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How can remote-working startups keep their teams motivated and creative?

 

What areas should startups and scale-ups consider to maintain motivated and creative teams?

Despite lockdown measures slowly easing in several major economies, the shift to remote working post-Covid will remain for many businesses in the longer term. So, when it comes to people and culture, what areas should start-ups and scale-ups consider to maintain motivated and creative teams?

Anouk Agussol, founder and CEO of Unleashed, shares her thoughts on the areas you really need to reflect on

Culture, onboarding and managing the remote experience

If you're used to being in an office and have built a culture that’s very social and ‘in-person’, then this is going to be a big change for you. I’m not talking about playing ping pong, this is about your values - how you make them stand out and amplify them when your team is distributed. It’s also all your norms and rituals. What is it about your culture that is so great and how do you ensure that you double down on that?

When it comes to hiring, it’s hard enough to hire in person and to feel confident about your new joiner. When hiring virtually, especially if you’ve not done so before, it can really fuel anxiety.

Onboarding is one of the most important aspects of enabling people to settle into their new role and add value. So, how do you make sure people are onboarded well and not left to feel isolated, or not knowing what they're doing? And how do they get to know people in the team if you're not coming together often? This is all about managing the remote experience and aligning it with your onboarding strategy.

We’ve started working with some companies to hire a new role; the remote experience manager. It could be the new office manager and is all about ensuring that the remote experience (as opposed to the office experience) is as good as it can be.

Compassionate leadership

To lead distributed teams well, you need to be significantly more compassionate as a leader and have high emotional intelligence (EQ). You won’t be able to see what is going on in the same way, so you need to be in-touch with people.

Leaders will be significantly less responsible for a lot of the orientation they had before, but instead will need to focus on pulling the team together, inspiring and motivating them, ensuring that everyone feels they're being productive in different ways and they are clear and confident communicators, aligning all current actions to the future direction of the business.

Working days are likely to be different and more shift-like, even if in short but frequent bursts. The whole 9 to 5 doesn't fly anymore. Some people will wake up at 06.00, do some work, sort the kids out for school, do some more work and then hang out with the kids after school. Others will sleep in, making the most of not having the commute, and work until later. And then there’s all sorts in between.

Show flexibility and understanding and create an individualised working experience that helps each person be the best that they can be. Work with them to find out what that is. Mostly, focus on outputs, not inputs. Agree what needs to be done and why, and leave the how to them.

Better support for managers

Managers are arguably the most critical and important enabler to high performance and happy people. Develop them with the skills, knowledge and behavioural intent to do the best job they can. This investment will be returned time and time again.

Gone are the days of letting your staff work it out as they go along and then maybe sending them on a course for a couple of days, from which they implement very little. Things are different now, and rightly so. Giving feedback is hard enough. Giving it virtually, even more so. And I don’t mean the act of giving feedback, I mean making sure it is received in the intended way and results in action and change.

Learning deficit

We’re going to have part of a generation robbed of the development opportunities that others ahead of them had. If you're new into a business, particularly if you are a graduate or relatively junior, you do a lot of your learning in work organically and through osmosis; by seeing what other people are doing and how they behave and by having someone in the business showing you the ropes.

This opportunity is lost when there are fewer people in the office or you can’t see what others are doing around you. To bridge this experience deficit, formalised mentoring becomes vital. Learning is something that is going to have to be prioritised and proactive.

Schedule learning time - whether it is individual learning or group learning.

Creativity shouldn’t just happen in the office.

I’m hearing many leaders talking about making the office a hub for creativity and learning. This is great - creativity and learning, collaboration and workshopping are all truly sensational things.

So important and wonderful, in fact, that they should absolutely not be reserved for the office. This needs to be able to happen at home too so that every day, in an office or not, everyone feels valued, creative and part of the team.

This article shares a lot about what we’ve learned from our clients and their teams over the last few months when it comes to remote working engagement.

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