Katie Boyer, Director of Client Engagement
Millennials were infamous for driving the issue of a remote workforce. There were endless stories of 20-something professionals who worked via laptops from the Santa Monica pier while sipping exotic drinks in blissful sunshine. This trend is set to continue as the Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects the number of self-employed workers to grow 3.6% between 2012 and 2022. But what does this mean for what has historically been an in-house employee-focused TPA industry? Will we be able to meet the locational requirements of the millennials and generation Y?
The first step when enabling a remote workforce is embracing a culture of achievement and collaboration rather than the culture of required attendance from Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. To do this, you must be able to effectively set, monitor, and reward both personal and team goals. Such benchmarks are essential to provide the motivation and system for remote workers to engage with the team no matter where they are. With the current advancements in technology, it is difficult as an employer in 2019 to say “Yes, it is critical for you to be here 100% of the time to get your job done.”
How do you change from a culture of attendance to one of achievement? You have to let go of the notion that it takes 40 hours a week to be highly productive. For some, it does; for others, it may take more; however, some employees can achieve the same in 35 highly focused hours. Gone are the days where the boss checks to see whose car is still in the parking lot when he/she leaves to decide who really cares about the company. The more precise you are with business goals, the more productive your firm will become.
Culture doesn't change overnight and the aphorism “because it has always been done that way” has to go the way of the dodo. We are in a fight to recruit the best and brightest young minds. TPA firms are not just competing with each other; you are competing with tech and marketing firms that offer the pinnacle of flashy work locations. That makes it critical to start planning your culture changes now.
Do not worry. It is not time to sell your buildings yet; I find that blended work environments are actually the best of both worlds. Mandatory office days combined with flexible office hours mean that even the most enthusiastic remote workers look forward to regular office hours and are more purposeful with their face-to-face time.
A change in culture is the first “mental” stride toward a remote workforce, but what about physical changes? One critical element to incorporating remote workers is the right technology. Email and spreadsheets are not going to cut it anymore; centralized contacts, communications, file management, and workflow systems are critical. You should trust your employees to complete the tasks assigned to them, but monitoring employee workloads can prevent issues and serve as documentation if needed. There are applications to track project status, as well as software packages to monitor each employee’s screen.
It is important to reconsider your IT department as well. While software will help you as a manager, who will support and protect your employee data? The office will need servers to hold your documents online. You will also need to take security measures, such as encrypting email when sharing sensitive information and protecting all work created from remote locations. Hotel and coffee bar Wi-Fi are off limits, for example. Secure tethering from a company phone is an option that many choose to implement. Once remote capabilities are in place, efficiency and productivity should increase. After all, you’ve given your employees more room to grow.
You must slow down before you can speed up. More specifically, it takes longer to complete tasks and document them correctly rather than just yelling over the cubicle wall for updates. Many high performing employees find the extra layers of documentation and process laborious and counterproductive. You may have heard the exclamation, “This new process is really going to slow me down.” There is an element of truth to this, but with slowing down comes a benefit—thoroughness. I would trade speed for thoroughness any day of the week.