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Talent

Supporting a Neurodiverse Workforce – Remotely

By | Education, Future of Work, HR, Human Centered Design, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture

Every workforce is neurodiverse; in fact, about 1 in 5 people in your workplace live with Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia and other neurological conditions. This means they might have different communication forms, strengths and characteristics to everyone else. However, it is increasingly accepted that having a neurodiverse workforce provides increased capacity for innovation, productivity and overall employee wellbeing.

How can your organisation capitalise on the benefits of remote neurodiverse employees? To find out, DY/DX has partnered with Dr Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions; a tech-for-good company, who have developed tools and apps to support neurodiverse children and adults. Recently retired as a professor at the University of South Wales, Dr Amanda Kirby has lectured to more than 100,000 individuals worldwide, written over 100 research papers and 9 books which have been translated into more than 5 languages.

 

What does working remotely mean for a neurodiverse individual?

Working remotely for neurodiverse individuals can be advantageous because it often provides the opportunity for the neurodiverse employee to choose the best environment for them to work in. For some neurodiverse people, this might mean working with music in the background, while for others it might mean having sound off and headphones on. It may be that in a virtual meeting one can walk around, or use text-to-speech tools and technology if needed. It allows the neurodiverse employee to have the environment that is best conducive for them to work optimally.

 

What are the characteristics of a supportive neurodiverse work environment?

A supportive neurodiverse environment is one that is inclusive – the hiring, onboarding and line management is done in an inclusive manner and one which optimises the performance of the whole team. It means that the workplace is also accessible; that neurodiversity is not an add-on but rather built into the fabric of the organisation.

You know you are moving toward a supportive environment once you are able to ask the questions: “how can I support you?”, “are there any barriers to you being successful?”, “what are your needs and skills gaps?” to all your team members – but you’d do it in a way that uses effective communication methods learned through awareness training. Then you’re actually being truly inclusive and it isn’t a mere tick-box or once-off exercise.

 

Is there anything remote teams or remote team managers should avoid doing?

One key thing for remote team managers to avoid is making assumptions based on an individual’s label. For instance, assuming that people who are autistic are good at IT, or people who are ADHD are very creative. This means you limit your understanding of that individual and it can lead to incorrect biases. The second key point is for managers to measure and check on their own conscious and unconscious biases.

Assumptions can be avoided by being person-centred. Understanding your team as a whole and embracing diversity within your team, means you will naturally have better productivity and employee wellbeing.

It’s also important for organisations to be wary of one-off exercises such as “this year we’re doing inclusion, next year we’re doing LGBTQ+ and the year after that we’re doing diversity.” Neurodiversity is everyone and should be ingrained in your whole processes because that’s when improved productivity and wellbeing take place.

 

What should be included in a working agreement to support neurodiverse employees?

Nothing that shouldn’t be included in a comprehensive working agreement for all employees. However, the way the agreement is formed, the way information is gathered and the way the questions are asked will make all the difference.

We often communicate in the way that we prefer because that’s our style. If you have become a successful manager, you might continue to use your set style of communication, unaware that some people find that method difficult to understand, comprehend or engage with. So, we need to question our own communication style in order to lead better.

By crafting a working agreement in an inclusive manner and understanding the different forms of communication, you can create a supportive environment for everyone, including those neurodiverse employees. Reviewing this regularly is also important.

 

What is the biggest barrier to support for neurodiverse employees?

The biggest barrier is understanding and awareness. I think there is still the idea in some camps that neurodiversity means autism – which it doesn’t. There is sometimes an oversimplsitc approach to awareness; and organisations believe if they understand what autism is and what ADHD is that they understand the strategy or approach to neurodiversity. However, this isn’t the case and often means organisations move away from the fundamental goal of understanding the person in the context of their work and home life.

Another barrier is the term ‘disclosure’. Sometimes employers say “why didn’t they tell me?”. First of all, many adults don’t have a diagnosis. They may have grown up recognising that they have differences in the way they communicate, be it written or oral forms, or they find certain tasks more challenging; but they may not have the words or the confidence to say “I am dyslexic” or “I am autistic”.

Secondly, the term disclosure has the connotation of ‘revealing’, like revealing secrets. Some people may feel shame; and when they have revealed this information before they have not had positive experiences. If someone has to tick a box to reveal themselves, they might be reticent or apprehensive to give this information.

At the heart of neurodiversity is everyone; so if you’re asking everyone “how can we best support you” then you are more likely to get the appropriate answer without those biases.

 

Specifically regarding remote communication, what are some of the considerations employers and teams should have for neurodiverse colleagues?

We have to have the same recommendations for someone who is neurodivergent that we do for the team as a whole. Because actually, the most important thing is that the whole team communicates effectively together. It requires an understanding of how each member communicates and this may differ from task to task or project to project to project.

High performing teams take into consideration the neurodiversity of the whole team. Offering a range of ways of communicating, without saying “this way is right or wrong” means the whole team works and communicates in an effective manner. And it’s when teams don’t do this that problems and misunderstandings arise.

 

How does neurodiversity give organisations an edge?

There are a number of ways neurodiversity can benefit an organisation. First of all, you have neurodiverse people in your organisation already; and you may be losing talent because their wellbeing and productivity are not supported appropriately. They may feel misunderstood or not heard or listened to.

By embracing neurodiversity, you’ll be seen as a ‘good’ organisation and enviable place to work, and you are going to attract new talent that you wouldn’t otherwise attract without inclusive processes and procedures. You will also likely see an uptick in productivity. We know that people who are neurodivergent take less sick days, that they are often very reliable employees.

You also don’t know who isn’t applying for your jobs. By having your hiring, recruitment and management approaches be inclusive, you might attract new and innovative talent.

Where does one start to become inclusive?

Some basic awareness which needs to be driven from the top down. There also needs to be buy-in from all levels of the business that this is worth it, something which is good for business, employees and customers.

