By Sean Riordan & Catherine Barnes
During this unique time, many businesses are realising they are unequipped to support the demands of remote working. It’s not only technology requirements that hinder them – but the processes and ways of working that are fundamental to distributed teams thriving.
This challenges businesses to rethink how they operate. Face-to-face interactions support firms in being creative, collaborative and making decisions efficiently. Transparent and concise communication is paramount for PE firms who interact with a diverse group of investors, advisors and teams daily. Often you may approach a colleague in the office for advice on how to tackle a challenge or with an innovative idea for a recent acquisition. Individuals may perceive that remote working does not support this notion; but it does have its benefits. A survey conducted by OWL Labs found that 75% of people who work remotely can work more efficiently with fewer distractions (OWL Labs, 2019).
At Palladium, we believe in optimising the benefits of working from home by employing tools, technologies and inventive ways of working to be even more proactive and forthcoming with your investors and customers. We have put together this article as a guide to empower your organisation to thrive whilst not physically together.
Tools for effective collaboration
Collaboration is integral to business success. Salesforce (cited in BIT.AI, 2019) claim that 86% of employees and executives believe that lack of clear communication and collaboration drives business failures. This is particularly true in sectors like PE that liaise across varied stakeholders; advisors and teams must shift to collaborating in shared documents, presentations and whiteboards to help business maintain momentum and continue to follow BAU as closely as possible.
Taking all contact online means full diaries packed with meetings, often with a laundry list of tasks and deliverables as a result. Similarly, remote work can be especially challenging for new or junior employees requiring a higher level of guidance when performing tasks. Aligning on one central hub like Microsoft Teams, for example, serves a great central repository for files and discussions – and embeds tools such as Jira and Trello can help in the prioritisation and delegation of activities and upcoming responsibilities.
Trusting the team
At the core of teams adjusting to this new norm is trust; when only visible via webcam, empathy between managers and employees, firms and their investors, or amongst peers is critical for maintaining healthy working relationships. We find there’s a tendency to sow doubt that duties are being performed by employees, which in turn can feed habits by team members to be “performatively productive” and only focus on tasks that visually indicate their work to their team. Unchecked, this can lead to a vicious cycle of doubt. While in some cases this doubt is merited, for the most part it’s crucial that managers and firms remember why they hired their teams and trust their track record of delivery to allow them to manage their own time and workload while remote.
Firms also cannot pretend that there won’t be adjustments to the lives of their employees and investors; whilst teams might gain time by not commuting to work, many bear additional responsibilities caring for loved ones, managing personal obligations, or simply adjusting to the added stressors of current events. Rather than micromanaging or piling on additional work, firms would benefit by acknowledging the human element of teams – empowering them to manage their workload and providing the forum to discuss roadblocks along the way. This in turn, build the trust and communication skills that allow teams to thrive regardless of their location.
Tackling the backburner
Many organisations will carry on with business as usual remotely, though changing conditions may inevitably lead to postponement of certain programmes, workstreams, or deals. Rather than stewing on these course changes – we’ve found changes in team bandwidth an opportunity to tackle the backlog of “quick wins” and business improvements that don’t get prioritised during busier times.
Particularly amongst PE portfolio businesses, we find during our diligence and post-transaction engagements that there are a number of low-hanging fruit that can be tackled by the team to create future value. These range from team upskilling to optimising certain internal processes or external customer experience – and will vary greatly from business to business. Regardless of what they are, an agility to adjust to changing circumstances and re-prioritise will serve a firm well in the long-run.
It’s not all about work, work, work
High employee morale and satisfied investors can lead to organisational success. But how do you manage this remotely?
Research published in 2019 stated that online games during lunch breaks can deliver employees with significant benefits when working from home (Cheung, 2019). Communicating with investors and colleagues remotely can be challenging; as body language constitutes 50% of what you are communicating to the recipient (Patel, 2014). Businesses can select games which work on building vocabulary and verbal communication skills. Taboo, an online guessing game, challenges each player to describe the word shown on screen. Many tech companies use this as a means of instilling creativity and supporting telecommunication.
The health of your employees, colleagues, advisors and investors should be of the up most priority for your organisation. Encourage everyone, where possible, to take breaks. Venture outside, if safe to do so, and have virtual socials with your team. Working from home can feel quite isolating; so, it is important that people continue to feel part of the team and the firm’s vision.