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Prepared Remote Leaders Fair Better, but Why?

Upon closer inspection of data from our April 2021 Contact Center Work at Home Study, we noticed a feature we hadn’t fully realized previously. To understand our discovery, it helps to know that when a supervisor indicated that they had managed teams within their current company both in an office setting and remotely they were offered a few follow-up questions. First, they were asked whether they had received training specific to working with remote teams. If they had, they were asked to rate whether it was very helpful, somewhat helpful, or not helpful. Then they were asked to rate performance across six key performance indicators (KPIs) in terms of whether their teams were performing better or worse in the remote model. The results were unexpected.

Supervisors who had received training that was “very helpful” were more likely to indicate that all six KPIs were better now than in the office as compared to the “not helpful” group who found only three KPIs better now than before (though to a lesser degree). More supervisors in the “very helpful” group reported absenteeism and issue resolution had improved than did in the “not helpful” group. More dramatically, the “very helpful” group indicated that schedule adherence, hold time, and talk time had all improved while the “not helpful” group was more likely to indicate those KPIs were the same or had declined.

KPI comparison of trained and untrained managers.

So, what’s happening here? Simply, those supervisors who had received useful instruction on how to bridge the physical gap with their teams indicated that they were outperforming those who were left to figure it out for themselves. Keep in mind these supervisors participated in the survey twelve months after they moved to working from home. It stands to reason that everyone should have gained the experience (re: “hard knocks”) they needed to excel in the work at home model, yet they didn’t. The physical gap isn’t something one necessarily bridges easily. We identified three critical success factors. They are:

  • Remote leaders are themselves fully adapted, and confidently operating, in the work at home model. They radiate the culture of the company.

  • Remote leaders are deliberate in their actions. They recognize it takes effort to do much of what was second nature in a physical office.

  • Remote leaders have a mindset more like “life coaches.” They understand how to lead teams based upon supporting and guiding each person as an individual.

We developed Leading Remote Teams to help leaders bridge the physical gap. The curriculum is based on our extensive study of front-line managers and staff (over 15,000 surveys fielded to date) and our broad research into work-at-home best practices. Positive feedback from hundreds of participants indicates that our meaningful work-based curriculum is on target.


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