Once you have that, you can put in a D and I policy that becomes ingrained in everything you do. And then you need to look at your recruitment, retention policies and provide line managers with training not to become experts in Dyslexia, ADHD and Autism because otherwise they need to be experts in epilepsy, Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, too. Sometimes this is a barrier because a manager can feel like they’re not expert enough to handle a sensitive situation.

It’s important your employees know where to go for this supporting information. In large businesses it means having someone in your business that is a little more informed and that person might be in HR or in Diversity and Inclusion. 

Remote Hiring For Cultural Fit | Meeting Formula

By | HR, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture

Cultural fit interviews are used to single out candidates whose values, beliefs and behaviours fit in with your company’s culture. Seeing as you are often unable to meet remote employees face-to-face, a culture fit interview can go a long way to indicate how well a candidate might fit in with your staff members. 

What is the goal of this meeting?

Clearly reach consensus on which remote candidate to hire based on developed criteria.

What tools will I need for this meeting?

Video conferencing tool and a collaboration platform which supports stickies.

How much time should I set aside?

You will need about 45 mins – 1 hour to complete this session.

Who should be there?

4 – 8 staff members from different departments, selected at random or by their availability to attend.

 

 

MEETING AGENDA

Timing

Title of Session

Description

5 min

Check-in

The meeting facilitator sets the scene for what will be done in the session. This includes an introduction – each staff member introduces themselves to the candidate and reveals the reason behind their Zoom background choice.

5 min

Either-Or

The candidate chooses one of two options in a series of three questions.

10 min

Deep and Meaningful

Each staff member asks the candidate one deep and meaningful question.

5 min

Turn The Tables

Candidate gets to ask the participants any questions they have. 

15 min

Candidate Scoring

The team gives the candidate a score after the interview.

5 minClosing

Finishing comments and remarks to be discussed

 

Check-In | 5 Minute Discussion

As part of the information you send out in your meeting request, ask that each of the participants set a virtual background to the theme of “Where I would Rather Be”. You can do this in Google Meet, Zoom or Teams. As each participant introduces themselves, they have a chance to elaborate on their choice of location.

Either-Or | 5-minute discussion

Taking your company culture, quirks and inside jokes into account, compile three ‘either-or’ type questions and ask the candidate to choose their preference between the two. For our example, we’re asking candidates to choose between: sunrises or sunsets; pandas or racoons; pirates or the Navy.

The candidate can reveal their answers and can discuss their choices and the background of the questions with the participants.

Deep & Meaningful Questions | 10 Minute Discussion

Prior to the meeting, ask each participant to input one ‘deep and meaningful’ question into the culture fit slide deck. The idea is that these questions should not relate to work, but should rather try to get a sense of who the interviewee is. The candidate can then choose questions at random to answer. You could also ask the candidate to guess which participant posed each question before they answer it.

Turn the Tables | 5 Minute Discussion

Allow the candidate a few minutes to ask the participants any questions they may have around the company culture and what it’s like to work with you. 

Once you’re done, thank the candidate for their time and allow the participants to say goodbye. The participants stay on the call as the candidate leaves so they can score the candidate. 

Candidate Scoring | 10 Minutes Silence

Using predefined criteria, the participants can vote on which candidate they think is the best fit for the organisation. For this example we’ve used three guiding questions: Would the candidate enjoy working here?; Would you hang out with the candidate after work?; and Would you have the candidate on your team? A simple scoring mechanism using Google Excel works well to manage the candidate’s scores.

Each participant takes a few minutes to rate and score the candidate. Once each candidate has been interviewed and scored, you can clearly see the candidate best suited to company culture.


Closing | 5 minutes

Thank the participants for their time and involvement, and draw the meeting to a close. 

Hiring For Agile Work Environments

By | HR, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture | No Comments

The current world of work is an environment of perpetual disruption with a high pace of change in all aspects of business, from technology to consumer behaviour. This means it is ever more important for employers to rethink their hiring process to successfully identify and attract talent that is highly adaptable and open to learning new skills. 

Team leaders now have the challenging task, during interviews, of asking the right questions to reveal which candidates are best suited to fast-paced and agile work environments. 

Candidate Selection Criteria

 

We have found that there are certain traits or characteristics which are common across high-performing agile workers. Seeking these characteristics out in your new team hires may help to ensure that you’re securing the best possible candidate. It’s useful to create an interview form containing your questions which could be filled in by those in the hiring process and used as a template for interviews going forward. For this example, we have used Google Forms.

When you’re looking for talent, keep the following criteria in mind:

1.  A WILLINGNESS TO LEARN:

Workers who want to do things the way they have always been done will often find remote work challenging, especially with emerging technologies. That’s why a desire and willingness to learn is a prized remote working soft skill. Whether the candidate will need to learn a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, adopt a set of new company policies, or tackle another new task, their willingness to learn is a highly valued commodity.

What To Ask:

  • Tell me about a risk you took and failed. What did you learn?
  • What can you do today that you couldn’t do 6 months ago?
  • When last did you take a course?
  • Describe a situation where you were asked to do something you’ve never done before.

What To Look For:
A candidate who has volunteered for stretch-tasks in their roles or who have decidedly taken on a task outside of their comfort zone in order to grow. A willingness to embrace new technologies as well as a candidate who has sought out mentorship are also good examples. 

 

2. A WILLINGNESS TO WORK IN A TEAM:

Having the skill set to collaborate with team members on projects is vital for any team, but especially remote ones. Whether you’re creating a new campaign or launching a new product, how a candidate works with others gives you an idea of what it’s like to have them as an employee and co-worker. Because the candidate will only have the internet to communicate with their peers and complete work tasks, they must possess the skills to work with others efficiently. If they struggle with this, remote work may not be for them.

What To Ask:

  • Have you ever worked on several small teams at once?
  • Have you ever disagreed with your manager? How did you deal with it? 
  • What does it mean to you to be a team player? 
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with a colleague that you didn’t get along with.

