Many of us have spent a year saying that the world has changed; with conviction. What’s only now emerging is all the ways in which it has changed and how resistant it will be to reverting. And why that may not be a bad thing. People have been given a palpable taste of what a different style of working can be and, perhaps in most cases, found it to be highly palatable.
For some months one of my worries has been about how to onboard new staff, interns etc. in my businesses. In the absence of a physical office for them to learn to be employees, how do my lovely, shiny new team members develop the skills, personality, drive etc. that they need in a physical workplace? How can we ensure they are given the supervision and social engagement they need to become great, productive, happy staff. We already have sociable stand up meetings and regular contact throughout the day, and I’m reassured that my existing team thrive on it, but they are people with experience and existing relationships to lean on. It seemed to me that it is unfair to place skilled, enthusiastic dewy-eyed (but hopefully never callow) ingénues in impactful roles without supervision and camaraderie.
A chance conversation this morning has convinced me that I have it all wrong. Instead of trying to skill up youthful team mates with the established office etiquette, complete with an understanding of the people and organisational dynamics of the physical workspace and all those nuanced things we did pre-2020, we should assume that our new folk are going to be working remotely and such things are just not relevant. A different set of skills are needed and they have probably already learned many of them.
In fact it is we, as employers, managers and business leaders, who need to learn how to motivate, manage and lead remotely. We need to the skills needed for the new twenty first century workplace, where colleagues may never meet, yet know how to socialise and be productive nonetheless. Regional managers have been doing that for decades, before tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Workplace Analytics, presence and personal video calling existed; the rest of us just need to shift our perspective!