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Virtual Work Environments Work with the Right Culture

"The Long, Unhappy History of Working From Home" was the title of a recent article in the New York Times. The article described that while most companies have had to go virtual during the pandemic, the history of "virtual work" has been littered with tales of unhappy management, less productive employees, and just an overall lack of trust. Telecommuting became the strategy du jour in the earlier part of this decade, but within five years, it was scrapped by major companies, including IBM, Aetna, Best Buy, AT&T, and Yahoo. But it also described how some companies have been delightfully surprised at the results, this time around, and may continue this work environment even beyond when the pandemic is over.

What could be the difference? Technology?

Sure, it's better today than it was five years ago, making it function much better. But there's more, especially for the companies who have embraced it and feel it will be a way to operate in the future. It's about the environment they've created…their culture!

It Starts With A Corporate Culture Focused on Its Employees…

And that begins with an atmosphere and a spirit of mutual trust. Respect between and with all employees, which starts at the top of the company with its leadership. The employees are trusted because that's what the culture has taught them. They can work from anywhere, at any time and still get the job done. It's expected…and reciprocated!

That's Enhanced by a Strong Group of "Great" Teammates…

One of the most significant business books ever written was "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, where he talks about "getting the right people on the bus…in the right seats." And from his and my experience, two "goods" equals one "great." Rather than having a couple of "B" performers, it's better to have one "A." They may be harder to find and more expensive, but always worth it. With diverse backgrounds, they bring multiple, and more robust, viewpoints to the culture. In essence, hire the best people possible, even if they are better than you!

That Continues with How Employees Treat Customers…

Employees will treat customers exactly the way they are treated. Mutual trust and respect for and with them breeds mutual trust and respect for customers, treating people the way you want to be treated. It means they will go the "extra mile" for customers, just like the company will do for them. And the customer will see and feel that, and that is where customer loyalty to a company begins.

That's Built on Accountability…

Accountability comes from explicitly defining employee roles and responsibilities, and giving them the full authority to carry them out. But accountability doesn't mean failure-proof. Another point where trust and mutual respect play a role is in failure. Employee-centric cultures allow for failure and make it a teachable moment.

That's Enhanced by Communications...

Ongoing and consistent communications from top management both inside and outside the company.  Using as personal a means as possible, whether face-to-face (when that becomes possible again), video, conference calls. Whatever it take to communicate with employees, customers and suppliers on a frequent and periodic basis to further deepen relationships with each constituency.

That's Solidified by Leadership...

Leaders inspire with a great vision and then get the great team they've put together, to follow.  In addition, they all have one focus...the leader's vision, and they drive the company in that direction.  No excuses; no dramas.  Just solid leadership, management and teamwork.

We don't yet know the pandemic's full impact or what the "new normal" may look like, but we do know it will dramatically change the way we do business.  Those businesses with a quality culture, with leadership that understands how to leverage that culture, and impact and use technology, will be the winners.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!


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