What To Look For:
A candidate with the ability to communicate well, actively listen and respond honestly will do well working as part of a team. Empathy and awareness of others are also qualities of a good team player. 

 

3. AN ABILITY TO SELF-MANAGE:

Is the candidate sufficiently self-motivated or self-disciplined? Can they manage time effectively? Working remotely means that work/life boundaries can get blurred and this can make it challenging to effectively manage time. When building a remote team, look for an independent worker who’s responsible for managing their time and setting clear boundaries between deep work and shallow tasks. If someone is consistently late, isn’t good at tracking the time, or is unable to communicate clear boundaries, remote work likely isn’t for them.

What To Ask:

  • What is your preferred management style?
  • What do you when you sense a task is going to take longer than expected? 
  • When you had extra time available at your last job, describe ways you found to make your job more efficient.
  • How do you keep yourself motivated when you experience a setback on the way to achieve your goal?

What To Look For:
A candidate who arrives on time and is well prepared for the interview. This may mean the candidate has downloaded the appropriate meeting app ahead of time, is dressed appropriately for the virtual interview, has a professional background or home-working space, and one who has prepared questions about the organisation.

 

4. A POSITIVE DISPOSITION:

When teams are motivated and positive, they accomplish more and they also have fun being a part of the team. A positive attitude and disposition can go a long way to successfully meeting some of the challenges of working remotely. Several studies have shown that happy, content, positive thinking people are more successful in their careers, more creative and work well with other people.

What To Ask:

  • Tell me about a situation when you dealt with conflict in the workplace remotely.
  • Have you ever felt that your skills were being overlooked? What did you do to improve the situation?
  • What’s the toughest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
  • How do you handle negative feedback?

What To Look For:
A candidate who shows enthusiasm for working with your organisation, who asks genuine questions about the role and the work. A candidate who does not badmouth previous employers, but rather provides a forward-looking and positive review of their past experiences.

 

5. ABILITY TO HANDLE WORKING REMOTELY:

According to the 2020 State of Remote Work Report 20% of remote workers say they struggle with loneliness. A successful candidate will need to be happy and comfortable working on their own and motivating themselves to do so. When hiring a remote employee, look for a self-starter; someone with the confidence to make key decisions on their own.

What To Ask:

  • How much of your social life comes from work?
  • Where do you feel you are most productive? 
  • Have you ever worked remotely? What were some of the challenges you faced?
  • Why do you want to work from home?

What To Look For:
A self-motivated and technology savvy candidate who does not derive a huge portion of their social lives from work. One who can manage flexible work hours to accommodate overseas colleagues and who feels productive working from anywhere.

 

RANKING YOUR CANDIDATES

 

Using your candidate criteria and the candidate’s interview answers to the assessment questions, you can vote on which candidate you think is best. It is mostly likely that a manager or direct line of report, an HR representative and a senior manager will each cast their vote on the candidates. 

A simple scoring mechanism using Google Excel works well to manage the candidate’s scores. 


At the end of each interview, the key decision-makers give each candidate a score out of 25. In this example, 1 = no ability/willingness; 2 = not a strong enough ability/willingness; 4 = a promising ability/willingness; and 5 = a strong ability/willingness. The highest scoring candidate indicates the best performing candidate.

 

Watch: dY/dX Partner Templar Wales on SABC News: COVID-19 and Remote Working

By | 4IR, Future of Work, HR, In the news, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture | No Comments

COVID-19 has initiated huge shifts in our ways of working and accelerated the process of digital transformation. Many businesses have had to reevaluate their systems and processes to adapt.

Do these changes signal a new era of work? Will remote working become the new norm? How do businesses who have recently moved online keep company culture alive?

Answering these questions and more on SABC News was dY/dX Partner, Templar Wales:

Transcript for Video:

SABC Reporter:
Researchers, businesses and innovators around the world are putting technology to work to alleviate the effects of the global COVID-19 health crisis. Advancements in technology and social media apps are playing an important part in limiting the loss of life caused by this pandemic.

Templar Wales is an expert on improving meetings, interactions and workspaces using technology. Templar now joins me via skype for more on this discussion. As a start, I read an article this week that was saying that productivity is actually on the rise while people are working from home and using technology to enable them to work from home. What do you make of that? Is that surprising? I know people like myself need an actual office to work from – I’m definitely not as productive when I’m at home.

Templar:
There’s definitely mixed feedback. A lot of people are becoming more productive because they aren’t sitting in traffic for two hours a day, they are at their desks for a lot longer and there are fewer interruptions – so for a lot of people, they are more productive. The opposite is also true – a lot of people are finding that they are having too many Skype and Zoom calls. There’s a thing called Zoom Fatigue, which is very real – it’s draining and exhausting and they might not be as productive as they usually would be.

SABC Reporter:
It’s great to have all this technology and the fact that you and I can interact like this, instead of you being here in the studio, sitting here in front of me. But I wonder about human interaction – there is always a pro and con to everything, and I tend to worry about the fact that this isn’t very personal. It’s so impersonal to be having these kinds of interactions and not physically seeing people.

Templar:
It’s true to a certain degree. For a lot of people, they may feel more comfortable not having to go out and physically be in front of a room full of people. If you’re having a meeting with 25 or 30 people, in a way, a lot of introverts might feel more comfortable this way. But you definitely lose the non-verbal communication – the ability to pick up on people’s body language.

SABC Reporter:
Do you think companies will see this, moving forward, as a cost-cutting measure – in terms of not having to rent out office space; not having to pay big prices to have corner offices in some peak area in Johannesburg, for example, because you’re going to have less people coming into the office. Do you think that some companies are sitting back and going, “Hey – we might be able to cut costs with these Skype meetings and MS Teams platform that we’re now getting used to.”

