Heather Burright will discuss the unique benefits and challenges of a remote workforce and discuss how we as employers can continue to develop their capabilities.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Heather, I got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Heather: Yeah, let’s go.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good morning if you’re on the West Coast. If you’re watching the recording, no matter where you are, I hope you’re having a good day. We are here to talk about how to develop your nonprofit’s remote workforce. Maybe you’re remote. I think most of us are remote these days, so you are in the right place if that is you.

I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. I’m actually not remote. I came into the office for this webinar, but I’m all alone. I’m staying safe. Don’t worry. But I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items here. Just want to let everyone know that we are recording this session, and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. You might have already gotten the slides. A couple of minutes ago they went out. But if you didn’t, don’t worry. We’ll get all that good stuff in your hands later on today. Just be on the lookout for an email from me with all those goodies.

But most importantly, as you’re listening, we love for these sessions to be interactive. So send in your questions, your comments. There’s a chat box and the Q&A box. You can use either of those. I’ll keep an eye on both. No worries. But we’d love to hear from you. If you haven’t introduced yourself already, go ahead and do that because we’d love to know more about who we’re talking to. And you can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed. If you want to send us a tweet throughout the hour, you can do that as well. Just use the @BloomerangTech user name.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. We usually do these webinars a couple times a week now these days. We love doing them and bringing on a great guest. Today is no exception by any means.

But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, if you’re wondering, “Hey, what the heck is Bloomerang,” we are actually a provider of donor management software. So if you’re interested in that, maybe you’re looking to change software sometime soon, check us out. You know, we’re pretty easy to find on the web. Got all kinds of videos and stuff on the website. You can get a real good sense of what we’re all about. So check that out.

Don’t do that right now. At least wait an hour, because my buddy, Heather Burright, from beautiful Chicago is joining us. Heather, you doing okay? How’s it going?

Heather: I’m doing well. It’s not snowing today thankfully.

Steven: That’s good.

Heather: So I am ready to go.

Steven: Yeah, that was a little weird. You got some early October snow. But hopefully, it stays warm for you for at least a few more weeks. But it’s awesome to have you. I’ve been getting to know you over the past few months. And we definitely wanted to have Heather on because she is an expert in this topic, something that most of us are dealing with, not just in the nonprofit sector.

If you don’t know her, check her out over at Skill Masters Market, where she’s doing a lot of leadership development type work. She has a strong background in that. She was at the YMCA national office for many years doing leadership development. And this is definitely her thing — change management, instructional design, all of those good things. So if those are maybe pain points for you or maybe you’re looking for some help, you’ll definitely want to connect with Heather after the session. I have a feeling most of you will want to connect with her after hearing her advice on this matter.

So I don’t want to take any more time away, Heather. I’ll let you bring up your slides here. I’ll stop sharing mine, and the floor will be yours.

Heather: All right.

Steven: See if we can make it work. That was a fun transition. Looks like it’s working.

Heather: Yeah, we can do this.

Steven: Cool.

Heather: We can do this. All right.

Steven: Take it away.

Heather: Let me pop out my chat for a minute and just make sure that I can get that . . . Maybe I cannot get that going. All right, Steven, I might need you to monitor the chat.

Steven: I will.

Heather: I don’t know. I’m clicking it and it’s not popping. There’s always something from a technology perspective, right?

All right. So welcome, everyone, and thank you for joining today. I’m excited to be here with you, and I’m excited that Steven invited me. This is such a great opportunity to talk about your staff. That’s one of my favorite things to talk about.

So we’re going to talk about developing your nonprofit’s remote workforce today. You know, since becoming a remote workforce, you may have noticed some new challenges arise, and I know some of you mentioned that you’re a little bit of a hybrid place right now. Maybe some people are still in-person. Some people are working remote. Maybe you are sometimes in-person and sometimes remote. But even normal tasks, when we’re in this type of environment, like managing projects or communicating with staff, look different and even feel maybe a little bit uncomfortable at times. And on top of that, your employees may be facing burnout. We’ve been in the situation for long time now it feels like. It feels like six years, but I think it’s been about seven months. And their work and their home life have probably blended into one, and that presents all kinds of challenges as well.

So how do we invest in our employees and make sure that they have the skills they need to thrive in this new environment? And so that’s what we want to talk about today. We want to discuss the unique benefits and challenges of a remote workforce, discuss how we as employers but also as leaders within our organization can continue to develop the capabilities of our staff. And I want you to leave today with one custom action that you can take to begin creating a more effective remote workforce in your organization. So we’ll start to brainstorm what that might look like for you.

So I won’t go into too much detail about me today because Steven gave a great introduction. I appreciate that, Steven. But I do have about 15 years of experience I like to say on the people side of organizations, and I work across the talent lifecycle. I did come from a national nonprofit, as Steven mentioned, but I’ve also worked in other sectors as well, and I like to bring all of that experience to my work.

In my last role with a national nonprofit, I worked with the proprietary competency model there, and I helped identify the competencies that people would need to be successful throughout their career. So whether they were a part-time, a frontline staff person to a C-suite in the organization, what skills do they need, what leadership skills or technical skills do they need to be successful, and how can we as an organization, we as leaders, we as HR staff help hire, onboard, and develop them with those competencies in mind? And so one of the things that I was able to do there is really apply both my instructional design background as well as my change management approach to help foster that environment for employees.

