The trend of employees working remotely continues to grow. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, nearly 43 percent of employees work remotely “at least sometimes” -- a four percent increase since 2012.
Flexible scheduling and remote work opportunities not only benefit the employee; they also companies reduce overhead cost and maximize their pool of potential hires. But for companies to reap the full benefits of a decentralized workforce, they need to shift their approach to management on a fundamental level.
“Trust is essential,” reports Gallup. “When employees don't trust organizational leadership, their chances of being engaged are one in 12. But when that trust is established, the chances of engagement skyrocket to better than one in two. That's more than a six-fold increase.”
In a business setting where management and employee relationships are almost exclusively digital, trust is not only important— it’s imperative. Osamu Yamada, Executive Vice President at Cybozu, explains how this focus provides a new challenge for historic corporate cultures:
“A lot of traditional corporate cultures are based on mistrust. Letting employees decide when and where to work is based on trust and transparency between employee and the employer. A lot of companies don't have this, and perhaps a company that isn't doing bad in the market does not feel they need to change, so they keep doing business as usual. With all the change in the global business market, they cannot think like that forever. Many companies are already thinking ahead by creating a flexible and agile company culture built on trust.”
Cybozu, a Tokyo-based software company with over 200 employees, experienced its own culture challenge early in its development:
“Eleven years ago, employee turnover rate at Cybozu reached into 28 percent. That means that two or three members got out from our company every single month. We had a lot of farewell parties.
We had to start asking who we wanted to be and what kind of company we are. We were feeling the impacts of losing a lot of great employees that we trust and enjoy working with. We knew we had to make a big change and we did it. After a few years of restructuring we managed to bring the turnover rate down to four percent.”
Culture shifts are not limited to manager-employer relationships. Human Resource departments must also rise to the occasion and recognize that changes in the workplace demand new, innovative solutions.
“A one-size-fits-all HR approach does not work anymore. Companies need to adapt to today's global and digital business environment and that means adapting to their employee's unique needs. If not, then face the consequences.”
While it’s on businesses to establish a relationship of trust with remote employees, this doesn’t prevent them from reinforcing the relationship with results. Companies with a partial or fully remote workforce should actively set clear expectations and coordinate with employees to make sure they have what they need to succeed. Employees may not need an office supply cabinet, but they may need other resources to achieve their tasks.
Remote work continues to grow, and American employees are eager to embrace it. Companies looking to attract quality performers and adapt to the changing nature of work should create a culture of trust that will act as the backbone for successful employee experiences both in and out of the office.
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