This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Ross Dawson is globally recognized as a leading futurist, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of 5 books, most recently Thriving on Overload.
We have irreversibly shifted into an era in which remote and hybrid work are the norm. Every organisation needs to transition their working practices to succeed in this new environment. Large corporations move slowly yet are used to embarking on change initiatives. The challenge is very different for small & medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which can be more nimble but have highly limited resources.
This challenge has been compounded with deep economic uncertainty. A recent survey of Australian SMB leaders by flexible work software provider GoTo revealed that 79% thought a recession was likely in the next 6 months, with 70% nervous about the state of their business if this eventuates.
Leveraging technology for hybrid work
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic proved that people and organisations can adapt to change, albeit sometimes forcibly. Yet simply shifting work meetings to video calls does not result in effective work. There is still an enormous opportunity to move to a new style of working that massively amplifies company performance and energises employees.
Especially in smaller organisations that can’t afford structured change programs, work patterns will tend to revert to whatever seems easiest. Setting up the right platforms is essential for work to happen in one place, wherever people are physically working. This enables everyone to be clear what they need to do and how they fit into the flow of work that drives the company’s success.
The more uncertain the business environment, the greater the importance of having a well-established flexible technology platform. Cloud software can readily be adapted to changing needs. Good platforms allow staffing levels to be readily scaled, with specialist skills brought in as required. As never before, SMBs can become highly adaptable, smoothly adjusting to business conditions.
Challenges and opportunities for SMBs
Smaller businesses have both fundamental advantages and disadvantages compared to large corporations. In a recent article on employee and customer experience in a hybrid world I presented the critical factors for implementing remote and hybrid work. SMBs in particular need to focus on three issues:
Establishing policies. Smaller organisations don’t need anything like the same degree of governance as large corporations. However, there is a minimum amount of effort required to set work policies that meet legal requirements, establish good practices, and can be clearly communicated. Recognise that bar, do what’s required, and then simply evolve your policies as you need.
Maintaining morale. SMBs start with an advantage because all employees can clearly see how their work contributes to the success of the business and their colleagues. Smaller companies may not have the resources to fly in remote team members for offsite meetings, for example, but they can readily create a culture in which employees are encouraged to find fun ways to develop strong relationships with their peers, wherever they are located.
Providing support. Technology is the fundamental underpinning of remote and hybrid work, yet it doesn’t always work as it should. Large companies have the luxury of dedicated IT functions. Smaller companies need to be innovative in how they apply limited resources to enabling their teams to be happy and productive in their work.
The central role of technology in almost all productive work today means it is critical to make everyone in your company experience it as an enabler, not a barrier.
Making technology work for your team
Work is now wherever the worker is. Desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, and sometimes even more novel devices such as VR headsets enable people to create value for their employers from the office, homes, cafes, parks, or the beach of their choice, often using their own devices.
Unfortunately, our wondrous technologies sometimes fail, creating frustration, lost productivity, and sometimes significantly impacting the business. To keep an organisation running and productive, employees need good technology support wherever they are. This is critical not just so they can get on with their work, but to make them feel supported and valued.
Natasha Rock, who leads GoTo’s IT support solutions in Asia-Pacific, observes that support staff in smaller businesses absolutely need to maximise their limited time resolving issues. To do this they need to proactively automate whatever they can, and implement a central platform to manage support activities. This is especially critical in an uncertain business environment, given heightened attention to productivity and expenses.
Great technology support drives productivity and morale. This is apparent in GoTo’s recent survey, with 46% of survey respondents citing maintaining high employee morale as essential for recession-proofing their businesses. There are three elements for SMBs to achieve that efficiently and effectively:
Embrace cloud. Large companies with legacy technology systems are rapidly shifting to the cloud, but that is a process that can take years or literally decades. Smaller organisations are adopting software-as-a-service with alacrity, enabling their team members to work seamlessly from anywhere. It not only allows the most recent software to be used, but also makes it far easier to keep the company’s systems fully functional.
Implement a platform for support. A central support platform brings together everything required in one place. Whatever the problem, however the request is sent, the most relevant responses or resources can be immediately applied. Everything from data gathering to user guides to remote access is available to team members without having to switch between tools. If needed, issues need to be easily escalated to external support professionals or hardware manufacturers. An integrated platform makes remote IT support faster to deploy and more efficient to resolve issues for the benefit of everyone – business, employees and the customers they support.
Adopt automation. Task automation has been at the heart of the recent evolution of enterprise technology. Now with tools such as GoTo Resolve, automation is readily available to smaller businesses. A host of technology functions such as deploying devices, upgrading software remotely, or scaling software licenses can be done at scale. GoTo’s Rock points to the capability for “self-healing” of employee devices, for example automatically checking CPU usage, restarting machines, deleting temporary files, or installing cleaner files. This saves substantial time for both support personnel and users.
Remote and hybrid work are not just a reality, they are a massive enabler for those businesses able to adapt. Smaller companies that establish the right platforms and systems can readily make that shift and seize the opportunities of a swiftly changing world.