Why one in five CIOs worry about employees they rarely see

A Robert Half Technology survey says many IT execs struggle to engage remote workers. These three tips could help


CIOs and remote workers Canada

It may be hard to believe in this age of unified communications that many organizations experience difficulties with remote-worker management. Nonetheless, in a new Robert Half Technology (RHT) survey, nearly one in five CIOs pointed to technology as their greatest challenge in managing a remote workforce.

Specifically, 19 percent of the 270 respondents had trouble “ensuring user access to information,” in the words of a press release, making information access the most common complaint among those IT leaders. In other words, they struggle to provide employees with secure, reliable links to the corporate data needed to do their jobs. But that isn’t the only issue. Productivity (or “lack of insight into how work gets done”) was the second most cited challenge garnering 17 percent of the votes, and communication (“lack of face time”) rang in at 15 percent.

Those results illustrate just how prevalent remote-management challenges are, says Deborah Bottineau, senior regional manager of RHT in Toronto. “Even senior executives in a technology-forward department like IT can experience struggles in providing employees seamless access to information remotely or maintaining visibility into how work is being accomplished.”

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RHT, a recruitment company focused on the tech sector, found that 55% of CIOs have remote-workers. The other 45% that don’t probably will soon, especially in the competitive high-tech sector, where remote-worker management may be the key to hiring and retaining top-notch employees. “In a market where it’s difficult to find good IT people, if companies can accommodate flexible work arrangements, that gives them access to talent they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Bottineau says.

So if you’re a business leader, what can you do to overcome remote-worker management challenges and pave the way for excellent HR? RHT provides three critical tips.

1. Outline your objectives, but be flexible.

Try to set  clear goals so workers understand that they should check in regularly by phone, email or other means. Tell them when they should be reachable and what you need to know as their manager. But acknowledge that they may work at their own pace, investing time before and after the regular workday to finish a project. If your management system involves tracking the hours employees contribute between nine and five, you might need to rethink that methodology. Having a remote team “requires a different type of check-in with more of a results-oriented focus on the work,” Bottineau says.

2. Use the right technology

Deploy content management software so users can share information securely. Install unified communications so workers can connect efficiently. The latest videoconferencing systems feature high-definition cameras that let users collaborate at a distance. Consider incorporating those technologies into your remote-worker platform to beef up your employees’ collaboration capabilities. Also keep in mind that people tend to make business relationships even stronger when they get together in person, so have remote workers come onsite from time to time.

3. Check in regularly.

Some remote employees have trouble turning away from work. The resulting flurry of activity may net you some short-term productivity gains, but in the long run, it could result in exhausted staff members. Encourage remote employees to balance work and non-work activities for better productivity over the long term.

Clearly, technology alone is not the solution for CIOs struggling with remote-worker management. But technology combined with other measures such as in-person meetings and reasonable boundaries may help reduce the number of IT leaders who struggle with information access, insight and communication.

Get more good advice by downloading The Enterprise Collaboration eBook: A How-To Guide To Unified Communications, from Allstream. 

photo credit: Technomancy via photopin cc

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