Templar:
Absolutely, I think that there’s a bit of both. I think we are going to go through a transition phase, where you do have people saving on rent and travel costs. But, for a while, those costs will be moved into paying for people’s bandwidth at home, paying for additional equipment and slowly getting out of rental agreements – perhaps they will only be needing space for 50% or 75% of their workforce, rather than their full workforce. There has been a growing trend of remote working, and this is a pushback trend moving forward – I think that a lot of the work of the future behaviour has been accelerated and will not go back. From an economic point of view, a lot of people are being pushed out of their secure work and are entering the gig economy and working from home so that they’re working for 2 or 3 different clients as well.

SABC Reporter:
You mentioned the fact that for introverts this might be a great thing, but how can companies use technology to strengthen company culture? Usually you would have something like team building… How do you enforce that kind of thing when we’re social distancing and aren’t really seeing each other. Is it possible for companies to use technology in some ways and how?

Templar:
So that’s a very interesting thing that we talk about internally quite a lot. For a long time, culture has been this thing that CEOs are driving for, but in reality, culture is built on behaviour. So it’s actually a behaviour that we are trying to instil. So if you’ve got a team, it’s important to agree, as a team, what that behaviour is, what is your common purpose, what are you aiming towards, what are the outcomes going to be – plan with the team what the tools and behaviours are going to be. You’ve got diverse people within a team, so how do you make sure that all of their cultures, history and behaviour is included in that team culture that is then formed? Then build your tools around that; build your technology around what you’re trying to achieve as a team and what you’ve agreed upon as your team norms – that will govern your behaviour which will build your culture.

Listen: dY/dX Partner Nevo Hadas Talks on SAFM – The Future of Work

By | #COVID19, 4IR, Future of Work, HR, In the news, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture | No Comments

It is no longer a question of if the Fourth Industrial Revolution will change our ways of working, but when. The answer might be sooner than you think – COVID-19 has already ushered in a new era of digital transformation. While the pandemic has provided a global impetus for working remotely and many businesses are restructuring to move their systems and processes online, traditional employment structures and contracts will start changing, opening up a world of new opportunities for both employers and employees.

Nevo Hadas, dY/dX partner, speaks on SAFM to explain what businesses can expect and how to prepare for the coming changes.

 

Transcript


Songezo Mabece:
Nevo Hadas, partner at dY/dX, a digital transformation company – we’re in conversation with you this evening because we need to talk about something which makes a lot of senior employees somewhat uncomfortable – engaging technology and how companies themselves are not necessarily moving with the times. COVID has forced the agenda of working remotely and increasing the use of technology, and all of that speaks favourably to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What is your response to that?

Nevo Hadas:
I think it’s spot on. What we’ve seen is a massive and rapid shift for companies and society to move into remote work. It’s left a lot of companies, and especially managers and leaders, in a very uncomfortable position because they have no skills and haven’t been trained in how to manage and lead people that aren’t at the office. I think it has impacted many businesses as you said.

Songezo Mabece:
What should be the process or protocol that companies employ? How much of my own personal equipment is supposed to now suddenly be work equipment? What responsibilities does the employer have to provide me with this infrastructure at home? I understand it could be costly, for instance, I’m a lawyer – if we were working in a legal environment the turnover for paper would be astronomical. You would need a printer. Sometimes you would need a colour printer when you engage graphs and colour diagrams. What balance, if any, can be struck between the expenses in relation to fulfilling one’s obligations as the employer and employee?

Nevo Hadas
I think that’s a great example. I’m going to first use the example, then I’ll answer the question of who takes on this cost, and what the future of work looks like in an employer and employee relationship. We have a lot of solutions in the office – things that we use and that we do every day that are actually solving a problem that doesn’t exist in a digitized world. So for example, the issue of printing – one of our clients was working quite effectively running radio stations, where they have a traffic department who needed printer desperately. This was one of the key requirements of this department – they would print out documents to see which ads were running where and track their performance and results on paper, just like you as a lawyer – and still, they were forced out of the office. Suddenly paper wasn’t a critical requirement because they worked out ways to work without paper, and everything became digital. A similar thing will happen to the legal profession; the idea of a physically signed contract will shift into digitally signed contracts, and those contracts will become more accepted. So what you find is the requirements that we had before, for things like paper, were actually habits that we’ve developed from working in an office-based environment, and once we move out of the office, we find new solutions that get
rid of those problems.

What that means from an employer-employee perspective, talking about who is responsible for certain costs – what you’ll see is generally a progression, especially for the digital-first or remote working companies. The traditional structure of an employment contract which is a nine-to-five – you’ll be at the office at 9 and go home at 5, and all the time between those two periods belongs to me, as the employer… That really starts shifting because suddenly, I don’t know if you’re at your desk from 9 to 5 and I lose control over that period of time. Before, a lot of our contractual and behavioural components came out of the industrial age and a sense of geographic proximity. Location ruled the work environment and employers wanted everyone in the office at one time so that they could maintain control, communicate and do everything they needed to do. But now, I can’t see you and you could be anywhere – I have to move, as an employer and as a manager, to output-based performance. I have to look at what you’re actually achieving. And once it all moves towards output-based performance, I don’t actually have to care how many hours you work and whether you’re working from 9 to 5, as long as the job is done and done well. That dramatically breaks this whole traditional idea of employment. So now people are moving towards flexible employment and Flexitime. The exciting thing for employees is they get more of their life back, they should get more control over what they do with their days, yet still, be able to be employed and produce good work.

