Addressing the five main challenges that come with a modern global workforce

By Elise Müller, VP People & Culture at Spryker.

As we all know, the pandemic turned many assumptions about the future of work upside down. Trends already in place were accelerated rapidly, as workers worldwide were suddenly all made to work at home.

Now that the pandemic has subsided, many organisations have remained working in a hybrid model. Many have gone even further and are now fully remote. Either way, a modern workforce is spread further out across the world than it has ever been.

This is exciting for both employer and employee, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Spryker has been fully remote since 2020 and can share the factors that have made this a successful change in approach.

Hybrid or fully remote?

Recent research by the CIPD, the UK’s professional body for HR and people development, found that 78% of employers allow hybrid working through either formal or informal arrangements. Hybrid working has continued post-pandemic, but are organisations missing a trick by not going fully remote?

Doing so means that employees can work from home, from a community hub, or, indeed, wherever they choose. Employers get to choose from the very best candidates for a role. Using location as a criterion for someone’s suitability seems archaic now. After all, what are the chances of the most suitable candidate for a job living within commuting distance? A modern workforce is a remote workforce.

The technology element of remote working is relatively straightforward. The tools and systems to facilitate remote working have been around for many years, so the challenges of the switch to homeworking are more cultural and logistical.

1. Understanding local market laws and requirements

Even the best People & Culture teams can’t understand the local employment laws in every country where they have employees. This makes it vital to call on the help of local third-party providers. Local needs refer not only to the individual needs of employees, which can often be assessed via personal conversations or surveys but also to the legal framework.

The use of Employer of Records (EORs) is also essential. These third-party organisations take care of all the labour challenges in a country - from drafting contracts and offering the right and market-driven employee benefits (especially healthcare) to labour and tax issues.

2. Addressing intercultural competence

A company's effect on others is already decided in the application process: the more international a company becomes, the more crucial intercultural competence becomes right from the start. This is an absolute must-have, especially for initial contacts in the application process, which is why managers should receive specialised training in this area.

In addition, central elements of the corporate culture can be introduced to each new employee in virtual onboarding. A gamification approach can work well here. Points are awarded for each completed module, which can be exchanged for additional benefits in the future.

3. Fostering togetherness and company spirit

Although fully remote working is highly beneficial, we have not abandoned real-world meetings. Nor will we ever do so – they are essential for understanding and togetherness.

Real-world team events and offsites, where everyone can interact and meet in person, foster and build a unified culture. That's because real conversations and discussions make it possible to understand employees' personal and cultural backgrounds better and get a feel for different team members away from video conferencing.

Scheduling such meetings – whether quarterly, annually or more frequently if feasible – brings people together, literally and figuratively.

4. Trusting that employees will get the job done

In some ways, this is the biggest shift in approach. Employers must trust their employees completely, or the remote working project will fail to get off the ground. By operating a flexible company culture, employees can decide how, when and from where they want to work. This means people can integrate work into their private life - not the other way around.

Unlimited vacation days are a strong example of this. It is vital to establish a minimum number of vacation days, but beyond that, people should be allowed to apply for as much vacation as they need. Approval is based on whether the employee's individual goals can still be achieved.

Typically, this is very effective. Because employees are trusted – and have been shown the written guidelines - they don't make unreasonable requests.

5. Understanding your people and culture

This is important for any organisation, irrespective of its approach to working. But with a distributed workforce, it is essential. How can you ensure that your distributed workforce is happy, focused and motivated?

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to do this. P&C teams use similar channels as salespeople – LinkedIn, Google ads, Facebook ads, etc. – so the same amount of time and innovation in campaigning are now needed. As salespeople do, P&C must use and act on the data swiftly. What channel is the best performing? Where do you have the best retention?

If you review your P&C metrics, then you understand what is happening with your employees and can take the steps required to address issues or make improvements.

A fully remote workforce probably still feels unusual to employers used to more traditional approaches. But the benefits are vast, and such an approach provides far greater work/life

balance and fits the requirements of modern workers much better. As long as organisations can meet the cultural and logistical challenges, then fully remote is very much the future of work.

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