Philip Turvey, Executive Director of Anglia Research, discusses why trusting your employees has never been more important, and how establishing a culture of accountability is the key to success in a time of crisis
Since the coronavirus outbreak, businesses are under the microscope like never before. With an unprecedented number of companies now working from home, employees and business leaders alike have had to recalibrate to find new ways to show results and prove their value remotely. When managing a remote workforce, it is important to engage staff and maintain employee wellbeing by creating a culture of accountability.
Accountability will motivate staff and encourage them to maintain best-practice when operating outside of their typical office environment. Although ways of working might change – for example, meetings over video conference and phone calls with colleagues you usually sit next to – it’s vital not to let business standards slip as a result. This is true of the probate genealogy sector, where fair and ethical practice is the key to success. Over the past few months, as we have transitioned to home-working, Anglia Research has developed and learnt new strategies for building trust and ensuring transparency through remote communication, to which a culture of accountability has been key.
The new normal
According to figures from the ONS, only 30% of the UK workforce had experienced working from home in 2019. For some industries, such as manufacturing or hospitality, it is simply not possible to work remotely. For many others, a change in strategy or approach is required.
Much of our work locating beneficiaries is built on developing sensitive and trusting relationships with clients. In many cases, this requires face-to-face meetings and home visits, which allow us to prove transparency and ensure people receive the correct entitlement. These meetings are simply not possible or safe in the current climate. Working with case managers to establish new communication strategies that continue to support clients whilst working remotely, such as meetings via video conferencing platforms and regular telephone catchups, has given staff a sense of ownership over these processes – driving their accountability and encouraging business success.
Appreciating the opinions of your employees is a must for all business leaders, particularly in the current climate. Allowing staff to make their voices heard and offer internal feedback encourages empowerment: a recent study by Forbes found that companies with higher levels of employee engagement see a 21% increase or more in profits. With many UK companies anticipating working from home to continue over the coming months, getting the correct foundations in place will result in greater long-term success.
Communication is key
Ensuring that your employees understand how to operate within their new working environment is a key part of establishing a culture of accountability. Not being based in the office, it is harder for employers to communicate with their staff, which can lead to a sense of disconnect and isolation.
Technology can be a barrier to this communication. The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation for many companies: in the week before lockdown Dixons Carphone reported a 70% jump in technology sales as workforces made the move to the home office. However, this demand may reveal a communication flaw in many business models, with those companies lacking agile technology slower off the mark in setting up remotely.
Employers need to make sure that their employees can access all the information they need to carry out their job at a high level from home. Offering support on accessing files and procuring equipment such as monitors and severs will remind staff that they are part of a larger organization, despite their new solo set-up. At Anglia Research, changes in technology involved ensuring that every employee could access the necessary archives and records to continue their research at the same level of detail, despite not being in the office. Communicating clearly how to work with these files remotely and allowing staff to feedback with questions and concerns ensured accountability throughout the introduction process.
However, it’s not just communication with employees that business leaders need to be aware of when driving accountability in a remote workforce. It is equally important that communication with customers, clients and key business stakeholders takes into account any business developments. Keeping necessary parties up to date on any changes such as location, hours or contact details will engage all parts of your organisation with new business processes as they are established.
Coronavirus and beyond
Establishing a culture of accountability during a time of crisis should engineer positive changes for your business that last well beyond the initial shockwaves. After any preliminary crisis management, employers can use this period as a time to reassess their business methods – which for probate genealogy firms should provoke consideration of the transparency of their practices.
Although probate genealogy is a relatively small industry and largely self-regulated, firms should take responsibility for fair and ethical practices. Championing transparency during a time of crisis will help probate genealogists build better relationships both with their employees and their clients.
As lockdown begins to ease and businesses are starting to operate as normal again, companies must take advantage of the changes they have undergone and assess which new policies they want to keep. This newfound sense of accountability should become an opportunity to shift to a more transparent way of working long-term.
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