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Solving Management’s Top Concerns About Moving to Remote / Flexible Workforces

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Perhaps the business world would have long ago have embraced the concept for flexible workforces and work styles in the office if management could have overcome their top concerns. Perhaps, in part, it is the convergence of improved technology combined with overcoming these concerns that today is moving organizations worldwide toward accepting alternative workplaces and varying ways of accomplishing profitable work tasks. Today we will investigate some of these concerns and their solutions.

Concern: People simply will not work the prescribed number of hours for which I am paying them.

Solution: In the flexible workplace, compensation must migrate toward goals accomplished equaling pay. Many jobs carry a base salary above which performance increases pay earned, including commission jobs like sales. Only management positions are expected to remain solely salary based in the future as more and more jobs will require performance to generate significant payroll.

By tying goals to pay, knowledge-based positions can be fairly compensated. One means of doing so is to establish a pay scale where percentage of sales is equal to actual compensation payment. Real estate sales have long been based on exactly this payment method: if a real estate agent sells a house or leases an office space for a client for $XX, some predefined portion of that client’s payment goes to create the sales agent’s income and that income may be paid from the buyer or seller’s payments, depending on the contract verbiage agreed upon. A method of logging into a computer system to signify starting work and signing out at day’s end may also make sense in some arenas where employee coverage is important.

To develop this type of pay structure, it is critical for management to understand the tasks they manage. This is easy if that manager who came up through the ranks of the industry managed but is much harder if there are no clear subtasks involved.

Also, what is the employee expected to pay for out of that compensation? Is a benefits package paid for by the employer? If so, that expense does not have to come out of the pocket of the employee and compensation can take this into consideration. If the employees must supply their own retirement plans, insurance, vacation down-time and other items frequently included in benefits packages, the compensation must be relatively higher. No employee in today’s professional market is going to be willing to pay for benefits out of pocket for traditional benefits; plus, today there is a penalty for failing to have basic insurance plans in some industries. Consider all aspects of the job critically such as who provides and pays for transportation, technology upgrades, internet and cell phone services and who benefits from these requirements. Then lay out a reasonable compensation package that keeps the staff on their toes to continually improve income levels.

Employers who have already transitioned to pay for performance find that the hours worked actually increase rather than become reduced just because management isn’t there to “manage by walking around”.

Concern: Employees won’t accept change readily.

Solution: Show employees what they are gaining as well as what they are giving up. Sure, there won’t be a window office with their name on the door any longer at the end of the tunnel, but the benefit of having more time with family in lieu of the commute hours is worth much more to many team members.  Give the team some time to come to grips with the pros and cons before making the transition. Let as many employees are possible provide feedback and take their input into strange consideration when establishing policy.

Concern: The change will lead to massive confusion and arguments over compensation.

Solution: This is one area where the employer is totally in control. If the design, documentation and deployment of the new compensation plan is clear, then these types of problems will not arise. You can expect some complaints from those non-performers that were overly compensated for too little goal achievement in the previous plan, but the rest of the staff will almost certain welcome the chance to shine.

Concern: Salaried staff members will rebel.

Solution: There should be few if any salaried or hourly staff members left on your team after full deployment of the new flexible workforce. Only the team members that provide support functions such as receptionists, secretaries, file clerks, and some management that make no sense to transition will remain at a flat rate of compensation.  The only managers that should remain are those that do not produce direct results and those should be truly few and far between. Give a little and provide some type of incentive pay for those team members that remain as part of the static workforce. Perhaps give a bonus for attendance or tie some portion of their work to pay in whatever way makes good sense.

Concern: I will no longer be in true control of my enterprise.

Solution: Invent some creative method of reporting and tracking metrics. You can’t manage what you can’t measure; that has long been known. Now, think of what you truly need to measure the work accomplished by your team in order to compensate them fairly. What goals can be accomplished as subprocesses to achieving a major goal? If your goal is closing a sale, does generate of a unique lead qualify as a major step in the process? You can’t tell unless you know what percentage of sales leads generate closed sales, now can you? Look into logical and concise measurements that define how much to pay each team member for each goal or subgoal accomplished. In some cases the entire assignment of a team member may be achievement of a subgoal. For example, some organizations employ staff members that have the sole goal of generating a new, uniquely qualified lead. If that is your case, then pay those people based on the unique leads they generate. If the sale closes, you might consider paying not only the closing salesperson but the lead generator as bonus since this proved to be a special lead. But that depends on your situation and business model. Choose wisely and your staff will be happy people who strive hard to make profits for the company -- and themselves as a result.

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By: James Osgood

Agile Workplace , Flexible Workspace , Office Hoteling , Office Space , Office Space Design

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