High-Performance Lessons Learned From The Remote Workforce Revolution

By Patty Crabtree

Startling statistic: In August, 2021, 4.3 million workers quit their jobs because they were looking for something better or they did not want to return to working back in the office again. The media have dubbed it The Great Resignation.

Why the exodus? Because the remote work environment created by the pandemic is a two-edged sword: employers can recruit employees from far afield, but your employees can seek or be lured away by employers who offer greater flexibility.

Let’s go back in time to those disruptive days of March 2020 when the pandemic pushed the work world into a new era. Some companies successfully transformed into a remote work environment almost overnight. But others reasoned this was just going to be a few weeks so they would wait and see. Then it became a few months. Soon reality set in and almost every business had to create a hybrid work environment that embraced remote workers.

Now for many, a remote workforce has become a way of life. There is no going back. Soon we’re going to have two years of this journey in our rear-view mirror. What are the lessons to be learned? Those who are embracing this change will be ahead of the game. But those who are fighting it are going to see challenges with retaining employees and recruiting the best staff for their team.

Manage By Outcome, Not Hours

Before the pandemic, more and more companies were already starting to develop remote work environments and were allowing certain employees to work from home on a regular basis. They saw the benefits and increased performance. Then the pandemic pushed us into fully embracing this flexibility out of a need versus a want. This also moved us into a new understanding of how to create a high-performance work force.

Managing for high performance is hard. There is an old business joke about a man who asked a CEO, “How many people work at your company?”

“About half,” replies the CEO.

The humor illustrated how much unproductive time employees typically spend at an office. The management challenge is to maximize productivity for the hours the employees work. Or is it?

Here is the real question: do you measure hours versus outcomes? If you define the outcomes for a position, do you care, aside from labor laws, when they work and how they work? Granted there are a few positions that may not have this level of flexibility, but many jobs do. As long as they’re getting the outcomes accomplished in a timely basis, an employer has the opportunity to leverage the higher productivity a hybrid work force can deliver.

During the pandemic, the work environment evolved and employees have experienced the opportunity of a better balance based on more flexibility. The challenge now is to embrace this remote work revolution that had been gaining speed well before the pandemic and was accelerated by the work-from-home mandates.

Naturally, many employers want their employees back in the office. These employers miss the good old days of easier access and camaraderie.

But do you really want to fight progress? One reason so many companies are embracing the hybrid revolution is the advantages of attracting the best talent. There are no longer geographic restrictions on where you can draw the best talent from to join your team.

Not Every Company Was This Fortunate

At the end of 2019, one mortgage company decided to eliminate its home office and go 100% virtual. The company already had some remote staff, but it developed a game plan to close down the office to get everybody working from home. The company came up with the systems, purchased the hardware to allow everyone to work from home, and created a plan to ensure its culture stayed strong. Events like five-minute morning stretch breaks leading the team through some simple exercises to keep the body moving. Virtual meetings would start with a quick round robin of how everyone’s week was going before they would jump into the business part of the agenda. The company was creative and did multiple team building exercises like virtual scavenger hunts and escape rooms.

Did it pay off? When the world went into lockdown, its business exploded. By being ahead of the curve the company was ready to take advantage of the real estate boom. Were they just lucky? As the famous scientist Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

The Great Opportunity

Managing a hybrid or fully remote workforce takes a different focus. I use the word intentional here. A more intentional focus on the nuances of a diverse work environment is important to continue a healthy, successful workforce. Over time, this intentional focus will become second nature but in the beginning it is an intentional effort.

Wise employers are not hanging on to the comfort zone of the old structure they had pre-pandemic. The path of wisdom is to choose a structure that will stay ahead of the curve.

Were employees really producing to the level they could, or are they producing better in a remote environment away from the distractions of an office? Many studies indicate remote workers actually have a greater productivity than those in the office. There’s less water cooler talk, less hanging out in the hallways, and more focus on getting the work done and moving on to the next action item.

Many companies have successful track records with remote work. When a company I worked with created a remote work environment back in 2006, we achieved more and more productivity from our remote staff. From reduced distractions to better systems, staff performed higher each year.

Commuting to and from work can be a huge productivity drain and a distraction to one’s day. Think about all those who were walking into the office frustrated, unwinding with a cup of coffee and venting about the person who cut them off. Instead of the driving hassles, remote staff can take a short walk from the kitchen to the home office. They can feel more energized at the start of the day, have a better focus and achieve more success. They also experience a better life-work balance which brings more engagement.

Developing strong systems not only helps monitor productivity but also communicates expectations to staff. Workflow tracking systems ensure that effective assignments are happening and timelines are being met. People know exactly what’s expected of them, and your leaders are able to monitor employee progress helping it along the way.
Higher productivity leads to greater profitability.

