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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Leading the Location Neutral Employee

You’re probably familiar with terms such as “virtual workers,” “telecommuting” or “working remotely”. The latest lingo for such workers is called “location neutral.” In essence, these are the people who can work from anywhere in the world and productively deliver what they need to for their employers. This segment of the workforce is growing in size and some remote and resort style communities have specific campaigns in place to attract such a worker.

Companies are embracing location neutral workers because of the cost and talent considerations that make the move towards virtual work logical. As organizations look to drive out costs from their structures and as property and equipment become fully amortized, it can make a great deal of financial sense to begin creating a virtual work world. Also, talent for certain types of jobs and roles is in scarce supply and high demand, so virtual work affords organizations the ability to cast a much broader net to secure hard to find talent.

But it’s not just about economics. Choices are also being driven by personal preferences and the pursuit of greater work/life balance. Many workers are seeking to work in environments where they can have greater flexibility around how they spend their time and when, where and how work gets done.

But not all virtual work or workers are created equal. Challenges arise around making sure the type of work being turned over to the virtual world can be done in that environment. Not every job can be accomplished virtually, as illustrated by the recent article in Fast Company in which a team lacking in detailed management collaborated to produce a dysfunctional Lego man.

The team leader’s role is paramount. Ultimately, it is the leader of the virtual team that must possess the right skills and understand key motivators to drive virtual team success. Among these is the ability to communicate very effectively without using visual cues as much virtual work is done through conference calls without the benefit of webcast video. This requires deep listening skills, the ability to clarify understanding when needed, the rigor to make sure messages about the work are very clearly understood and the motivation to set out virtual team accountabilities throughout the entire work process.

Do you have the right type of leaders in place to lead a virtual workforce?

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