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HR Magazine's Tools and Training for a Flexible Workplace

Tue, Jun 18, 2013

Columbia, Maryland

Tools and Training

Proper tools and training can ensure that managers have the tools they need to succeed in a flexible workplace. Among the issues that should be addressed are the following:

Performance management. Organizations can assist managers in reviewing performance as part of their daily responsibilities, especially in a flexible work environment. One example of ongoing performance management is a daily check-in call, e-mail or other outreach to confirm that employees have what they need to meet their objectives.

Communication.Flexible teams need to determine how and when to communicate using tools such as instant messaging, text messaging, Skype and Twitter. But managers should be mindful that the digital word can be misinterpreted easily from afar. It is important to provide training to ensure that they keep their written communication clear of ambiguity that can cause confusion or lead to offense.

Creating a communication strategy to use when an urgent matter arises is an additional process that must be developed. Managers should work with their employees to identify one communication tool that will work for all members, and outline the response time expected when a critical issue arises.

Virtual meetings. Flexible work teams must determine in advance when to hold meetings and how to conduct them. Technology provides a variety of choices—including Webex, GoToMeeting and Skype—for sharing presentations. To engage team members, managers should create a feeling of meeting in the same room by making introductions and ensuring that people understand why they are attending the meeting. This approach improves the discussion and the decision-making.

Team culture.Maintaining team spirit in a flexible work environment can be a challenge for managers. They need ideas on how to maintain the social aspect of their work group. Leadership training can provide managers with ideas on how to create time for the team to learn about each other’s personal lives. For example, sharing pictures of home offices, family and friends can be a great way for teams to feel connected. Other ideas include remembering birthdays, special occasions and recent successes and announcing them during team meetings.

Conclusion

Flexibility is an elevated form of teamwork, dependent on managers who have the skills to define expectations, delegate and adapt to different work styles. Employers need to establish resources, such as the tools and training outlined above, so they can help managers create a flexible culture inside their work groups and help companies leverage workplace flexibility as a business strategy.

Kathy Kacher is president of Career/Life Alliance Services Inc. in Minneapolis. She can be reached at kkacher@clalliance.com.