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Virtually Mobile but Organizationally Attached Five Truths in Today’s Virtual Workplace

The workplace has changed – more mobile while keeping virtual workers connected. The way we work seems to evolve on a daily basis. Virtual work and online collaboration are no longer only for early adopters like they were in 2000 when my book, Working Virtually: Managing People & Organizations for Virtual Success, was first published. No one had a name for virtual teams.   In 1984 when a Fortune50 client asked me to develop training about managing accountability for technical management teams in Asia and the U.S. It wasn’t a virtual management training program; it was a just a management training program….

It’s About the People

HR and C-Suite executives see employee engagement as perhaps the critical success factor for organizations.  Technology is a strong enabler, but people are key to performance. This was true in 1984, and even more true today. People and technology are in a relationship of their own.   And this is a primary way we stay connected. We depend on our devices to sync our personal and work lives together.

Recently I completed a thorough inventory on virtual collaboration and teams. I delved into what’s new, what’s changed, and how well we are integrating virtual work and face to face (F2F) collaboration.  I studied employee and leadership training, talent management and business operations.  I have one undeniable conclusion….


Mobile technology has disrupted how we work. Millennials have a natural rapport with technology.   They expect the same technical ease from their employers and manager.

Yet many organizations aren’t keeping pace, and neither are a lot of the managers. My research confirms that the top 3 concerns of managers reflect old style management thinking:

  1. Are they really working? How do I know?
  2. When I don’t see them in person it’s hard to stay connected.
  3. Flex employees make my job harder and more complicated. Why do it?

The 20th century is over, but business leaders and professionals are lagging behind.  New definitions for manager and employee are emerging.  Definitions for exchanging time for money (job for paycheck), separating work and home, office hours, performance management, and worker benefits are changing.   We need to keep up!  Five common themes emerged from my review of today’s workplace:Blog19_5 Realities graphic

  1. Professionals must live, learn, play, think, and work together better, often virtually across organization and other boundaries. They need to do all these things better. Collaboration may be the critical success factor for professional effectiveness.

Now, how do we do it? Sometimes it is easier said than accomplished.

  1. Professionals must develop a strong and resilient network. Short term contracts require professionals to develop social intelligence and authentic networking skills. Professionals use their network to navigate dynamic environments, often in matrix and low-trust cultures. Almost 100% of Millennials consider their professional network as key to their career strategy. How do we embrace this and learn from them?
  2. Teams using collaborative tools are transforming the way we work, especially performance management processes. Unfortunately, I found that managers don’t leverage collaborative technology as much as I hoped, making the manager’s job harder than it needs to be. This blog is a destination to learn about collaborative and virtual team management. Most of today’s workforce and 80% of Millennials want frequent, real time feedback, opening the door for strong manager-team relationships. Let’s use this desire!
  3. “Sticky organizations” usually have higher profit margins because they engage their people across time and space. With looser ties between professional and employer, loyalty to an organization is optional – and earned. Daniel Pink, starting with his 2001 release, Free Agent Nation and continuing with his current release, Drive, is a leading expert on how professionals are managing careers differently. Human Resources is changing too, transforming the way organizations recruit, onboard, develop and manage talent. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, describes what he sees happening between employers and professionals that develop sticky, tight relationships over time in his recent release, The Alliance Worker.
  4. Purpose and meaning at work matter more than ever. Also, we want to work with people with whom we work well. In a recent survey, 30% of Millennials prioritized “meaningful work” over high pay. They want to feel a sense of accomplishment at work and a meaningful connection with their team. Seventy percent are planning to change jobs once the economy improves, and half are confident they will do so successfully.

In other words, and I repeat, something’s not working for them now, or they wouldn’t be looking for a change.

How well is your organization addressing workplace realities? Here are 2 ways to get smarter starting now.

  • Download the free SMART Workplace Organization Readiness QuickCheck assessment.
  • Subscribe to The SMART Workplace blog to hear from me and other frequent contributors who are experts. We publish biweekly posts in the summer, weekly the rest of the year. We hope to inspire you while providing tips, hacks, resources, and free tools to help you master the virtual work world.
  • Let me (and all of us at The SMART Workplace) know what about today’s mobile, virtual, collaborative work world you want to talk about.

–    Trina Hoefling, Transformational Facilitator and Trainer, Co-Founder, The Smart Workplace