About fifteen years ago, I got up at 5 a.m. and used the company’s VPN to update our external website indicating there was a snow storm in Portland, Oregon and we’d have reduced customer service hours. My manager at the time, the VP of Corporate Communications, was on a task force helping to determine disaster recovery procedures for our company, including communicating with customers and employees. She fought hard to ensure I had VPN access. Fought because at the time, only a handful of employees had access. The company was more willing to give her access instead of the person doing the work: me. IT was concerned about remote working policies, something HR hadn’t had a chance to address.
But that day, fifteen years ago, our website was updated and disaster communications were completed. My VP called every couple of hours to let me know what was expected. I updated the website. Communication worked, even though I was remote.
If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, that story isn’t so unusual. There used to be gates and issues with getting access to work remotely. Typically executives and senior leaders were given access, even if they weren’t the ones doing the work.
Fast forward to today. It should be easy to work remotely, but typically … it isn’t. Here are a few questions to consider on improving your remote working situation … and revolutionize it. Heck, we all need the communications revolution, even when we’re in the office.
1. Is it easy to communicate and work?
Our workforce right now is teeming with different needs: digital natives (Millennials), digital transplants (Gen Xers) and people who grew up typing … not on a computer (Baby Boomers). Some places still have the Silent Generation, those who remember WWII, working. The technology introduced in their homes when they were children was the radio. Most likely their family got a television when they were teenagers.
That’s a difficult challenge to meet — digital experts who expect technology to work and people less comfortable with that technology who get easily frustrated with it.
The perfect solution is something that’s easy for all of them. What’s easy? Can you just click something and it works? Technology is so good many of the solutions these days offered are all about one click. One. Even communications.
That means the technology needs to be intuitive. In other words, people who have never used a product need to know what to do. People don’t want to read instructions. In fact, if your technology needs instructions, probably time to rethink it. You shouldn’t need a manual to start a video meeting or wait on the AV guy. If it’s easy, users will adopt it. Wouldn’t you?
2. Is it fast?
I recall the days where it took a minute to connect to the Internet and look at emails. Those days of modems are long gone. In fact, we’re consuming more content on our smartphones than ever before. That means technology, like websites, needs to be super fast. If it takes more than a few seconds for something to happen, I don’t know about you, but I run out of patience.
Communication needs to be even faster. I want to instant message (IM) someone to get a quick video downloaded. I’ll pop my head over the cube and ask if we got a customer to review a story. The faster the better.
Does the communication platform start instantly or almost instantly? Can I communicate with someone quickly to get something done?
3. Does it make you feel good and smart?
Here’s a tricky one. When people use technology, they don’t want to feel dumb. They want to be able to use technology and feel smart. Confident.
I love Photoshop. Although I’m good at jumping into new technology and figuring it out, Photoshop took a while. It took classes. I learned tricks from friends. I’m still learning things about Photoshop and I’ve been using the tool for more than ten years. When I ask co-workers, they don’t want to use Photoshop. Why? It’s hard. They can do a few things in it, but really they don’t like using it. They don’t have time to take classes and in the meantime, it makes them feel dumb.
Okay, so that’s a photo / design tool. Communication demands people feel good. That actually adds to the experience of communicating. If we just had a terrible experience trying to use software to communicate, the conversation isn’t as meaningful. And typically we grouse at the beginning of that meeting about the stupid technology that didn’t enable me to join a meeting on time. That’s a communication detractor. Those barriers need to be removed.
4. Does it add more to your communication?
I had an interesting discussion with the chief strategy officer of ReadyTalk recently. And he brought up something that’s so true and something we take for granted: communication is about grok-ing. What’s grok? It’s to understand deeply and completely. Although I’m a writer, I don’t know of an English word that really nails it the way Heinlein’s “grok” does in Stranger in a Strange Land. Grok involves a lot of things: active listening, empathy, rapport, trust, intuition and connection. We’re all seeking the ability to grok each other, even in business meetings. It’s the human condition. We’re put on this earth, really, to grok each other — our spouses and partners, our friends, our children, our parents, our teachers ….
A guy I work with, Tim, had a brilliant observation in a meeting the other day. “When we trust each other, we get beyond the why and get to the how.” He meant people are ready to roll up their sleeves once they grok each other. Good communication enabled that to happen with the team he’s on. Instead of asking whether their salesperson did a number of things, their engineers worked to fix the things she said were issues. They trusted them, the engineers, to do it. Everyone wanted to help. Teamwork Nirvana.
When you’re remote, you need that more grok-ing. I worked remote for a while. Most of team was in Atlanta, except for me and three other people. I heard about team lunches and them working late together. I worked late, too … but what I didn’t have is working late with them in the office. That experience isn’t unusual. My husband works remote now and he complains about one issue and one issue only: communication. In fact, that’s the number one issue businesses are facing: communication. It’s the lack there of and miscommunication that are the biggest problems.
Video communication is a great way for remote employees to grok each other. So is the phone. Face-to-face discussions. Email. IM. Forums. The list of communication is endless. More than anything, it’s about the mix of communication.
It’s the nuances that really drive those connections, from seeing a smile to hearing a sigh. They all drive to what we’re grok-ing about each other.
Putting it all together
Easy to use, fast, that makes people feel good and enables true understanding. That’s what ReadyTalk is doing and why we’re so busy. After all, it’s our job to help you flourish and be productive. And we care about that. Really and truly.