So many organizations are obviously now being faced with this remote workforce, and, you know, we still need to be able to invest in our people. We know that investing in our people affects staff performance. It affects staff satisfaction, staff retention, and it affects our ability to innovate as an organization and to ultimately meet, you know, customer, community, and member needs. And so one of the things that I do now is a consultant is I partner with small to midsize organizations, primarily nonprofits, to create the environment and opportunities that people need to thrive. And we’re going to talk a little bit today specifically about developing that remote workforce that we have.

So you may see a somewhat blank slide on the screen, and this is where I really want to get your chat fingers activated. So go ahead and find the chat box if you haven’t already. I want you to take a moment to think about our current situation. It’s blank, the slide is blank because I want to hear from you. Tell me something that you, your organization, or your staff are currently facing. It could be anything that you, your organization, or your staff are currently facing. And while you type that in, I just want to note a few things that I have seen or heard or read about over the course of the past seven months.

So your staff may have abruptly left the workplace for a home office back in March. Their home office may or may not be conducive to working from home. So if you think about people who had never worked from home before may be working from a couch or a dining room table. They may have one screen where they may have had two screens in the office. So there are a lot of changes that are happening, and that’s one setting change has made a difference.

On the flip side of that, you may have staff who are still going into an office or a workplace setting. They may be essential workers. They may be concerned about, “How do I show up every day, provide the service in a really great way, and also keep myself, my family, and others safe while I’m doing that?”

Your staff may be schooling their children from home, and that’s a whole different dynamic. They may be dealing with anxiety from COVID. They may be concerned about a sick family member or a friend. They may be troubled about the racial injustice that they’re seeing around them. And ultimately, they may have no idea how they’re going to get everything done. Everything that they were supposed to get done pre-COVID, how are they going to get it all done now given all the changes and all the challenges that they’re facing?

So Steven, I don’t know if there were any chat responses. If you can, call out maybe a few of those.

Steven: Oh, yeah. There are some good ones in here.

Heather: Good.

Steven: All things I’m feeling myself — fear of coming back, missing in-person meetings, lack of collaboration, just kind of feeling disconnected from people. Just general uncertainty, unknowns. People are feeling fatigued. Difficulty engaging with program participants, that’s an interesting one too. Yeah, not just the staff, but the people we’re serving too. That’s tough.

Heather: Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for sharing those.

So let’s dive into a little bit of what the data is telling us. So 66% of the workforce is currently working remotely. Forty-three percent of the workforce wants to keep that remote work option. So they may want a hybrid approach. They may want to be able to do part-time in an office, part-time at home. But they want the flexibility of remote work. I saw another study that said 80% wanted this option. So 43% felt a little low to me, so I did a little digging, and another study actually found 80% wanted this option.

Twenty percent of employers are considering remote work in the future. So we’ve seen, obviously, a lot of companies and organizations have gone remote temporarily, and we’ve seen companies like Amazon extend at least through the summer of next year. And we’ve seen other companies like Twitter and Zillow offering remote work indefinitely. But 20% of employers are considering remote work in the future.

I want to point out that this is not necessarily every position that they offer. So if you think about Amazon, at this point and in our near future, they’re probably always going to need drivers. They’re going to need someone who drives the packages, delivers them to your doorstep. Maybe someday in the future they will have self-driving cars and drones delivering the packages. But at this point, they’re relying on drivers to do that. So it’s not every position and every staff person that they’re offering that remote work to. But they are being much more flexible in who and how they’re offering their remote work options.

And I think that’s important for us to consider as nonprofits too. I think sometimes we think if we’re delivering a service, how can we be remote? How can we offer this opportunity for staff? But it’s about being flexible more so than it is about everyone working from home.

So I’m curious. You guys have been working from home and may be back partially now, but you have been working from home and have had staff working from home, have been around others who are working from home. So I want you to let me know in the chat what are some benefits that you have seen from remote work. And I know that, you know, while many organizations were sort of forced into remote work abruptly this year, we are seeing quite a few benefits, which could be why 20% of organizations are now considering it as, you know, a future option for staff.

So I’m curious just to see what benefits you have seen. Steven, were there any in the chat?

Steven: Yeah. No commute has come up a bunch of times.

Heather: Yeah.

Steven: It looks like some folks are not missing their driving into the office. More flexibility in the schedule, which, yeah, I feel that one too. Reduced expenses. So maybe they don’t need to spend money on things in the office as much. That’s good. It’s more relaxed, lower stress. That’s good. I’m glad the stress level was . . . yeah, a lot of people were saying less stressful. That’s good.

Heather: Awesome. Okay. Well, good. Well, we know that there are benefits, and I’m going to show you guys a little bit of data that is also available.

So first, remote work affects your people. So when you are remote, you are not defined by a specific geographical area. So when you go to hire for new positions or recruit new staff, it’s easier to find the skills you need, and you have a larger candidate pool to choose from. It can increase diversity in that candidate pool and ultimately your workforce.

It also helps you stand out as an employer. So 35% of employees would change jobs for the opportunity to work remotely full-time. That percentage increases for other part-time options and flexibility as well.