Songezo Mabece:
On that, it does assume certain things. Some of those things which were not necessarily part of the discussion are now becoming a reality. If we look at the elder generation – it’s enough for them to open the laptop, press the button and start the computer… Then they click on Outlook, Microsoft Word or whatever system they use, and that for them is as much training as they would have needed in interfacing with the infrastructure for the purposes of doing their work. If there was a problem, they’d simply call someone. Now, all of that is taken away because one has to work on their computer at home. Now there are Zoom and Skype meetings and they are forced to be very conversant with this technology, which they didn’t have two or three months ago. Now they have had to have a crash course and learn as they go. This poses challenges to the workplace. And again, whose responsibility is it? I would assume I have to take the initiative but at the end of the day, it can be costing me money to perform my work, which for the most part, was supposed to be something traditionally provided by the employer.

Nevo Hadas:
I think there you’ve got a very good point – this transition from the way that work was, to the rapid new world, is the employer’s responsibility. If you’ve come into the contract and you’re already a remote worker, that’s one thing, because you’ve got your laptop, you’ve got your input manufacturing costs, and that’s part of your agreements with your employer. But if you’re a traditional employee and you’re seeing the shift, then definitely – it’s actually in the employer’s interest to help you transition into this new world.

We’ve recently been doing a whole range of assessments for companies and we’ve been breaking it into two concepts – the one is ‘Company Remote Readiness’ and the other is ‘Team Remote Working Maturity’. We’ve been doing this to get a sense of whether these companies are ready for their people to work remotely. In other words, if somebody has a laptop, then it’s great, they can take it home. But a lot of companies don’t have that. They have PCs, for example, in which case you can’t do your job from home. So those companies can’t even transition effectively to remote working. For those companies to be more effective in the future and actually get the benefits of remote working, they need to invest in training their staff from the bottom to the top, in how to adapt to this new way of working. A lot of this training, especially for senior managers is about loss; it’s about what behaviours they have lost by moving into remote work. They will no longer get to walk into the office and greet people – they lose that sense of comfort from having people around. Your traditional ways of management aren’t there anymore, so there’s a big sense of loss for managers, as well as employees, in this whole transition.

Songezo Mabece:
This has me thinking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution; South Africa was talking about it quite a lot, leading up to COVID. Job threats, job security, the advent of technology; we now know we can, in many respects, continue running an economy working off-site. Does this not accelerate, or should it not accelerate, the Fourth Industrial Revolution agenda altogether?

Nevo Hadas:
It 100% accelerates the Fourth Industrial Revolution agenda. Guaranteed. A lot of companies that we worked with were debating whether or not they should be allowing people to work from home, and discussing how to do that – and then COVID happened and they had to start working from home. A lot of those debates have ended and that’s bringing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

From a jobs perspective, there are two ways to look at it. If you have a high paying job or are fortunate enough to be in the IT sector, remote working sector or if you’re a knowledge worker, you don’t have to live in a big city anymore, you can live in a small city. This is a massive trend now. This is happening at the top global companies like Facebook. Even in our own business, we’ve had some of our team members saying, “I’m going to go live on a farm for three months.” Which is fine, it doesn’t make a difference. What’s interesting for me, is that it allows South African companies to compete globally without needing to have offices all around the world. Suddenly, it’s acceptable for you to not be there face-to-face with the customer to provide services and products. Suddenly, you don’t need offices in Europe, London, New Zealand or wherever to be a global business. This will hopefully help a lot of companies shift – to realize that you don’t need those big capital costs to expand. That could boost South African jobs and would also hopefully bring a lot of employment demand to South Africa, where we still have lower costs of employees when compared globally, but we also have very strong talent and very smart people. So yes, there is the risk, but I think there are also lots of opportunities if people are willing to grasp them and to see the glass as half full.

Meeting formulae Marketing Optimisation

Meeting Formula | Marketing Campaign Optimisation

By | Agile Marketing, Future of Work, HR, Productivity, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture | No Comments

To improve their effectiveness and profitability, all marketing campaigns should be continuously optimised; taking into account new changes to your business environment and target audience behaviour. Using the power of collaboration, this meeting formula is designed to help your team supercharge your marketing campaigns.

What is the goal of this meeting?

Develop clear and prioritised actions – agreed upon by our remote team – to drive marketing campaign optimisation.

What tools will I need for this meeting?

Web conferencing tool and a collaboration platform that supports stickies and voting.

How much time should I set aside?

You will need about 1–1.5 hours to complete this session.

MEETING AGENDA

  • 5 min | Check-in – The meeting facilitator sets the scene for what will be done in the session. This includes:
    • Define the problem – where do we want to be?
    • Define the constraints – what do we have to work within?
  • 10 min | Current stats and Performance – using a dashboard snapshot, team members share ideas on stickies to define areas of improvement.
  • 10 min | Brainstorm – team brainstorms optimisation ideas on the collaborative platform, adding multiple ideas to stickies silently.
  • 15 min | Affinity Sorting – cluster ideas into prefered strategies and discuss as a group.
  • 10 min | Best Actions – prioritise within resources, budget, timeline and other defined constraints. Scoring will take place within the collaboration tool silently.
  • 15 min | Delegation – using a tasking platform or a table, define who does what and by when.
  • 5 min | Closing

It’s a good idea to share information ahead of time; such as the meeting agenda, any pre-reading material, and the link to the collaboration tools you will be using in your session. For this example, we have used Google Slides as our collaboration tool.

PROBLEM + CONSTRAINTS | 5 minutes

As the meeting facilitator, welcome everyone, thank them for participating and then briefly discuss the intended outcomes for this meeting. At the start of your meeting, provide a brief overview of the campaign’s ‘problem’ as well as the constraints you have to work within. In this example, the challenge to be solved is how to increase email conversion rates. The constraints are limited budget and design resources. This should be covered in the check-in phase and should not take longer than 5minutes cover.

Formula Campaign Optimisation

CURRENT STATS & PERFORMANCE | 10 minutes 

Once your team understands your campaign optimisation goal, the next step is to look at current campaign performance. No matter your campaign type, it is likely you will have a digital dashboard displaying your campaign’s performance statistics. 

Include a screenshot of your campaign dashboard in your meeting presentation; however, if you do not have a dashboard, you can simply list your current campaign metrics in a table, or share your analytics dashboard.

