Business analysts have long anticipated a major shift in the way many of us work — namely, the rise of remote work. Indeed, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 already saw approximately 7 million remote workers in the U.S. (3.4% of the population). Several industries have been making this transition for years, while others have been slower to adapt. However, COVID-19 has acted as a powerful catalyst in the realm of remote work; in a matter of days, millions of people either lost their jobs or had to suddenly shift gears and start working from home full-time.
Even for businesses that don’t necessarily require a physical office space, this rapid change can prove challenging. Virtual interactions have a different flavor than in-person communication. Still, those companies fortunate enough to continue operations during this pandemic must make the most out of an uncertain situation. In fact, now is the perfect time to reconfigure and strengthen your strategic efforts, including your leadership development protocols.
If you want to gain ground rather than lose it while working remotely, you must invest in virtual leadership development.
Adapting to A New Kind of Workplace
Optimizing your leadership development program for remote work begins by properly implementing the right technologies for your organization. As of now, text-based communication software like Slack and video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts are becoming essential components for remote teams. Of course, it’s not enough to merely have these tools at your disposal — you must ensure that every member of your team has access to these tools and can use them in proper coordination with one another.
Keeping team members on the same page when physically distant is a major role for your business’ leaders. As current leaders rise to the occasion, they inherently pass on their virtual leadership skills to developing leaders. A study performed by Gordon Schmidt in Industrial Organization Psychology points to three specific areas of emphasis for virtual leaders.
- Virtual leaders must clearly deliver task-relevant information, as certain social cues may be lacking from remote interactions
- Communication should occur more frequently and regularly when working remotely, as this allows teams to reconfigure actions and gain deeper understanding
- Virtual leaders should do their best to maintain and strengthen personal relationships, as a lack of regular physical interaction can lead to decreased accountability, feelings of isolation, and misunderstandings
Actively Developing Leaders Outside the Office
Not all leadership development occurs through osmosis, of course. As businesses shift to remote work, they must continue to play an active role in developing their leaders. Organizations that have already enrolled team members in an online leadership development program are naturally at an advantage here. Workers can continue attending virtual meetings and classes, track their performance online, receive daily affirmation notifications, and more.
However, some online leadership development training also includes in-person sessions. In the absence of these physical gatherings and one-on-one discussions, your organization must make an effort to conduct the same interactions virtually. This requires proper planning and communication, so team members understand when and how to continue their training over video, audio, and/or text chat. There should also be backup plans in place in the event that certain technologies experience difficulties or cannot be acquired by certain employees.
Synthesizing Virtual and In-Person Leadership Lessons
No one knows exactly when, or even if, we will return to business as usual. It’s possible that this sudden economic and social disruption will simply accelerate the already-surging global trend of remote work. If so, organizations must integrate developing leadership in the workplace with developing leadership outside of it. In other words, the methods and lessons learned from both in-person and virtual leadership development programs must transfer seamlessly between one another as the line between virtual leaders and tangible leaders continues to blur. As such, remote leadership training seminars shouldn’t look all that different from those held in a communal space.
With the right technology, strong communication ethic, and commitment to continual leadership development, you can keep your organization on track during this uncertain time. Better yet, you might end up ahead of the curve.
At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow at times like these when you need it most.