More than a third of workers would take a pay cut up to 5% in order to be able to work from home at least part of the time. And organizations with remote work options have a 41% lower absentee rate.

So we know it affects the people. It also affects the business as some of you pointed out in the chat box as well. We’re seeing decreased business expenses, things like office space, equipment, travel reimbursement. One study found that an organization can save $11,000 per remote worker who was remote just 50% of the time, and that’s per year. $11,000 per remote worker per year if they’re telecommuting even 50% of the time.

Remote work can also increase productivity. So studies from Gallup, Harvard, Global Workplace Analytics, and Stanford found that remote staff are an average of 35% to 40% more productive than those who were in an office. I know some of you are doubting that statistic. I understand. It can feel like you don’t know what’s going on and if and how staff are working. When you’re leading a team, you might find that your own productivity has increased, but you might not be sure about your team. I understand that. But they have shown that remote staff are more likely to take more breaks, but when they are focused on tasks, they are more focused.

They also did a study on mouse clicks, so while you are working, how often do you click away from your sort of primary worker or primary screen. And there are actually fewer mouse clicks away from work with remote staff than there are staff who are in-person.

So this increase in productivity, decrease in expenses as well as a decrease in quality defects, which you can also see on the screen there, make organizations more profitable. So many organizations with remote workers are 21% more profitable than those without. So we’re seeing a lot of benefits of remote work.

But even with benefits, we still challenges as well. So I’m going to want to hear from you all what challenges have you seen from a remote workforce. While you’re typing in, I will show a few that I have seen or read about.

So we are seeing project management being a little bit more challenging. I think this is specifically talking about tracking productivity probably more so than projects. Collaboration, communication, and trust building can be a little bit more difficult. It looks a little different in a remote setting.

Time zones, if you’re scheduling meetings, that can be a factor. But also what are the normal business hours? Are you expecting someone on the West Coast to answer an email at 8:00 Eastern time? So time zones obviously a factor in how we work when we’re all remote.

Work/life balance, it can be a little bit more difficult maybe to shut the computer off and walk away when it’s just at your dining room table.

And then also organizational culture can be hard to maintain. Maybe you had a good culture in-person, and the dynamics of a remote workforce just makes that a little more challenging.

So Steven, what challenges did you see in the chat box?

Steven: Well, my challenge, why I’m at Bloomerang right now, I’ve got two kids at home. I know you can relate, Heather. Lots of people talking about kids at home. So shout-out to all my [fellow 00:17:25] parents. Team projects is harder was an interesting one that came up a bunch of times. Yeah, communication with the team. Balancing work and life, or, yeah, life and home work. That’s just because it’s all together. That makes sense. Zoom fatigue a couple times.

Heather: Yeah.

Steven: Yeah, hard to look at all the screens all day.

Heather: It is, but I’m glad you guys are here. All right. So let’s talk about what to do. So we have benefits. We have challenges. We talked about our current state. What do we do now? Let’s talk about the strategy.

So as I get into my recommendations and my approach, they are grounded in two beliefs that I have. So I wanted to start by sharing those two beliefs. The first belief is I believe people excel when they know what is expected of them and they can show up authentically at work. And you’ll see this as I start to go through my recommendations.

Belief two, I believe organizations are better when they empower their people to operate from their strongest capabilities. So again, you’ll see this as we go through the next few slides.

So what do I mean by strategy? So you probably have an organizational strategy in place. It may have shifted since the start of the pandemic, or it may be the same. Either way is fine. But what you want to do is you want to make sure you’re really clear about your organization’s priorities. If they have shifted, if you feel them shifting, make sure you go back to those priorities and define them really clearly, because what you want to do is align your talent practices to them. Everything you do with your people needs to help your people deliver on your organizational strategy. So we have to be really clear about that first.

And then, when we start talking about supporting your staff to drive those priorities, we’re going to set clear expectations with them. We’re going to teach them how to do the things we need them to do, and we’re going to create the culture in which they can thrive. And we’ll dig deeper into each of these.

So we’re going to start with setting clear expectations. But don’t they have job descriptions? Yes, yes, they do. I’m so glad you brought that up I hear this objection a lot, because they do have job descriptions most likely. But one, things have shifted, and I think we need to just acknowledge that. But two, and I’m going to give you four words here, “other duties as assigned.” Now as an employee stays with an organization, I think especially in the nonprofit space, that list of other duties as assigned tends to get longer and longer, and it’s not always revisited.

So when I say set clear expectations, I think we need to revisit that job description and those other duties as assigned, which may not be included in the job description. And we need to be really clear about what we want our staff to focus on. Which activities align most closely with those organizational priorities that we talked about a couple slides back? Focus on those.

And then we want to help our staff prioritize their work. And again, thinking about everything they’re experiencing right now, everything that’s going on in our world, everything that they might have going on personally, they may be really good at prioritizing their work most of the time. They may need help right now. They may not see clearly what the organization’s strategy is right now. They may not feel like they can even take a breath long enough to sit down and prioritize their own work. So as a leader, we can step in. We can help them prioritize. We can go back to that organization strategy and priorities and say, “These are the things that you as a staff person need to prioritize in order for us to deliver on our strategic plan.”