Other Tools Are Key

Have you also built recognition into those systems so that it’s visible? People can share their successes with others through their day-to-day interactions without even having to share it. It’s there in front of you displayed in the system. Who is leading the charge? Just check the system. It is a great motivator to keep things on track or even ahead of schedule along with celebrating success.

Team building is critical in any type of work environment, and that is especially true with a distributed workforce. So, how do you encourage connection among your groups? One option is to consider is to have an element of team building built into your team meeting agendas. Set aside a few minutes in the beginning to have everybody share what’s going on or their successes for the week, or even something minor and personal such as what is their favorite vacation spot, or what dish do they like to bring to a potluck? Get creative with the team building questions.

Now Is The Time To Hire Differently

There are some other important questions to consider.

Have you included a work-style assessment as part of your hiring process? Do you have a tool to help you understand somebody’s personality and how that fits in with the team? Do you have a library of interview questions available to help understand how somebody will thrive in your hybrid work environment?

Once you find that right candidate, does your onboarding process create a connection along with a specific job training for a new hire? Are there team building events included in your onboarding process? Have you formalized the onboarding into a schedule of events, meetings, and trainings that guides that new employee through the process and ensures they make those connections that are so critical across the organization?

Here is the bottom line: Developing a successful and lasting hybrid workforce takes some effort. From enhancing your culture to implementing better systems, this intentional focus will bring positive results and keep you as an employer of choice.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2021

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience. Her phone number is 310-453-6556, ext. 410 and her email is pattyc@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you are open to a conversation about how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help your team, including pricing and the science behind the tests, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 403.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Do you have a Sales Plan?

By Patrick McClure

It’s common in the winter time to hear company executives complain about the holiday season. I can just hear them now:

“OMG, we only have two weeks in December, and the rest of the month is a waste of time. No one will be at their desks, and we won’t be able to sell anything!”

“Everyone has visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, and all they’re thinking about is what presents to buy for their loved ones. How in the world can we get them to focus on MC900439256[1]business?”

“I wish Thanksgiving and Christmas never existed! Arggghhhhh!”

Granted, for most companies December is a short month. Except for retailers, December is severely impacted by the holiday season and by vacations. However, December is an ideal time to put the finishing touches on your sales plan for the new year, so take advantage of this month to create a stellar plan for success in the new year.

Creating Your Sales Plan

The first step in creating your sales plan for the new year is to review your performance in the past year. For some tips on how to do this, you can read the 7 Step Sales Diagnosis Plan from our blog. If you’ve completed that review, you’ll have a solid grasp of the following essential elements:

  1. Sales Objectives and your performance results for the last year
  2. Highlights & Lowlights for the year
  3. SWOT Analysis updated
  4. Top 3 Problem areas to Fix
  5. Top 3 Opportunities for Growth

If your review of the last year is complete, you’re already ahead of the game. Now your attention can shift to goals and objectives for the new year, and how to make them a reality. Here’s a recommended process to get this done:

1. Write down your Objectives for the new year.

Casey Stengel said it best when he told his teams:

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Without a defined specific and written objective, you are flying blind. You can’t hit a target if it is not defined, so get your targets written down.

Your key sales objectives will support the overall business plan for the new year, and will define the “big picture” objectives for your team. Some examples might be:

“To grow our market share from 10% to 20%”
“To increase total revenue by 30% by the end of the new year.”
“To launch our new system into the marketplace and to generate $1 MM in revenue”
“To reduce selling expenses by ________________”

2. Strategic Positioning

Given the defined sales objectives for the next year, you will now consider the best positioning your company needs to give yourself the best possibility of success. Think about questions like these:

♦  Identifying where the best market opportunity resides (which of the market segments offer the most potential given your differentiators).
♦  Which sales method to use?
♦  How should your sales organization be structured for maximum effectiveness?
♦  Who are your top competitors and how can they be eclipsed, neutralized or controlled?
♦  Who are the key partners and alliances?

3. Territory/Market Analysis

Given your objectives and your strategic positioning, deepen the analysis to define or refine your intended selling geographies or industries. This analysis would reveal:bizpeople on chessbd

♦  Size of territory, Industry specialization, key locations
♦  Installed Base Customers & Location
♦  # of Prospects, their industry, and their location

4. Unique Value Proposition

This will be a quick review for most companies because it will simply validate the selling propositions that have been effectively used in the past year. However, if results from the last year were dismal, now is the time to really re-examine your unique selling propositions. You need to absolutely define with clarity and precision the following:

♦  Features, Benefits, and Value of your products/services.
♦  What exactly is unique about your company and what you deliver to the marketplace?
♦  Why should people do business with you, versus everyone else?
♦  What’s so special about our company?

