A mounting pile of evidence is pointing to the fact that workers – empowered by an unprecedented skills shortage – will insist that remote working is here to stay. Companies who offer genuine flexibility as part of their employee value propositions will be in a much stronger position to retain their top talent.
However, many organisations still have a long way to go to understand the skillsets that enable people to sink or swim in a remote work environment. With AbilityMap, businesses can pinpoint the team members who will perform well when working remotely, and those who will require support.
Understanding the skills that drive remote working effectiveness is essential for maintaining productivity and for knowing in advance which of your team members are likely to struggle when working from home.
There may be someone in your team who is normally a top performer but is at risk in this environment. Knowing that they lack essential remote working skills will alert their manager and colleagues that this worker can really use some help when working remotely.
But what are these capabilities that drive remote work effectiveness? Many managers have fallen into the trap of guesswork or use vague terms like “remote collaboration”. AbilityMap has researched remote work effectiveness and identified a science-based list of eight key skills that make a difference.
Knowing your team’s abilities in these areas will provide you with a heat-map showing where they possess high capability, low capability, and where they will need urgent support when working from home.
AbilityMap’s eight skills driving remote work effectiveness
Let’s examine these eight skills in more depth.
1. Showing professionalism
High scorers behave as professionally as they do at the office
According to AbilityMap’s Human Capability Framework, high-scorers in this capability will do their utmost to honour all commitments, even though they are virtual or remote calls. They log on to appointments on time, rarely turn up late or cancel at short notice. They dress appropriately (from the waist up, anyway), they are non-judgemental of others, and they can plan their time effectively even when removed from the watchful eye of their manager. Finally, they respect authority and different ways of working.
Low scorers will need help with independent work
One of the most obvious signs of slipping standards is when an employee begins to dress inappropriately for video calls. While this isn’t an issue at all in some workplaces, other work cultures may take this more seriously; particularly with client-facing roles.
Other signs of slipping professionalism involve a lack of concern for confidentiality and little interest in the organisation’s values or the culture they are trying to build.
2. Displaying initiative
While an office-based worker with low initiative can be frustrating, they can become a major challenge in a remote setting where check-ins and direct management are limited. These employees can sometimes seem a bit robotic: they won’t act unless instructed to do so, and will rarely surprise you by solving a problem on their own.
High scorers don’t wait for instruction
“There was a problem with the code, but I’ve already fixed the issue and alerted the rest of the team.” High scorers enjoy tackling problems and do not wait to be instructed to achieve goals. They can throw new light on a situation and think of new ways of doing things. Workers with high initiative are curious to find new ways of addressing challenges and can take calculated risks when doing so.
Low scorers need prompting
“There’s a problem with the code, so I haven’t been able to get any work done on it today. What do you want me to do?”
Low scorers may need prompting to get things done, and often have no special urge to do something original. They are attached to conventional ways and do not have a good imagination, meaning they are unlikely to come up with creative solutions and put them into action.
3. Operating independently
Even with the collaborative software boom, remote working requires a sharp increase in independence. For some, the pandemic has unlocked levels of empowerment and responsibility that they’ve always wanted. But for others, their newfound independence is a struggle.
High scorers will thrive working alone
According to AbilityMap’s Human Capability Framework, high-scorers in this capability will stand behind their actions, enjoy taking responsibility for making decisions, are able to find out things by themselves, are capable of working alone, and have their own points of view. In short, they’re the ideal remote worker and may perform even better remotely than they do in an in-person environment.
Low scorers will need help with independent work
Low scorers in this capability are typically easy to spot. They frequently ask advice from others, wait for others to lead the way and count on others too much. They’re easily discouraged by difficult situations and will often stand aside to let others make a decision. Importantly, they often need a push to get started on a project.
A key point to understand is that people who struggle working independently will tie up other members of the team (via phone, video, or instant messaging) with their increased need for communication and support.