So based on those organizational priorities and their capacity, determine what they need to start doing, what they need to stop doing, and what they need to continue. Now I also recognize that we are not always good at the stop part, which is why that other duties as assigned list gets so long. But we need to be really clear on our priorities, which means we may have to stop doing some things or at least press pause.

And then, I would say figure out what is non-negotiable and where you have flexibility. So just as an example, maybe you have a requirement where your staff have to respond to requests within 24 hours. Maybe it’s an internal request. Maybe it’s a request with someone involved with your nonprofit. But they have to respond to that request within 24 hours. Is that non-negotiable? Maybe, because you certainly want timely communication. That’s important. So maybe that is a non-negotiable. Or maybe they can have 36 hours to respond. So now you’ve taken that non-negotiable and you’ve offered some flexibility.

Again, this is going to look different based on your organization’s priorities, based on your staff capacity, and what you’re able to provide from a flexibility perspective. But it just takes asking the question a different way and really looking at what are those priorities that have to happen in order for us to achieve our goals, and then what can slide. How might we do this a little bit differently?

So the next piece of this was to teach them how. So once you’re clear on the actions, what actions your staff need to take, we want to teach them how to do those things. But didn’t I hire them to do the job? Yes, yes, you did. I’m also glad you brought this up. I hear this a lot too.

So we did hire them to do a specific job, and they came to us, our staff come to us with amazing skill sets. That’s why we hire them. But things change and how we get things done change. Our requirements change. Our priorities change. And so it’s important to remember that they might not have everything they need to succeed. And as leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure that they can succeed.

So when I say teach them how, I think it’s important to focus in on the actions you need them to take. Now again, notice my language here — action. Once you focus in on the action you need them to take, you can create opportunities to help them learn. Often I see organizations that determine there’s a need for a training and the training becomes an information dump. It becomes an information dump from the subject matter expert or from leadership to say here’s everything you need to know.

But knowledge does not equal behavior change, which is why I say focus on the actions that you need them to take. It’s not that they don’t need any information. There’s some power in knowing things. But that information has to be really relevant and timely to the actions you want them to take. If we focus on the action first, we’ll provide the information they need to help them take that action.

Also identify how the action you need them to take is different than what they’re doing now. You want to focus in on the behavior change, right? They’re doing one thing, and I need you to do it slightly different. Or I need you to stop doing that and I need you to start doing something else. Our staff have needs now, and we need to meet those needs now, even though we’re remote. So I want to give you an example of what this might look like in a virtual setting.

Let’s say that you need your staff to focus in on customer needs. You need them to listen to your amazing customer [Bradley 00:25:24] here, because every nonprofit calls their “customer base” something slightly different. But your staff need to listen to their needs and document them in a new way.

So you can, in a virtual environment, use scenarios so that they are presented with the opportunity to listen in that new way and document in that new way. And you can role-play in small breakout groups. So even in a group this size — I’m not sure how many we have on right now — but even in a group this size, you could break out into smaller groups and have those smaller discussions as well as that hands-on practice in those small group spaces. That gives them a chance to practice the listening you need them to do.

You can use something like shared slides, like Google Slides, to have them practice documenting the conversations that they’re having in those breakout groups. And you can leverage both the peer group in that breakout group as well as the instructor, because it’s a virtual classroom, there will be someone facilitating the session. As well as the instructor to give feedback to ensure that the conversations are happening the way they need to happen and they’re being documented in the way you need them to document.

This is a very low cost way of building a skill, creating a new behavior. You can use Zoom or whatever technology you already have for video conference calls. Most of them, if not all of them, allow for that small group breakout session. And Google Slides, Microsoft Teams, we have all these different opportunities to share documents over the wonderful internet now. So you can use what you already have from a technology perspective and allow people to practice the behavior or the action that you need them to take in that safe environment and allow them to get that feedback that they need so that they know they’re headed in the right direction.

And then I saved culture for last. You could argue that this should be first and is the most important. But culture is a bit like the water we swim in. It’s not easy to see that you’re in it. It’s not easy to know that you’re in it when it’s clear. But when it starts to become murky, then you start to recognize the water that you’re in.

So isn’t that the fluffy stuff? I just needed a question for this slide because I had a question for the other two. I love this. Isn’t that the fluffy stuff? It’s more than the fluffy stuff.

So culture is how things get done in your organization. It is both the policies and procedures, the norms that exist as well as the values and the beliefs and the workarounds that exist. And so it’s important, when we talk about culture, to make sure that we are defining the culture that we want to see and that we are acknowledging the culture that exists, even if it’s not the desired culture. If you want to move from one to the other, acknowledging what it is now and moving towards that future state is important.

So I could talk about culture all day because it’s such a big topic, but it’s important to note that everything you do depends on your culture. People want to feel valued and capable and like they can show up authentically at work. So I’m going to talk a little bit about culture from a community perspective, and I say community based on the community of your workforce as well as on the work that your workforce is doing.

So to create a strong culture, think about the community you are building internally. Is it supportive? Are there real, genuine relationships among staff? Do people feel like they belong in your organization? Do they feel like they have a voice? If yes, that is something to celebrate. And if not, think about what you can do to create that. How can you foster that environment? How can you facilitate those connections? So that’s the community side.

