Do you have a career map?
Invariably, people feel lost because they've either forgotten where they were meant to be going, or because they don't have a map. As Stephen Covey says, ‘begin with the end in mind’ – I say in addition, make sure you have the right tools to maintain good progress.
We're all on a journey, in work and life, and it's useful to know what the end point is at any given time.
At work, this means understanding how our everyday tasks relate to our projects, and in turn our roles and responsibilities, and in turn our longer-term career goals.
Author David Allen (Getting Things Done) lays this out very clearly with his ‘horizons of focus analogy’. Allen says we not only need to understand what our day-to-day runway tasks are, but also to get a bird's-eye view of the big picture and how it all fits together. Everything we do in our work should progress us toward achieving a greater team or individual goal.
Infrastructure, platforms and 'work tools' have really matured in the past two years in a way that makes it possible to squarely address most of these concerns.
Employees are often unprepared for the sense of isolation that can come from working remotely or virtually. It's not just a question of being unable to chat by the water cooler. There's often a real benefit in being able to bounce ideas off each other, face-to-face. Some of the original remote working tools are fundamentally unfit in this respect.
Email doesn’t support synchronous, immediate dialogue; the telephone doesn’t support the ability to read body language; and instant messaging etiquette is still in the process of maturing – does 'busy' really mean busy, and for how long should you wait while your colleague is typing a response?
Employers have struggled to support a remote workforce too, with key concerns being how to maintain a sense of 'team' remotely, how to monitor performance, and how to compensate employees for the use of their own equipment, services and utilities.
Today, technology is a great enabler and many people have now crossed the chasm from fearing it, to fearing being without it. Only recently have organisations begun to exploit technology to become more agile, flexible and sociable enterprises to connect their employees.
It's worth pointing out that there are now some amazing enterprise collaboration tools available to forward-thinking companies, such as IBM Connections, Yammer or Podio, to name a few. These tools are not 'Facebook for business' but the social element is important, relevant and critical to securing and maintaining engagement.
The tools themselves are not magic solutions though. User engagement does not just happen by itself. Maintain momentum by using these tools to praise and reward each other, share success stories and to share business-critical knowledge. Also exploit Skype and online meetings to make conversation easier, more productive and more personal.
Sense of community
Establish an online equivalent to your physical office or headquarters – somewhere that everyone’s drawn to. We're a small company ourselves, but have people spread across three different office locations, plus some home-based workers.
For us, having a home online is critical. We're not just talking about an old-fashioned intranet where people can check the canteen menu or advertise goods for sale. We have an environment which people find easy to read, contribute to and work in, and where everyone has a voice. We manage projects, blogs, status updates, profiles, wikis and teams, all on the same IBM Connections platform.