27 Apr 4 ways to enable the “anywhere” employee in manufacturing
by Kevin Willemse and Chris Larsen
With a familiar world of air travel, large social gatherings, and freewheeling handshakes gradually reentering our sights, the business world is left with a big decision. Having quickly pivoted in a time of crisis to make supposedly temporary remote work infrastructures, many employers and employees alike are not so sure they want to go back to the same old same old ways. Ninety-seven percent of employees don’t want to return to full-time at the office, and 74 percent of professionals think remote work is the new normal moving forward as employers realize the recruitment merits of supporting remote work. Whatever the path forward may look like for your organization, it’s crucial that you empower your staff in their “anywhere” situations and bridge the chasms that can arise if not addressed quickly.
Following our previous blog all about mitigating the risks manufacturers face with long-term “anywhere” employees, we want to continue diving into this topic. This time, we want to showcase four ways you can enable your remote employees with an “anywhere” infrastructure that sets you up for success. Here’s how it’s done:
Identify what productivity really means to these employees
First of all, your organization needs to gain a strong understanding of what it means to be productive as an “anywhere” employee in your particular organization or circumstances. Whereas traditional operations may have suggested that the more time in the office, the more work is done, that’s no longer the case. Remote work means establishing clear metrics and objectives for management and creating a culture of accountability to those expectations.
Make sure your new anywhere employees understand the trust they’ve been given and feel empowered by that; there’s no one micromanaging what they do every hour, but there are still KPIs to meet and objectives to fulfill. If you’ve established clearly documented expectations for every individual, you’ll be amazed at how productively they can get work done on their own terms.
This also means tuning in to the communication preferences and rhythms of the anywhere employees—whether your own or those of your partners and customers. Maybe some are happiest and most productive with a daily status update, while others would prefer to meet over video just once a week. A team task-list app like Todoist, Microsoft To Do, or Google Tasks can make both assignments and statusing easy and even enjoyable. You’ll have to balance team needs with individual preferences, but just make sure you’re always monitoring what cadences are most successful so you can tailor management to the individual and their individual objectives.
Establish an approachable culture in creative (and not just digital) ways
Another way to enable your remote work staff is to take the development of an inviting company culture seriously. It’s incredibly easy when your entire team is remote to lose any sense of connection to one another, which weakens customer retention rates, team productivity, and efficiency, and increases potential staff turnover—a growing problem the manufacturing industry is already quite familiar with.
To combat that, seek out creative, unique solutions to foster a culture that still makes your employees feel a strong social fabric within the organization. Some ideas include virtual happy hours, frequent employee shout-outs on Slack or LinkedIn, sending small mementos through the mail, regional activities so groups of staff can interact and make memories together in person. Give your employees the freedom, the time, and the tools to get to know one another. Because anywhere employees can be fleeting employees if they’re neglected socially. But if shared positive experiences fill their memory, retention is stronger.
Support the “anywhere” infrastructure financially and logistically
A good mindset for employers everywhere is to not view the shift to remote work as a cost-saving with building maintenance reduced or eliminated altogether—it’s not. Smart employers will instead pivot those funds to supporting the new infrastructure anywhere employees need and want. Top talent is increasingly looking less at compensation only and more seriously at benefits.
Consider subsidizing part of the expenses involved in being a remote employee: cell phone and data plans, mobile hotspot, home internet on a business-grade level, subscription coffee services, local gym subsidies, etc. Whatever benefits and accessibility may have been in the office building, it’s time to support it financially within your employees’ own homes. In addition, some logistical HR concerns will get more complicated with a completely remote workforce. For example, you’ll need to be prepared to deal with the tax implications of having workers in multiple locations different from the company HQ. Or, you may need to consider relocation and regional limits on employee proximity—just how “anywhere” is your company ready to support?
These are all new areas of internal staffing nuance your organization should be prepared to support. When making these decisions, always consider your customers or broader market trends and their reactions to remote engagement models; you do not want to invest in remote enablement models that do not align in the long term.
Increase engagement and check-in frequency
Finally, one of the simplest but most effective ways to empower the anywhere employee is to engage them. And frequently. The importance of pulse-checking and real-time communication with your anywhere employees cannot be overstated. Increasing strong communication avenues with your employees is a way to reduce any potential friction between different business units and departments.
With 80 percent of manufacturers agreeing that the customer experience spans multiple departments, the importance of eliminating cross-department silos is stronger than ever. Both synchronous (phone call, Zoom meeting) and asynchronous (survey, recorded videos, email) outlets allow you to get a sense of how the remote work pivot is affecting company morale and foster better collaboration between groups.
You need to create an option for anywhere employees to replace the organic walk n’ talk in the hallway with similarly instantaneous responses digitally. Low-friction and real-time information sharing options for the anywhere employee is integral to both employee satisfaction and company productivity. Remember that providing the tools and platforms to create real-time collaboration and conversation is only (the easier) half of this initiative. You need to deliver strategic and deliberate efforts to train, monitor, encourage, and advocate for these tools, ensuring employees are comfortable with and getting value from them.
The broad shift to anywhere employees as a business standard was forced on all industries around the world in March 2020. As normalcy slowly returns, organizations—and especially manufacturers—are faced with a telling crossroads: do we revert to how things were before, or do we build a new hybrid model for our workforce? Whatever path forward you choose, we hope it includes thoughtful tools and processes that will empower your employees and enable them to perform their best—wherever they may be.
Reach out to our expert team today for industry-specific guidance on roadmapping the digital future ahead.
Kevin is a Director in Simplus’ Strategic Advisory Practice, focused on bringing valuable transformation to customers looking to maximize their investment in Salesforce.com alongside their integrated systems and business processes.
Chris is Simplus’ Director of Strategy (East) for Advisory Services. He has more than 20 years of experience delivering business value from strategy and technology projects, focusing on CRM, field service, cloud services, data integration, and analytics. Chris applies deep experience and proven methodology to successfully facilitate strategic planning and change management across various constituencies. He has led numerous CRM strategy and roadmap engagements, leading to multi-year CRM implementation and optimization programs for large and mid-size companies with global and domestic scope.