And then, think about the work side. Think about the work that your staff are doing. Emphasize the meaning and the purpose of their work. Again, people want to feel like their work matters. So if you emphasize the meaning of what they’re doing, as opposed to the task, they’re going to feel more valuable and they’re going to show up differently.

Celebrate the accomplishments that they have. Track their productivity rather than their hours. I see this one is a big one. If you’re tracking hours, a lot of times people feel devalued. Track their productivity and not their hours.

And remove barriers. Often people want to do the right thing, but they’re running into barriers that exist within your system. So whenever you can, remove those barriers.

And then I save sort of the best for last here — lead with empathy. This is so important. Again, I just want to take a moment to think about everything we’ve been through over the past seven months. Things happen, right?

Children make appearances on video calls now. That probably would have been frowned upon a year ago. And now it’s kind of normal. I was sharing with Steven before the webinar started that I have definitely been on a conference call when my two-year-old handed me a toy of phone, which I answered because when a two-year-old hands you a toy phone, you answer it. And so you just never know what you’re going to see, what you’re going to experience because people want to bring their whole selves to work, and right now they don’t have much of a choice.

They may also miss details that they would not have missed before. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot on their mind. There’s a lot on their plate. And it’s important just to acknowledge that and lead with empathy.

Find ways to check in with your staff as humans, not just on their work, not just on their productivity. But schedule a 15-minute morning video call just to ask them how they’re doing. You know, send a quick hello if you have a messenger or a chat system. Schedule a team call to celebrate the accomplishments from the week and kind of close out the week that way. Send them a personal email thanking them for their work. Just think about what are the things that you can do to show people that you care, because again people want to feel valued and they want to feel like they can show up authentically at work. So what can you do to show people that you care? It’s all part of building a culture.

So we talked at the beginning of the webinar about the current state and how our organizations and our staff and we have all been affected by our current crisis, and we know that’s been challenging. We recognize that it’s been challenging. But with challenge comes opportunity. And I believe we are at a great place of opportunity right now. So I want you to reflect for just a minute. What do you want your future state to look like?

You may need to get clear on your organization’s priorities. You may need to set clear expectations for staff and revisit those job descriptions. You may need to teach them how to do something new or teach them how to do something old but in a new way. You may need to focus on your organization’s culture, the environment that you want to create, and you may want to just make sure that it’s an environment where all staff feel like they can thrive.

So in chat I want you to type in one thing that you can commit to doing to help develop your remote staff over the next 90 days. Again, we talked about getting clear on your priorities, setting clear expectations for staff, teaching them how to do things that may have changed, creating that culture, leading with empathy, checking in with them as humans. What’s one thing that you can commit to doing over the next 90 days to help develop and invest in your remote staff? And I’d like to see those in the chat box, please.

And, Steven, as those start coming in, do you mind share those with me?

Steven: Yeah. There’s some good ones already, like checking in with the staff people, showing appreciation for team members. Establish and revisit the expectations. That’s something you’ve touched on a lot. Weekly check-ins. Just saying thank you more. More check-in meetings. A lot of people talking about doing more check-in meetings. Weekly happy hours. Yeah, I love that, Antoinette. We do that here on my team as well. We have two weekly happy hours. Emphasize the meaning of the work. Celebrate accomplishments. Track productivity. Setting clear goals. Yeah, it looks like folks have got some good ideas here.

Heather: Great. So recognize that this also may be a behavior change for you and think about and kind of reflect on how you typically make changes. So for some people, you can just make up your mind and you do it. These are the people that set their New Year’s resolutions, and they are accomplished within the first 90 days of the year, right, and you stick to it. You’re naturally, internally, intrinsically motivated to make that change.

Some of us make New Year’s resolutions and don’t follow through, right? So think about how you make behavior change. If that’s you, what can you do to make sure that these changes happen? What can you do to make sure that you commit to this change in the next 90 days? Do you need to put it on your calendar? Do you need to tell someone so you have accountability? Think about what you need to do to surround yourself with the support that you need to also make this behavior change.

Some of us don’t even make New Year’s resolutions because we know they’re not going to happen, and those are the people who probably didn’t write anything in the chat box. I see you. I see you. Okay. That’s okay too. But I encourage you to make a commitment and surround yourself with whatever support you need. Like I said, put it on your to do list. Add it to your calendar. Tell someone to help hold you accountable. Whatever you need to do to follow through, because we want to create this experience for our staff so that they then create this experience for our members or our customers, our stakeholders, or our vendors, whoever it is that they’re working with on our behalf.

So what now? I do have a free resource, “Three Reasons Your Teams Aren’t Meeting Expectations and What To Do About It, and I’m going to give that resource away for free to anyone who schedules a free strategy call with me. You can email me, reach out, however you see fit to get that scheduled.

But on a free strategy call what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about your specific current situation. Today what we did was an overview. This is kind of generally what people are feeling, what organizations are experiencing right now. But we’ll talk about your current situation and your desired future state. And then what we’ll do is we’ll talk about what you can do either independently or how we might work together to make a change towards that desired future state. So again, it’s a free strategy call. It’s really just to help you figure out what you want your organization to look like, what direction you want to head in, and how to accomplish that.

