Now the world has opened up and many executive teams expect the world to return to what it once was. They are calling everyone back to the office, some 5 days a week, some are starting with hybrid, a few days a week in the office.
But the data is showing many people in knowledge-based careers, don’t want to go back.
According to The Future Forum, developed by workplace-messaging platform Slack, surveyed more than 10,000 workers globally in the summer of 2021 and found an “executive-employee disconnect”.
“The survey found 75% of all executives reported they want to work from the office three to five days a week, compared to only 34% of employees. Among executives working remote through the pandemic, 44% said they wanted to come back to the office every day. Just 17% of employees said the same.”
In a recent study in the UK, only 10% of the workers wanted to return to the offices completely. Thought leaders like Bernard Marr have stated that the world has shifted permanently, and hybrid work is here to stay. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the book Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That are Redefining Organizations by Bernard Marr.
As more research is being performed on the benefits of hybrid working, workers are arming themselves with data to plead their case for virtual working. Unfortunately, I believe there are many executives that are about to face a big reality check, as top talent walks out the door. This issue will be exacerbated by the fact that talented people often will not even apply for a job if it requires full time in the office. It’s not about the money, it’s about quality of life!
FEI Conference on Managing Remote Workers
Last week I attended the Financial Executives International Annual Summit in Cleveland, OH where the discussions ranged from DEI, ESG and the new world of working. I decided I wanted to listen in on a panel of finance executives sharing their thoughts on remote and hybrid working.
“We are better together,” one CFO stated. She was adamant that they could not create the same culture with remote teams.
After she explained her companies journey through Covid and the future plans, I asked the questions, “Do you believe that you may miss out on top IT and analytic professionals that prefer to work in a hybrid or remote environment?”
“Yes, potentially, but if they don’t understand our culture and believe we are better together, then they are probably not a good fit.” Wow the response hit me as I thought of all the amazing IT and analytic professionals who have told me they will not go back to 5 days in the office. They would rather quit. “We did have a couple cyber security positions we couldn’t find applicants in the US, so we hired them overseas,” she continued.
I looked around the room to see if anyone else caught the irony of the situation. She wouldn’t allow hybrid or remote in the US, but they hired people overseas that have time zone challenges and potentially language and culture challenges. Hmm.
After the presentation I took some time to reflect on the situation. Why were so many executives insisting people return to the office when their teams showed amazing resilience and productivity remotely during the pandemic? Was it culture? Was it Control? Was it their own inexperience?
Can you build a culture with remote teams?
As someone who has run a software reselling business successfully virtually for 18 years, I believe yes you can create the strong culture and what one describes as the connective tissue of teams. But you can only create the culture you seek if you have a very strong WHY. As author Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
“All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” – Simon Sinek
You must hire people that deeply connect with your WHY and then implement techniques to allow the remote team members to thrive. I do believe culture absolutely can be defined and created remotely when managers care and connect with their teams.
Do you lose Control with Remote Teams?
One can argue that you do lose control with teams that are virtual, but my philosophy is that I don’t need control of the people that work for me. I need the, inspired, educated and innovative. When I hire the right people and empower them, they will accomplish amazing things! Often, they create ideas I would never have dreamed of. If I tried to control them all I would be doing is killing their ability to solve the problems on their own. I do however think managers must be available to provide guidance and feedback which can be done remotely leveraging High-Performance Management techniques.
(If you want to learn more about High-Performance Management techniques, please email us at email@example.com.)
Will you lose the ability to attract and retain talent if you don’t allow Hybrid working?
I believe companies that make a firm rule they don’t allow remote or hybrid working will not be able to attract the talent they seek. Maybe managers need to look for a new approach. Imagine, learning the skills to manage and inspire remote teams. You build a team that trusts you and the organization. Team members are grateful that you allow them to not miss the big moments in their family’s lives. The team converts what was once 2 hours of travel time and allocates another hour to learning and the important tasks so they can better serve the organization. What if your teams were trained to facilitate meetings to be efficient and engaging even through zoom or teams? Would you allow hybrid and remote work?
Are you skilled at Managing Remote Workers?
My challenge to all managers of analytic professionals. Look in the mirror! What skills as a manager could you work on to do a better job of including your remote team members? Could it be maybe all our management skills could benefit from what is being coined Up-leveling?
I have worked remote for over 25 years. Most of which included managing remote teams of analytic professionals and projects. I believe analytic teams can thrive in a hybrid or remote world. If you have a strong WHY, hire the right people, invest in education for your teams and you invest in learning how to inspire and manage remote teams. You and your team will thrive while adding tons of value to the organization and your clients.
Lodestar Solutions can help!
If you are having discussions internally on this topic and would like some pointers, you can start by reading our earlier blog, Why You Aren’t Attracting Analytics Talent.
Lodestar Solutions is here to help! Email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.
Keep the discussion going!
Add a comment to this blog. Tell us if your company is allowing hybrid working and any remote management tips you have to help team members thrive in a remote world. If you are an analytic professional share your thoughts. Do you want to return to the office?