How to hire exceptional leaders in the remote working landscape
Posting date: 01 September 2020
For organisations that weren’t comfortable with remote working, the past few months will have been a steep learning curve. In April, a whopping 46.6% of people in employment in the UK did at least some work at home, up from less than 30% of people who said they had worked from home up to 2019. Businesses have scrambled to implement new technologies and software to allow for a seamless transition, and many have found that the new conditions benefit them more than they’d thought. But as the work-from-home arrangements look like they’ll stretch into the future, organisations now must think beyond the short-term and consider how they can be successful in the remote working landscape. The question now becomes not just ‘how can we work from home?’, but ‘how can we be the best business we can be in this new environment?
As part of this, it’s time to examine your leadership and consider how you can hire and develop exceptional leaders when working remotely.
Why is good leadership so vital to your business?
Leaders have a profound impact on a business, including on staff morale. Great leaders are one of the biggest contributors to retaining talented staff, they offer purpose beyond the role, vision, and contribute massively to the corporate culture. If retention rates are a concern, look at your leaders to see if they are encouraging and supporting team members to enable them to not only perform their best work, but feel motivated to stay at your company. And as the Covid-19 situation continues to unfold and organisations face more challenges, employees will look to business leaders for direction, hope and inspiration. As well as doing what’s best for the business, the modern leader must do what’s best for the team, and in the current climate this includes demonstrating flexibility, understanding and clear communication.
So what makes an exceptional leader? According to McKinsey research, just four kinds of behaviour account for 89% of leadership effectiveness: Supportiveness, operating with a strong results-focused orientation, seeking different perspectives and solving problems effectively. While leaders display a range of other behaviours and attributes, any business investing in the recruitment and development of future leaders should prioritise these areas.
Overcoming the challenges of remote leadership
At Hanover, we’re having many conversations with our clients about the opportunities and challenges presented by video conferencing (VC). Some have implemented live VCs to mimic the in-office experience, while others are shying away from the video element to help combat ‘Zoom fatigue’. Good remote leaders will be able to navigate this and strike the right balance of communication. With many major businesses – including Fujitsu and Schroders - now committing to total flexible working practises, not expecting employees to return 5 days a week to the office, leaders must re-think not only how they manage their teams outside the office environment, but also how they communicate with them, inspire them and nurture success.
Remote management requires different skills than face-to-face management, and leaders who have been forced into remote working may be struggling with this transition. There have long been trust issues associated with remote working, and research shows that managers who can’t physically see their team members often struggle to trust they are working. Effective remote leaders can overcome this by ‘checking in’ with direct reports, rather than ‘checking up on’. By empowering team members to work autonomously and take responsibility for their work and outcomes, managers can promote worker motivation and performance. Frequent and regular communication – without micromanaging – can set an effective remote leader apart from an ineffective one.
Another tip is to place more focus on outputs rather than inputs. With more flexible schedules and less direct visibility over work, people will naturally do different volumes of work at different times. A good remote leader will recognise that the results are far more important than how, when and where the work is done.
How to hire leaders remotely
Recruiting and onboarding when working remotely is made easier by implementing the strategic use of technology and partnering with a specialist executive search consultant. Depending on your location and organisation’s policies, it may not be possible to meet candidates in-person. Use video technology to help generate as much of an ‘in person’ dynamic as you can, introducing potential new hires to the teams they’ll be leading and business stakeholders. Partner with an executive search consultant who understands not only your industry vertical, but also the nuances of your business and the requirements of a remote leader. Once you have successfully recruited your new leader, you’ll need to carefully consider how to remotely onboard them. This may take more planning and effort than an in-person hiring process but will ultimately be worth it.