If we work together, we could do something like create a custom talent development blueprint for your organization or another custom solution. I also specialize in virtual classroom training. So if you’re looking at how do we teach people how to do something different but want to do it virtually and want to make it engaging, that’s also something that I specialize in. And so we can talk about what a custom solution might look like for you as well.

In the meantime, I would love to stay connected with you. I am very active on LinkedIn. You can find me there under my name, Heather Burright. And also you can connect with me on my website at skillmastersmarket.com. I also am happy to connect via email. Maybe we can drop my email address in the chat box as well. Or on my website I have another free resource, “Three Tips for Virtual Facilitation,” and if you decide to download that, you can get added to my email list and we can stay connected that way.

But I am excited that you all carved out the time today to talk about developing your remote workforce, and I would love to stay connected in whatever way makes sense for you.

And yeah, I’m going to go ahead and end with a quote before we take questions I guess. I wanted to end with a quote. I know that the past seven months has been challenging. Things have been unexpected and challenging in ways that you would not have thought even a year ago. The joke is on us that we always ask people in their interviews what their life is going to look like in five years, and here we are seven months later and not knowing, you know, what’s going to happen. We’re just talking about are we going to have in-person conferences next year. We don’t know. So I recognize that it’s been unexpected and challenging. I felt it too, so you’re not alone in that.

But I just felt like this quote just resonated with me based on where we are right now, and I hope it does with you too. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

So thank you all for your time today, and I think we are going to take questions.

Steven: Yeah, this was awesome, Heather. Thanks for doing this. I have a feeling we’re going to be referencing this webinar for many months to come here unfortunately. But this is going to be a good resource for folks.

So got a lot of questions in here. I’ll just kind of dive in. Heather, a couple of people asked about generational differences. You’ve worked with lots of different people in your roles. Have you seen differences in maybe how Gen Xers kind of approach this situation compared to maybe a boomer or whatever that newest generation is called that just hit the workforce? I’ve lost track. But any differences there?

Heather: Gen Z, I think is the . . .

Steven: Yeah, that sounds right.

Heather: Yeah, I think Gen Z is the youngest generation in the workforce right now. You know, yes and no. I think generational differences can be helpful in some ways and hurtful in others, because it’s a stereotype. It’s a generalization.

Steven: Right.

Heather: And that’s helpful in some ways to make sure that you’re meeting people’s needs, but also hurtful because then we start to make assumptions about how people want to experience the workplace or how they want to learn. So let me start with maybe how it might be helpful.

Everyone has had a different “quarantine experience,” right? So I personally have a first grader, who was remote learning as a kindergartner, and a two-year-old. So my quarantine experience was very, very different than someone who has a middle schooler or someone who has no children or someone whose children are out of the house.

So I think it’s important to note that all of these generations are in the workforce, and all of them are experiencing our current state in a very different way. That said, if you’re going to talk about building a culture or creating learning for your staff, I think the best thing you can do is ask them.

I do a lot of virtual obviously. I facilitate a lot of virtual workshops as well. I like to start that setting with: What does participation look like to you? What does it mean to you? Because maybe I have planned a lot of engagement. In this one, it was all chat box. But, you know, maybe I have planned a lot of engagement. We’re going to be in and out of breakout rooms, and we’re going to be sharing as a large group. And we’re going to be annotating on the screen, and we’re going to be using the chat box and responding to polls.

That’s great. But what does participation look like to you? And I found this really important when you’re having diversity and inclusion conversations as well, because sometimes a lack of participation, so a lack of speaking up verbally in a virtual environment can be perceived as a lack of participation, whereas the person who is not speaking up in that virtual environment may be participating in a very different way. So I think it’s important to ask people what they expect, what they want, and be able to follow through on that.

Steven: That makes sense. Kind of what I heard from you is there may be better ways to kind of segment people than just their age, because you could have, to your point, two 36-year-olds, like me, but I’ve got a third grader and a two-year-old also, and I have a 36-year-old colleague with no kids. That seems to make a lot more sense. I love that.

Here’s an interesting one from Christy — onboarding new employees remotely. You know, it’s been seven months. I’ve got to believe people have been hiring. You know, certainly we’ve gone through that. Any tips there for maybe not just onboarding but also the whole spectrum, interviewing, all that, because that seems like a challenge?

Heather: Yeah. So for onboarding, we’ll start with that. For onboarding, you know, it’s important to think about the experience that you want to create, not just the task that you want them to do.

When you’re onboarding to a new organization, there are always a few maybe concerns or questions. There’s a bit of vagueness about entering the organization, even if you have a good sense of who they are and what they do. Maybe you’re familiar with the organization. Maybe you were a volunteer before you joined a staff. Maybe you were a program participant in some cases. But it’s different on the staff side. And so there’s always a little bit of fuzziness as you’re entering an organization.

So think about what you want the experience to feel like before you go into listing out the tasks that you need them to do. And it’s good to also ask people who have been onboarded, even if they haven’t been onboarded virtually, what did they appreciate about, again, that feeling that they got. So you want them to immediately connect with other people, build relationships with other people. What are some ways you can do that?

You also want them to submit paperwork and learn how to access different systems, whether you’re using Teams or something else. That’s great. You want to include those things too. But think about the feeling you want to create.

