Corporate Culture

Managing a Hybrid Team? Here’s What to Know

By | Corporate Culture | No Comments
people in office on computer call with several others

Many managers found themselves facing an unusual management dilemma during the pandemic: hybrid teams. The skills needed to manage people in person differ from those needed to manage virtual and remote employees. Blending both teams together to work toward common goals requires a high degree of commitment, communication, and clarity. Here are our tips to hiring for hybrid and remote work and successfully managing hybrid teams.

Structure Jobs Around Responsiblities (Not Hours)

One of the biggest shifts in thinking when it comes to managing remote workers is thinking about their work in relation to the work product, or responsiblities, rather than the actual hours the employee puts into the job.

You cannot manage people who work remotely as you do people who work on-site. You will not have the ability to monitor their productivity, see how long they’re taking for lunch, or whether they are making personal phone calls throughout the day. What you can do instead is create goal-based work. In goal-based work, an employee and manager agree on goals and work outcomes each week. Typically, Mondays are days for meeting one on one or in small groups with virtual teams and coming up with the week’s goals. Wednesdays are a good day for a quick check-in, with work products due on Fridays. The work product may not be the entire project, but instead, milestones that can be easily achieved on a weekly basis.

This is a form of “agile” project management coined from the book Scrum, a system of project management and team management derived from the tech world that has been successfully deployed in many other industries. It is ideal for managing remote employees and hybrid teams, especially in highly skilled industries such as accounting, marketing, fundraising, operations, and so on.

While much more can be said about this style of management, as a manager overseeing hybrid and remote workers, it is imperative that you stop thinking about them in terms of hours spent on the job and instead think about what they’ve accomplished for the week. This distinction and focus will ensure that your hybrid workers have clear, unambiguous goals to reach which can then be used as performance metrics for evaluation.

Set Firm Boundaries and Expectations

With everyone on instant messaging platforms and connected 24/7 via smartphones, it’s easy to meld personal and professional time together in ways that a decade or more ago would have been unthinkable. Setting clear boundaries and expectations around communications is an important step in ensuring that hybrid teams work well together.

Establish guidelines for returning messages, whether they are on text or messenger platforms of email. One good rule of thumb is that all texts or messages must be returned within 24 hours on business days and by Monday, if sent over the weekend. Emails should be answered within one business day. Stating these guidelines will help the entire team understand their communication commitments and communicate easily and clearly with one another.

Make Hybrid Workers Feel Part of the Team

Lastly, it takes effort to ensure that hybrid workers not only feel part of the team but understand the company culture. Yes, even if someone works 100% remotely, they can still feel the company culture.

What is your company culture? What can you do to infuse it into a hybrid workspace?

First, be sure to take your time onboarding remote employees effectively. Provide an orientation to the company just as you would for an in-person role. You may not be able to physically walk them around the office to show them where the break room and supply cabinet is located, but you can orient them to the organization’s chart, so they know who does what, help them understand their tech stack, and locate items on the cloud drive.

Another important step toward ensuring that hybrid employees feel like they are a part of the team is to ensure they are included in all company get togethers. Plan virtual gatherings as well as in-person ones. Catering lunch in for birthday? Offer them Grub Hub (or whatever is available in their area) and get them on a video call to join the festivities. Keep them updated on company happenings and ensure that from day one, they feel part of the team, too.

Managing any workforce takes skill, but it takes a special manager to ensure that a hybrid team feels and acts like one cohesive unit. With time, patience, and consistency, you too can successfully manage hybrid teams.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact us for more information.

Time Management Tips: Ditch the Digital Distractions

By | Cloud, Corporate Culture, Technology | No Comments

According to CNBC, the average American worker spends 5 hours a day managing email: reading, responding, sorting, deleting messages. That breaks down into approximately 3-4 hours checking business-related email and one hour managing personal email. Add to that tally the daily distraction from social media, instant messengers, text messages and telephone calls, and accountants may find little work accomplished at the end of their workday—except a clean, organized in-box.