5. Sales Forecast

This will be a detailed analysis, generally broken into quarters or monthly, of the following:

♦  Total Sales Revenue
♦  Total # of New Accounts
♦  Total Revenue for New Accounts
♦  Revenue for existing accounts
♦  Profitability
♦  Any other targets?

bizpeople in huddleYour CRM system or Sales Forecast system will be loaded on a month-to-month basis with these factors. Depending on your industry, and any seasonality, you can simply target equally month-to-month or vary the targets based upon time of year.

It’s always a good idea to get the salespeople to actively contribute to this forecast, and to make sure they are absolutely in agreement with the targets. They must be committed to achieving these targets and there must be a realistic expectation that the targets can be achieved and exceeded.

6. Detailed Sales Pipeline Analysis

This is the most important element of your Sales Plan for the new year. This is the detail on exactly how you intend to achieve your goals. Take the sales objectives, analyze your pipeline and ratios, and come up with specific sales activities that are needed to accomplish your annual selling goals. These may include (but are not limited to) the following:

♦  What is your Lead Tracking System (Excel, Paper-based, automated SFA?)
♦  Total Named Prospects to Develop
♦  Total # of Opportunities in your Territory
♦  Total # of Qualified Opportunities in your assigned Industry
♦  # of Referrals from Installed Base Customers
♦  # or Leads required to feed the Sales Pipeline
♦  Where are the leads coming from? (Lead Sources report)
♦  Estimated # of Prospecting Phone Calls by rep by month
♦  Estimated # of F2F Calls needed by rep by month
♦  # of Sales Presentations needed by rep and by month

Your pipeline analysis should include Lead Sources. You should know precisely the origination point for every sale you’ve made in the past year. This will be critical information in planning where you would most productively spend your time in the remainder of the year.

When this analysis is complete, you will now know exactly the selling activities that are needed in order to achieve your targets. For instance, if your sales reps typically enjoy a 20 % close ratio for every sales presentation delivered, they will need to deliver 5 presentations to achieve one sale. All the standard selling ratios should be captured in an Excel spreadsheet and handed out to the reps. You will almost always discover that the sales team is NOT doing enough prospecting for new business!

7. Sales Process

This is a fast review of your normal sales process, fine tuning for the coming year. If it was successful in the previous year, don’t change much! If it was NOT successful, you will need man looking at mapsto change it! Along the way, you need to identify “Best Practice” sales methodologies and identify weaknesses in the process (where are sales lost?)

In addition, you might want to review your initial business development process, particularly how opportunities are qualified to begin with.

♦  Where are sales being lost? At what point in your sales process do you fail?
♦  What’s the plan to eliminate the losses?
♦  How can the process be made more efficient and effective?

8. Key Success Factors (KSFs)

This is the most important sections of the sales plan for the manager and executive because it lists the top three KSFs that, if achieved, will guarantee achievement of the plan. One of my managers used to refer to these as the “critical few” which makes allowance for the absolute importance of them.

The KSFs are developed after considering all the foregoing sections for the sales plan. Based on an analysis of the preceding sections, ask the following:

♦  What must we do to ensure success?
♦  What does top management need to do to support us?
♦  What does our company need to help us with?

9. Resource Needs

Now that your plan is complete, it’s time to spell out the resources you need to achieve success. This may include people, support, materials, logistics, management, coaching, training and so on. If you are missing a key skill or resource, this is where you would list it.

Since you’ve developed a careful and concise analysis, you will be prepared to review with management and to request critical resources and support from other departments, such as Marketing, Human Resources, IT and Customer Support. Everyone in the company should be “in the loop” with your sales plan and they should fully support it. After all, everyone sells!

10. Sales Operations Assessment

Patrick is offering complimentary 30 minutes over the phone to identify likely root causes of sales productivity issues with at least three actionable ideas.  You will discover critical problem areas, recognize underlying causes of these issues, learn at least three new ideas to implement and begin a plan of action.  To learn more, email patrick@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2021

Patrick McClure, Sr. Sales & Customer Service Consultant of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful.  Over the past 30 years, Patrick has trained customer service teams, salespeople and managers to drive breakthrough sales results using innovative and practical techniques. He has a knack for reducing the most complex problems to utter simplicity, and showing his audience exactly how to start winning. During his corporate career, Pat sold over $250 MM worth of products and services at corporate giants such as IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, EDS, Digital Equipment and mid size companies. He is a black-belt master at selling complex business solutions to C-Level executives.  As the author of 3 books on selling, Patrick passionately and patiently serves up his wisdom to readers, clients, and audiences. He caters to both small and large firms seeking to help companies to serve and close more business.  To contact Patrick, please email him at patrick@lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.