If company executives assume they can trust all of their employees to properly handle the tech-related duties, obligations and responsibilities associated with working remotely, the results of a new survey could force them to reconsider those assumptions.
According to a Vyopta/Wakefield Research survey completed this month, executives did not fully trust one-third of their workers to correctly navigate the remote collaboration technology needed to make remote work successful. In many cases, employees were disciplined or fired because of their mistakes.
There can be important consequences when the people behind the scenes drop the ball.
- 25% of executives reported they have seen an employee fired because of video or audio conference mistakes.
- 83% have seen an employee receive some disciplinary action because of a call or videoconference error. The actions included moving responsibility to another staff member (53%), giving an informal (40%) or formal (38%) reprimand and removing a staff member from a project (33%).
- Nearly a third of executives (32%) have lost a client or business opportunity because of technology or connection issues. Another 41% have missed a project deadline, while 75% had to reschedule a meeting.
With Covid cases increasing because of the Delta variant and many companies putting plans to return to their offices on hold, today’s survey results underscore the need to ensure all employees have the necessary knowledge, skills and training to work remotely. Organizations should update their crisis management plans to account for these and other tech-related issues, and test the plans to make sure they will work
The survey of 200 U.S. executives at companies with 500 or more employees was conducted between July 30 and August 10, 2021 for collaboration platform Vyopta by Wakefield Research.
Vyopta CEO Alfredo Ramirez said, “The data clearly shows that there’s a trust issue between management and employees, remote and hybrid work expectations are not clear, and the lack of training on how to manage this new way of working is hurting everyone.”
Doing Their Best
Laura Fuentes, who operates satellite TV provider Infinity Dish, observed that, “It’s almost impossible to transition to the remote workplace without any technological issues, but my team and I have done our best.
“In order to ensure all of my employees knew how to use the software solutions we’d be taking advantage of in the remote environment, I put everyone through a very quick training session just before the transition last year. Since my employees vary in age and technical knowledge, some of my team members were much quicker at picking up Zoom, Slack, and the project management software we’d be using on a daily basis.
“I didn’t want a technology-related mistake to cost us a client, so I put employees who had struggled with the software through another training session when we arrived in the remote setting. Thankfully, I never had to fire an employee because they were unable to adapt to the workplace—but it certainly took some employees longer to catch up,” she said.
Advice For Business Leaders
Nelson Sherwin is the manager PEO Companies, an HR professional services firm. He said, “Remote employees need to know how to use digital technologies—full stop. To make this a reality, employers need to know how to educate their teams on the most up-to-date software solutions.
“Apps as simple as Zoom or Slack require minimal technical knowledge, but I wouldn’t want to lose out on a client because one of my employees was not able to create a video call. For this reason, I had a chat with each of my employees just after we transitioned to the remote workplace so that I could see to it that they could perform all of the basic functions associated with these apps,” he recalled.
Closing The Gap
Eric Burns is the CEO at Panopto, which helps educational institutions and businesses create secure, searchable video libraries of their institutional knowledge. “From my perspective, the first step is to figure out how to close the gap between “digital natives” or sophisticated users of collaboration technologies and those who are still getting their feet under them.
Level Playing Field
Burns advised that, “For people to work together effectively in a meeting, they must be on a reasonably level playing field and understand basic technology etiquette like muting microphones and turning cameras on and off when appropriate. The second step is to create a culture that accepts mistakes and offers gentle corrective feedback, as the world of remote work is full of ‘there’s something in your teeth’ moments.”
“People may not know when they are the source of the dreaded echo or when they’re banging out an email with an unmuted microphone,” Burns observed. “They may not realize that their home networks cause them to freeze up every few minutes. It’s important to foster a culture that minimizes judgment and recognizes that we’re all learning new skills and work habits together.”
Communication, Consistency and Parameters
Wendy Ryan is the CEO of Kadabra, an interdisciplinary team of leadership and organizational change experts. She advised that:
- Top leadership should clearly communicate with the entire organization about what a hybrid workforce model will look like at your organization, including how they anticipate specific teams will be impacted.
- Remember that consistency is key when making changes, and consistency in leaders’ communications could mean the difference between a successful transition to hybrid or unnecessary chaos.
- Team leaders and managers need to know what the parameters are relative to policies and processes and where they will have the discretion to establish new norms and expectations for their teams. Team leaders and managers can educate employees about the basics before anyone transitions back to the office.
- Each team should have an initial meeting bringing everyone back together in person as soon as possible. This means asking everyone to return to the office for some face time–at the same time. (We recommend doing this at least once a year anyway, whether you’re all working remotely, in person, or somewhere in between.) This meeting is all about re-integrating, agreeing on new team-specific norms and expectations, and how you will measure your success as a hybrid team.