February 22, 2010

The Ability to Lead Remote Employees Will Become the Next 2.0 Skill

Winter Olympic fever has enveloped my beloved city of Vancouver, but I’ve managed to take a break from the action to opine about an issue that clearly needs more than a mere blog post to help modify or even evolve.

Whether small, medium or large in size, organizations have been or are set to grapple with remote based leadership issues. I believe there are some compelling reasons why this is going to snowball quite soon, as mentioned below, but more importantly there are some Enterprise and Learning 2.0 implications to consider as well.

In my opinion, three of the main causes to affect the issue of remote based leadership include:

  • Outsourcing/Offshoring

    • At least in Canada, two key points were raised in the study entitled “Basic Trends in Outsourcing and Offshoring in Canada” although the points are nothing new – simply put, outsourcing and offshoring continue to increase.
      • Point 1: There has been a trend to service outsourcing. Service outsourcing has increased in almost all industries. The rate of growth was highest in service industries
      • Point 2: Business services represent the largest category of service inputs being offshored by Canadian industries, followed by financial services and insurance services.
    • IMPACT: formal teams continue to shrink at ‘headquarters’ but virtual teams continue to grow between outsourced work to contractors, service firms, etc. as well as BRIC countries
  • Home-Based Offices/Real Estate Contraction (telework option)

    • According to the 2008-2009 World at Work Salary Budget Survey, telework continues to be one of the fastest growing options being made available to employees, growing from 30% of US companies and 25% of Canadian ones offering it in 2007 and growing to 42% and 40% respectively in 2008.
      • Telework is easily being used as an option to reduce real estate costs, helping save bottom line dollars for any sized organization
    • IMPACT: More and more employees have the option to, or are encouraged to work from home thus separating the physical team and creating a virtual team
  • Mergers & Acquisitions

    • According to both KPMG and McKinsey, the global M&A business is, well … back in business
    • IMPACT: Mergers or acquisitions often lead to restructuring, which can often lead to new team members, but mergers and acquisitions are often national or global in nature, thus team members are welcomed into the fold with different area codes

What has this got to do with Enterprise 2.0 and Learning 2.0?

The traditional water cooler is all but empty because no one is around the office anymore to refill it, and thus, the way in which people lead must also change.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you set up time in your calendar to randomly phone, email or instant message team members?
    • Do you have an IM platform that allows this? (presuming you have a phone and email)
  • Do you create idea factory web-jams over asynchronous means to instil a sense of virtual brainstorming?
    • Do you have a wiki or alternate platform that allows this?
  • Do you post quips and updates on your whereabouts, initiatives, questions or thoughts?
    • Do you have a micro-blog option that allows this?
  • Do you track project updates and discuss options in an open manner with all team members?
    • Do you have a collaboration or document management platform that allows this?
  • Do you post illustrative thoughts, issues or ideas about the team, the business, etc. for discussion?
    • Do you have a blogging option that allows this?
  • Do you post short, informal videos about anything business related that the team could benefit from?
    • Do you have a YouTube-type system that allows this?
  • Do you engage with your team face-to-face, even if not physically face-to-face?

There obviously are many more questions to ponder and post, and I’d encourage you to do so, but the bottom line is that teams are going to increasingly become virtually segregated and leaders need to act differently.

Leaders must shift their thinking, they must re-think their style, they must suspend past assumptions and they must embrace new ways to address the obvious fact that:

  • Outsourcing and offshoring is not going away
  • Teleworking is on the rise
  • Mergers and acquisitions are set to increase (again)

Embracing the cultural change components of Enterprise and Learning 2.0 (which I refer to as Learnerprise from time to time) are clear steps in the right direction.

Now, back to the Winter Games.

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