This information should ideally be shared with your team ahead of time so they are familiar with the data and can spend this time in the meeting asking questions and adding insights to the raw data.

CURRENT STATS & PERFORMANCE

BRAINSTORM IDEAS | 10 minutes (silence) 

Now the team is familiar with the campaign challenge and the team’s constraints, you can brainstorm together to find new ways for improving or optimising your campaign. Prepare a slide with blank “stickies” or text-box shapes people can type in. Your team will use these stickies to input their ideas.

BRAINSTORM IDEAS

At this point, it’s a good idea to ask your team to go on mute and allow 10minutes of silence while they populate the slide’s stickies with their ideas. The first time your team brainstorm their ideas like this, it is natural for them to be hesitant. Even if the first few minutes are an awkward silence, keep it going while your team warms up to the concept.

how to improve

AFFINITY SORTING | 15 minutes 

The next step is to cluster your team’s ideas into prefered strategies. It’s likely your team will have ideas which overlap. It is also likely some ideas need a bit more explaining. Commit 15 minutes for a discussion aimed at sorting all the ideas into clusters of similar concepts or similar actions. It’s also helpful to provide a brief concept description once your team has grouped their ideas together.

BEST ACTIONS | 10 minutes (silence)
The idea clusters now need to be evaluated for 1) their strength and 2) against your constraints. A simple voting mechanism in Google Sheets works well for this. Set up the voting sheet ahead of the meeting so all you need to do is input the names of the ideas. Share the link to the sheet in your meeting chat so everyone can score the ideas at once. The process should be silent and not take longer than 10minutes to score.

BEST ACTIONS

First, the team first votes on their preferred idea based on the strength of the idea and how well it meets the challenge. Next, the team scores the ideas based on the constraints discussed at the start of the meeting.

Best Actions

 

The highest scoring idea takes priority, and the others follow. It is also likely some ideas will not make it past this slide phase as very low scoring ideas should possibly not be acted on. 

Once your whole team has voted, you can easily work out which idea scored the highest and then sort the ideas by their priority.

DELEGATE | 15 minutes 

Your team should have a clear idea of where to start so it’s time to assign actions to your team members. This should be done directly into your task management system. If your team is not using one, you can use a simple table to assign the actions to your team. Be sure to include who does what and by when.

CLOSING | 5 minutes
Confirm team commitments by making sure each next step is clear, assigned to a

committed owner, and has a reasonable due date. Ask if anyone has final questions or comments. And finally, acknowledge your team’s participation and express gratitude for special contributions.

Remote-Ready or At Risk?

By | Future of Work, HR, Productivity, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture | No Comments

When done right, remote working boosts overall effectiveness and provides businesses with tangible cost-saving advantages. If teams fail to adapt, companies run the risk of losing productivity and revenue, and the collapse of company culture and employee engagement. It is ever more important to understand where your team is in their remote working journey and to take the necessary steps to support a remote workforce.

If It Can Be Measured, It Can Be Managed

Change can be overwhelming, but adapting your company policies to reflect the demands of the modern workforce is necessary to keep up with the future world of work. Through our experience in Culture and the Future of Work, we have learned that it’s not as simple as being remote-ready or not; and there’s a chance your team is not as effective remotely as it needs to be. 

Experience has shown us that companies go through various stages on route to remote working effectiveness. If you are able to identify and measure what stage your team is at, you can take the necessary course-corrective actions to shift your team toward remote working maturity.

Remote Working Maturity Stages

Remote Working Maturity Stages

 

TAKE THE ASSESSMENT

Read more about the assessment

Remote Team Maturity Assessment

Working remotely can hold greater value and business benefits than a typical office environment. We’re driven to be a change agent in the workplace and an ally in amplifying remote team strengths. 

That’s why we created the Remote Team Maturity assessment. Built on years of experience and research in the future world of work, it evaluates your team around 6 areas of work and against traits and actions found among the most effective remote teams. The assessment takes no longer than 10 minutes and is a simple, yet powerful way to benchmark your team’s remote maturity and effectiveness. Discover how your team measures up and gain the insight you need to take immediate action to help your remote team thrive.

We have also developed “The Culture Canvas”—an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours—as well as our latest ebook “me.we.us – Remote Team Management”, which is available for free download. 

Guillaume de Smedt

Mastering Remote Work: Startup Grind Interview with Guillaume de Smedt

By | Digital Transformation, Future of Work, HR, Recent Posts, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture | No Comments

While many businesses have opened up to the world of remote working, the burning question is: are they doing so effectively? We have noticed a growing desire for expert advice from business leaders who’ve been mastering remote work. We spoke to Guillaume de Smedt, VP of Community for Silicon Valley-based Startup Grind, for his insights on successfully managing a remote workforce. 

Startup Grind is the world’s largest community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. They bring like-minded and diverse individuals together to connect, learn, teach, help, build, and belong. They do this daily through local events, flagship conferences, startup programs, online events, partnerships, and online media and content ‒ collectively reaching over 2.5 million individuals worldwide.

Guillaume oversees the global community for Startup Grind across more than 600 cities around the world, ensuring those cities are hosting events and doing what they do best. Currently managing a team of 6 full-time staff and 600 volunteers based in global corners from Beijing to the USA. Guillaume has years of experience in leading, and working with, virtual teams around the world. 

Q: You’ve been working remotely for quite some time, what’s your secret?