Pretty much anything can be done virtually. Most anything can be done virtually that can be done in-person. And so there are ways to do it. It just requires us to think differently about how to do it.

Steven: I love it. Here’s a question from my buddy, [Miram 00:43:42]. I’ll try to paraphrase it. How do you balance people who really struggle — and maybe they’ve got kids at home, maybe they’re just not adjusting or whatever it is — and their productivity is also suffering and it may be having downstream effects on the organization? You know, you want to be sensitive certainly, but we all do have work to do and goals to hit. How do you kind of balance that without, you know, completely alienating the person?

Heather: Yeah. I think, you know, going to the person genuinely to ask them what kind of support they need can be really helpful. Do you need to shift some of your workload off of your plate? Do you need to adjust your work hours? Do we need to maybe spend less time in meetings and more time collaborating over Teams or whatever? I’m saying Teams because a lot of organizations use Teams. You know, thinking about what are some ways to do that.

But I also . . . you know, it needs to be done in a way that you genuinely are caring for them and not in a way that comes off as punitive, because again you do want to make sure that the work gets done. But there may be ways to make sure that the work gets done. And if you going in, in a punitive way, one, it’s going to demotivate them even further. But two, you don’t necessarily know what they’re going through from a mental health perspective either. This has been challenging for so many people. And if they’re a person who typically was getting their work done and you didn’t really have to follow up and now suddenly they’re missing things, it could just be that there’s a lot on their plate, or it could be a larger issue. And so going in with a genuine concern for them as a human I think really helps that conversation go a little bit further and making sure that you’re providing the support that they need and pointing them to the right resources.

Steven: I love it. Good advice in any situation it seems like, but especially powerful now.

Heather: Yeah.

Steven: Can you talk a little bit about tone and maybe misread signals, right? We’re all chatting, emailing. We’re missing out on inflection, body language, eye contact, all of these things. Is it just a matter of using emojis? I mean, I kind of say it jokingly, but I’ve been starting to do that more and it seems to have helped. How can we kind of head off those misinterpretations of maybe people’s feelings when it’s all text a lot of times?

Heather: Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard, because we do lose some of that context that you have in-person. I think some of this is cultural too. So again, I think there’s a little bit of the balance that we have to play in order to read this correctly.

You know, it’s cultural to, for example, want very specific, concrete ideas, bullet point agenda items, followed up with an email with exactly what you talked about and what you agreed to do next. That’s a cultural thing.

There are cultures where it’s a little more abstract and you’re reading between the lines and you’re not getting the follow-up. And so when you have multiple cultures enter a workplace, there is still going to be a dominant culture, and the dominant culture in your organization could be more on the bullet point, get everything concise and clear and say it the way you want it taken. Or it could be a little more on the read between the lines. And so someone who is in a different culture, from a different cultural background or experiences the world differently might react to what you’re doing.

So there’s a balance there. But I think, again, asking people is important. Assuming the best in people is also important. Easier said than done sometimes. But maybe asking, say, “Hey, when you said this or you did this, I took it this way. Can we talk about what you actually meant?” Or even just ask them what they actually meant, like, “Hey, you said get that email to me yesterday. What did you mean by that?” Just clarifying before reacting can be really helpful.

Steven: Love it. Any tools that you like, Heather? People have been asking what do you recommend for like productivity tracking, like there’s, what, Trello, Asana, Slack, Teams you’ve mentioned. What are some things that maybe you think folks should look at, if not maybe invest in, to move away from just maybe spreadsheets or just their inbox, which is kind of hard to wrangle?

Heather: Yeah. No, that’s a good question. I use Teams a lot because I feel like a lot of organizations use Teams. So when I’m working with my clients, a lot of times I’m in Teams.

For me personally, I use Trello. I just like it’s easy and intuitive to use. If you’re not familiar with Trello, it’s basically like type, click Enter, drag-and-drop. It’s very, very easy. And you can tag people and set deadlines and things like that. So you can use it . . . I have some Trello boards that I use as like a repository of information so I can just go back, I can grab things. I can see what’s there. And then I have some Trello boards that are little more project management related. So I can see something like from a workflow perspective. I can see something moving from this column to this column. I can assign things to people.

And so it kind of depends, I guess, on what you’re looking for. A lot of organizations, like I said, are using Teams. And so whatever you use, I think it’s a matter of figuring out the way that it works best for you and really kind of learning the system and treating the system the way that makes sense for you and your work.

Steven: Shout-out to Trello. We’re a Trello family here at Bloomerang for what it’s worth.

Heather: Yeah.

Steven: But Teams, I haven’t seen that one. I have to check that one out since you mentioned it.

A couple people have asked about kind of a hybrid model, right? We’ve got kids in school sometimes and at home is the other time. What about when that happens at work? Is that a matter of the same things we’ve been talking about? Are there any extra special tidbits there to keep in mind when people are maybe two days in the office, three days off, or whatever the mix is?

Heather: Yeah. Also a great question. I think it depends on the staff person. So some people just self-manage very easily, and they can figure out what they need in the office and what they need at home. But I think maybe having those conversations with staff if they’re thinking about reentering the office space and helping them think through like: What do you need to do when you’re in the office? Are there things you need to print? Are there tasks that are easier to be done with two screens? And like just prompting them to think about how they want to manage their time when they’re splitting time between two places.