4. Adapting to change
Change of any kind can be challenging for some people, but the major shifts brought about by COVID-19; remote work, new technology, new ways of working, and shifting business strategies take this challenge to another level.
High scorers will thrive working alone
High scorers in this capability seek out change and adapt easily to new situations. They’re excited by the prospect of managing many different activities at once, and catch on to new things quickly. They eagerly look forward to things to come and are genuinely excited by new ideas.
Low scorers cannot change their behaviour easily
Low scorers usually find it hard to go back and forth between two different tasks. They prefer to take their time on projects and have trouble changing their behaviour to suit the situation. They’re often pessimistic about new ways of working, and may purposefully disrupt the implementation of new processes or system.
The real challenge for low scorers is the abrupt nature of the shift to remote working. Usually, resistors of change have weeks or months to get used to a new concept, but no such opportunity is given with abrupt lockdowns.
5. Coping with pressure
Pressure caused by the two factors above (increased independence and rapid change), along with the countless other pressures that COVID created: home-schooling kids, technology trouble, loneliness, and the ever-present stress caused by the ongoing global health crisis. The end result is seeing a rise in mental health issues, burnout, and resignations.
High scorers remain calm
Some people will tell you that they perform at their best when under pressure. This may be true for some, but according to AbilityMap’s Human Capability Framework, the main indicator of a high-scorer in this area is their ability to remain calm in tense situations. They do not lose composure under pressure, and maintain control of emotions in difficult circumstances. Importantly, they are capable of fulfilling their responsibilities in a dynamic environment.
Low scorers panic
As you would expect, low scorers panic easily under pressure. They are strongly influenced by the moods of others, and may let things get out of hand when under stress. For example, they may let workloads build up to the point where important deadlines are missed and the business suffers as a result.
6. Displaying consistency
Being consistent is important in a remote workplace because there’s a great deal of trust involved.
High scorers do what they say they will do and stay the course
Workers with high consistency act according to their conscience; they follow the rules and do things by the book, even when away from the watchful eye of their manager. They have no sympathy for rule-breakers, and will not change their values or behaviour to suit the situation. Consistency is also linked to stamina, or the ability to pursue one goal for a long time.
Low scorers do not follow through
It’s often impossible to know if a remote worker is slacking off until the time comes for them to deliver on their commitments. Workers with low scores in this area will make plans but not follow through on them. They may switch loyalties, and may adjust their values and/or behaviour to suit the situation.
7. Accepting responsibility
Accepting responsibility is about taking ownership of a project. High scorers in this area see things through to completion while low scorers leave it to others to complete unfinished work, creating extra work for their colleagues.
High scorers take the time to finish things properly
People who score highly in accepting responsibility complete their activities as soon as possible and will follow through on commitments despite any obstacles in the way. They’re hard workers and set high standards for themselves and others. Importantly, they accept the consequences of their actions.
Low scorers avoid taking ownership of projects
Low scorers in this area may leave things unfinished and are happy for others to do the work. They don’t always practice what they preach, may back out of commitments at the last moment, and avoid committing themselves to work.
8. Managing resources
Closely aligned with displaying initiative, managing resources involves the ability to set goals, focus on what matters, and get things done.
High scorers know how to get things done
High scorers in this capability area are able to deal efficiently with practical matters and can accomplish work on time. This enables them to control the outcome of events and complete tasks successfully. High scorers can effectively link facts together and achieve the desired outcome.
Low scorers need help to set goals and stay on-track
Workers with low capability in managing resources typically show little interest in understanding a work process or adapting plans to achieves outcomes within agreed timeframes. They tend to set goals that are either too easy or too difficult to achieve. Low scorers may occasionally become side-tracked on less important matters when obstacles present themselves and may complete tasks late or with poor quality due to a lack of planning.
Map your team’s remote work effectiveness and take action
Contact AbilityMap to discover how our next-generation software can be used to objectively evaluate your team in these key areas, then use this information to take action.