A: It isn’t really a secret but I would say it’s that I am constantly learning. At Startup Grind, we also use technology to automate a lot of our processes, and we use processes to ensure the work gets done on time. But really I think success will come from these three things: 

  1. Hire the right people: I usually hire people from within the global Startup Grind community; but if you don’t have access to a talent pool like I do, I would say it’s important to look for certain attributes in the people you hire for remote work: Are they willing to learn? Are they willing to work together in a team, and across different time-zones? Are they self-motivated or self-disciplined and can manage time effectively? Do they have a positive disposition? Are they able to handle working remotely and the solitude that can come with that? Because remote working is not for everyone. 
  2. Onboard them correctly: Give new starters clear tasks, clear training on systems, and have a repository (like Google Sites or Suite) where people can find information quickly. When new people come on board or join our team, we assign them a digital buddy ‒ someone in the same time zone ‒ to help get the new person set up. 
  3. Use a project management system that works for your specific team:  Take advice from all sources, but then distil the information and use what is suitable for your own team – don’t feel pressured into doing what others do, but do what is best for your circumstances. Whatever you choose to use, it’s preferable that the entire company is using the same system (from a budget, transparency and simplicity standpoint). 

Q: Do you have an agreement in place ‒ for your team or company ‒ around working together remotely?

A: Yes, we have a company document that is sent as part of our onboarding process which has things like when you’re expected to work or to be online for international team calls, how to get set up for remote work in your home office, how to access data and set up a Google Site, and so on. It could be more detailed but the document actually took us years to put together through our experience and trial and error. That’s one cool thing about DYDX’s remote work ebook is that it has templates and formulas which are a really great start for a team or company just starting out.

Q: What’s your top tip for remote team managers?

A: It’s not about the time behind the keyboard, but rather the output of the job. If a team member wants to watch a movie on Netflix or go for a surf half-way through the day, we don’t discourage them. It doesn’t matter how a team member manages their time, as long as the work is delivered on time and we’re happy with the quality. The second bit of important advice would be: delegate your tasks properly and make sure the correct people are doing the right tasks. 

Q: How do you make sure the correct people are doing the right tasks?

A: Many teams use productivity tools like Monday.com, Trello.com or Airtable.com, and there are so many suitable tools out there. But as amazing as these tools are, you have to spend time updating the data on them. Unless the whole team is consistently doing this, the tool just won’t work for you. That’s why we predominantly only update our tools (and tasks) in meetings. 

Every Monday we have a team call and we spend the first 15 minutes going through the points the team has raised. Each team member puts on the project list what they want to talk about before the weekly stand-up. We then look at the tasks for that week and delegate and update them right there and then on our project management tool (we use Airtable (due to api’s), however notion.so is another good one to look at). Then we look at last week’s tasks: if anything from last week is incomplete, we move it to this week’s task list. 

This way we can see last week and what was achieved, as well as this week’s upcoming tasks. 

And not only do I know what my team is working on, but everyone else in the company knows, too. 

Q: How do you effectively manage your time?

A: I also use WorkFlowy, it’s my favourite tool for keeping my personal to-dos up to date. Regarding emails, I will only mark it as read if I can action it.. This also shapes how other people in my team send me emails ‒ they put the action point right upfront.

Q: Is there anything that your team regularly does together online to make you all feel part of the same team?

A. I think human interaction is so important ‒ especially in remote teams. Because our team is so spread out all over the world with different time-zones, we don’t do a lot together socially in person, but we do make sure we regularly check in with each other in either stand-ups or one-on-one calls so everyone feels connected. We do little exercises like “about me” sessions so that people can learn about their team members in a personal capacity. We meet in person at our annual team retreat and at our major annual conferences.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve received about leading and managing a remote workforce? 

A: As a leader of a remote team, try to understand the subtext, nuances or undertones of what people on your team are saying. Each individual handles stress differently. What is the root of it? A team member could be asking for a raise but what they’re really trying to tell you is they’re unhappy about a completely different issue. Being on the pulse of your team is so important ‒ if you’re not, your team members may not come to you with small stuff and this can cause issues down the line. The team lead must work really hard to extract this read from their teammates and make time to truly understand what’s going on inside their team. 

—–

As a digital transformation practice dY/dX, helps businesses adapt and grow in rapidly changing environments. Through our experience in Culture and the Future of Work, we have worked with remote, distributed teams across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. We fervently believe that we can make the future of work, better than today. 

We have created a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to quickly measure remote working capabilities and quantify remote team effectiveness. Also available are our free guides to building team culture, The Culture Canvas and Me.We.Us – Remote Team Management, where we provide overviews on how to promote better behaviours within teams as well as toolkits to support doing so.

The future of work requires a rethink on economic “productivity”

By | Future of Work, HR, Talent, Team Culture

Adam Smith was 43 and lived with his mother when he wrote “The Wealth of Nations”. His concept of the circular economy (people work, earn wages, buy stuff, which in turn creates work, so we hire more people) ignored the fact that children had to be raised and cared for. It assumed that they magically appeared in the workforce (almost like Smurfs), and also missed that the effect of increased production could pollute and deplete the planet’s resources. Somehow, arguably even against his recommendations, this became our dominant way of thought.

Basically put, almost everything men did was productive, while raising children or looking after frail parents was not. Increasing rent due to scarcity is measured as productive even though it requires no additional work and produces zero new goods or benefits. So the productivity that has been defined is clearly linked to monetary value versus social return or more goods in the marketplace. Largely speaking, more money equals more productivity.

But why does our definition of productivity matter? Because it is a frame against which we evaluate our days and what we consider to be work. We now view the productive parts of the day as those where we earned a living and those parts of the day where we cared for others (or ourselves) as wasteful or a hassle from a productivity perspective. For a future of work scenario that delivers a different outcome both economically, ecologically and socially, we need to rethink the fundamentals of what productivity is. This rethink will allow a lot of the issues we struggle with currently, such as the time spent at work versus the productive value of that time, to be simplified. 

One of the key challenges of the Future Of Work is balancing the growing demand for shorter work days or better work life balance with the need to meet shareholder expectations i.e. profit. These shareholders are often not faceless multi-nationals bent on money grubbing but everyday people who rely on the profits as a way to support their retirements or buy a house, so we need to respect that this is an important outcome. 