Steven: Love it. You mentioned this when we were talking about the generational differences. You know, speaking of stereotypes, how can we kind of combat those things about, you know, the older person in office being untechnical, which is not my experience a lot of times, and conversely the millennials are whatever we get called every day. I’ve lost track of all the things I’ve been accused of as a millennial. But it seems like those things are sort of the temperature is up on those in this remote environment, where again it’s, to your point, people’s backgrounds or interpreting things differently. Are there any special ways to kind of combat that issue, where now it’s even more prevalent it seems?

Heather: So yeah, I think it depends. You know, I don’t think it’s necessarily something that you should ignore, because it’s something that could be hurtful to the other person. And we don’t have to get into a whole like diversity and inclusion conversation here, but it could be something that comes off as a microaggression towards a particular group of people. And so I think being thoughtful about calling people into that space. So calling people out, I don’t think that’s like the best use of words. But calling people into that space and helping them just be open to seeing that what they’re saying might be a stereotype or might be hurtful is helpful.

And I think how that happens varies a little bit, whether you’re the target or a bystander that you’re observing it or whatever. But having that conversation can be a helpful conversation. A lot of people don’t realize what they’re doing or what they’re saying.

Steven: I know you have a heart for the DEI issues, and you kind of mentioned it in your last comment. It seems like that plays a role in this as well, where you want to be inclusive. Could you maybe touch on that and maybe give some resources for people to check out if that’s kind of maybe the thing that they need? It seems like for a lot of the folks that have asked these questions it may be, like to your point, a DEI issue. But what’s the relationship there do you think?

Heather: Yeah. So for me, when I talk about culture and some of these things, I’m talking about how included people feel. Organizations have done a lot of work over the past 20 or so years, 30 years to make sure that our organizations are diverse. But that doesn’t always mean that people feel included or that they feel like they have a voice. And so I think it’s important, you know, when we’re talking about culture or setting expectations, that we’re doing it with people and not to people.

A lot of my focus in DEI is less about training a particular thing or reading a particular article. It’s more about: How do we show up and value people who are around us every day, and how do we make sure that they feel included? And so I personally focus more on maybe some of those conversations and workshops where people get to be interactive, they get to share, they get to learn from each other and each other’s experiences. And then also, like setting up structure for employee resource groups or affinity groups so that people of color or people with different affinity groups feel like they know other people and see other people like them and can connect with other people like them as well as allies. So, for me, it’s more about the conversation and how do we make sure that people feel included, and there are several different ways to do that.

I don’t know that I have a particular resource that I would point you to just because, like you said, for me it’s about digging in with people and having those conversations and being real and authentic in those conversations.

Steven: I love it. That might be a good place to leave it. I know there’s a couple questions we didn’t get to, but we’re getting close on to the hour. Heather, can people reach out to if they want to keep the conversation going?

Heather: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Steven: Like Linked is a good way to do that?

Heather: I can put my email in the chat . . .

Steven: Yeah.

Heather: . . . and also my LinkedIn is just my name.

Steven: Awesome. Yeah, good LinkedIn connection too. Lots of good stuff that you put out. And then, of course, to your newsletter. Yeah, we’ve got it in there. So definitely connect with Heather, keep the conversation going because she’s obviously a wealth of knowledge.

Heather, this was awesome. This was great advice. Things that I’m going to put to use for my team right away too.

Heather: Let me know how it goes.

Steven: Yeah. I love doing these webinars because I always learn a lot. I feel like I’m cheating a little bit with it being kind of a work task. But great to have you. Stay warm up there in Chicago. I know you’ve got a rough couple of winter months ahead of you, but we definitely appreciate you coming on and sharing your expertise.

Heather: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Sorry, I’m just realizing I sent my email to you and not to everyone, but now it is to everyone.

Steven: Okay, cool.

Heather: Thank you.

Steven: No problem.

Heather: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Thanks, everyone.

Steven: Yeah, and thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know it’s a busy time of year. You’ve got probably year-end stuff going on.

But if you’re free tomorrow, we’ve got another webinar tomorrow. That’s right, we’re doing back-to-back sessions. Tomorrow is going to be a really cool one. We’ve got some brand-new research on the impact of strategic planning. My buddy Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Barbara O’Reilly were the lead researchers there, and they’re going to unveil the findings of that study. So if you have done strategic planning, if you’ve never done that and you’re kind of wondering does it actually make a difference — spoiler alert, it kind of does — but come on the webinar tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. So that is 25 hours from now exactly. Totally free and totally educational, just like this one. We’d love to see you if you’re free. If you’re not free, we’ll record it. No worries. You’ll get that if you subscribe to our blog. Just be on the lookout for it.

And we’ve got some other webinars on through the end of the year you can check out on our webinar page. So we’d love to see you on another session, maybe tomorrow. But if not, sometime in the next coming weeks.

But we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email from me with the slides, the recording. We’ll get all those goodies out to you. And hope we see you tomorrow. If not, sometime soon. So have a good rest of your Wednesday. If you’re watching the recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter where and when you are. And we will talk to you again soon. Bye, now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.