Currently many firm’s only way of managing staff cost is through work-hour agreements and not productivity to cost agreements i.e. you will be here x many hours per day, and if you aren’t there is an issue. 

However, this doesn’t mean that firms and their shareholders don’t want (and increasingly will want) to value the greater social impact that they have contributed to over financial return. This is the same social fabric that makes their lives better. A busy executive who might earn less but not be required to pay for an au pair may prefer to finish earlier and pick kids up from school.  Perhaps with a different view of productivity, governments will reward companies whose staff are raising kids or supporting the elderly with incentives to contribute to the fabric of society as this reduces society’s burden. Companies will focus more on productivity measures that are not linked to time (i know this did go horribly wrong in the beginning of industrialisation, but maybe society is better now). 

Our experiments with this have been mixed, but generally speaking, people that have kids and want their own time to pursue passion projects, side-gigs or just gig with us really like it. It increases autonomy and the quality of work is great. For some this is a life choice and for some a phase of life. Where the model suffers is where the expectation is more like a corporate environment i.e. work as many hours as possible to earn as much as possible. While we love this too, output based work is much harder to manage in those environments because people naturally tend to overwork tasks to fill the time and their focus is a little on distraction versus purely output. Looked at in another way, when you give an experienced specialist who is now a stay at home parent (or whatever the situation) the chance to work through some complicated issues, they spend more time on actually doing the work and feeding back than somebody who is doing 10 tasks because they are in the office and distracted by endless meetings. It means more people, each doing smaller chunks of work but at higher quality output because they spend more time actually working.

In many ways we have been trained by remuneration models to behave in a way that justifies time spent in an office, so it’s a deeply ingrained system from industrial age working habits. New ideas feel outlandish and dangerous (at least, they do to me because I am old according to my kids), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be exploring them. If we don’t change the way we work to meet the requirements of the new digital era, we will keep on using industrial age models which miss the point. Working different is critical for doing different (and better) work.

By Nevo Hadas – Nevo is the founding partner of DYDX and has led the development of “The Culture Canvas”—an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours—as well as the latest ebook “me.we.us – Remote Team Management”, which is available for free download, and the 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment tool designed to help companies measure the effectiveness of their remote teams. 

How do you keep top talent if your company doesn’t want to “change the world”?

By | HR, Talent

There are thousands of articles about how you attract the best people by having a company mission that will change the world, which galvanizes and acts as a true north. But what happens if you don’t?

It seems common wisdom that smart dedicated employees want to feel they are making a contribution to something bigger than themselves.

Sometimes, companies end up with Franken-cultures that use “changing the world” as a way to convince people to “work harder for less so we can make more money and change the world… maybe” but counteracts it with a “we care about your personal wellbeing and have a masseuse in-house for when you are feeling burned out, but there is a long waiting list as many people feel burned out (including the masseuse)”.

“Change the world” is, like many other constructs around work and remuneration, an ego trip. Who wouldn’t rather say at parties, we are enabling small businesses in developing markets to grow vs we run a loan sharking operation providing money sourced from low-interest rate countries intended for social upliftment at onerous interest rates to the impoverished while we have masseuses in our offices. It is the new golden handcuff designed to keep employees engaged in the work they do because it has “Purpose”. I am not against changing the world (for the better), but perhaps I am cynical.

From personal experience, I was far more ruthless and focused on returns working for a large corporation controlled by a charity (effectively our dividends funded schools in Africa) than I would be for myself. Every dollar earned went to a good cause and the means justified the ends. There was never a sense of enough profit because the need to do good was so great. While I am just one example, I know many similar organizations that work people to death for a “good cause” or extract unfair fees because they have ended up with a government licensed monopoly or grant due to their “for good” ethos.

“Good things, that solve hard problems, when done at scale, often create the next set of hard problems.”

This belief, however, is counterpointed by the rapid growth in small, lifestyle-focused, businesses that pursue more free time and a better quality of life for owners and employees.

So how do you engage great employees that aren’t working at companies that are changing the world? One option is giving them other forms of self-actualization that helps them to change themselves.

While I know there are many formulas and answers, what we have experimented with is increasing individual freedom by taking core assumptions people have around “loyalty” i.e. a mission, and turning them on their head.

We don’t expect or want lifelong loyalty and don’t want to gamify the work experience around that. To quote the famous saying “our best assets walk out the door every day”, which is funny because they aren’t OUR ASSETS. They are their own assets (some of these assets even have names and little asset families, with asset pets).

We want the focus of everyone to be on the quality of what we deliver to clients, which means taking some strange decisions:

  1. Permission/freedom to switch off — this is work, you do it for the rewards it gives you — like money, new experiences, positive reinforcement. We prefer people who work partial weeks and would rather add more team members than have people work themselves to death — the quality of work suffers and it’s not worth the extra margin to do crap work in the long-term.
  2. Have a side hustle — really, we don’t mind. consider it your 20% time. A lot of our people are entrepreneurial in the true sense and work with us while they are working on a small business part-time. It’s one of the things that makes them good at what they do — curiosity and drive. I hope they all make it big and what they learned/experienced with us helped them get there. It definitely makes their work better.
  3. No career progression — we don’t have titles, we do have responsibilities (to others) that the roles entail. There are no perks, no special meetings etc. roles change per project so you can be a leader in one and a contributor in another. This keeps the politics to zero and really flattens the organization.

P.S. These are some of the things that have worked for us and we find that resonates with (most) people that work with us. Everyplace is different. We aren’t here to change the world, but (hopefully) to empower people to change their worlds and change our client’s businesses

By Nevo Hadas – Nevo is the Founding Partner of &Innovation, now DYDX. Nevo led the development of “The Culture Canvas”, an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours. The latest ebook on managing remote teams, “me.we.us” is available as a free download and a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment, designed to help companies measure the effectiveness of their remote teams.