With so many messages flooding our screens each day, is there a better way to manage the typical digital distractions inherent in the modern work world? The following tips may be useful to help you manage the daily electronic communications flow that threatens to engulf your day.

5 Tips to Manage Digital Distractions

  1. Turn off notifications

The first step to manage distractions is to minimize them. This includes turning off the sounds and on-screen notifications that often accompany many instant messenger programs. Most of us do not need to be notified of every single message arriving in our inbox, nor do we need notifications for instant messages.

Turning off notifications varies according to your device. This article provides basic guidelines to disable notifications on most operating systems.  

  1. Set aside blocks of time for specific purposes

One way to handle email more efficiently is to set aside blocks of time specifically for responding to emails. Keep your email program closed until it is time to log on. This helps you avoid the temptation to check email repeatedly during the day. Let colleagues know that if something is urgent, they should phone you instead of emailing you.

  1. Utilize email filters

Email filters go beyond the typical spam filters which sort out unwanted email from business emails. Again, depending on your email system, you may be able to establish rules that presort email into categories you determine. You may be able to organize your daily emails more efficiently by project, type of communication, or urgency of task, depending on the rules you set up in the system itself. Speak with your company’s IT person to learn more or search online for tips establishing and using email filters for common email managers such as Gmail and Outlook.

  1. Adopt calendar apps

Are half of your emails requests for meetings? Many people find that most of their emails are indeed meeting requests or requests for blocks of time with which to meet others. Instead of responding to dozens of requests a day, your company can adopt calendar apps or shared calendars.

Calendar apps such as Calendly enable clients to request call times without viewing your calendar. The app synchronizes with your chosen digital calendar and displays only blocks of time available for meetings. The other party can request and secure a time without having to email you in advance. Other software such as Microsoft 365’s Teams enables users to view one another’s calendars without seeing engagement details and requesting meeting time.

  1. Establish communication preferences and timelines

Alert colleagues to your communication preferences. Limit the number of instant messenger apps your company uses and establish preferred communication channels and methods for your team. Lastly, establish clear expectations around response timelines. For example, let clients and colleagues know that emails are answered within one business day. This way, people know that if they require an instant response, they should pick up the phone and call you.

Cloud Software Helps Improve Communication

Whether you’re struggling with too many emails and not enough time or instant messenger overload, one thing that helps cut down the endless barrage of digital communications is cloud-based technology. Sharing financial data over the cloud, as well as collaborating on documents in the cloud, improves communication and cuts down on emailing documents back and forth.

With a few changes to your routine and habits and support from the right software, you’ll be able to better manage your digital communications and stop the feeling of being overwhelmed.

About Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

The Three Pillars of Digital Transformation

By | Corporate Culture, Data, Nonprofit | No Comments
smiling woman at laptop computer. Welter logo

“Digital transformation” is one of those buzzwords that seems to be everywhere right now. From e-commerce to manufacturing, everyone is talking about the impact of digital transformation.

The term “digital transformation” makes it sound like a magician is at work behind the scenes. Presto, change, click a switch, and voila—your entire organization has undergone a magical transformation!

If only it were that simple. Organizations undergoing digital transformation may find themselves struggling with new questions if they lack strategy behind their adoption of new technology.

There are three pillars, or core concepts, embedded within every successful digital transformation. We suggest having these three areas addressed well in advance of your digital transformation project to boost its chances of success.

A Clear Strategy and Alignment of Vision

Success doesn’t happen by accident. A successful digital transformation project occurs when the strategy and vision behind the project align with an organization’s clarity of purpose and mission.

What is the vision behind the project, and how does it help an organization fulfill its mission? New technology can improve the organization’s ability to fundraise, track grants, and/or manage fund accounting. These are all worthwhile and noble goals. Map out how the new technology you hope to implement helps you fulfill a goal that is clearly aligned with your organization’s mission, purpose, and vision for the future.

Shared Decision Making Around New Technology

It’s tempting to think the purchase of new technology is an IT-department responsibility. But the best IT departments will tell you that all stakeholders—those who will use the technology daily—are the ones who need to be at the table when creating the technology requirements document and exploring options.

Shared decision-making around new technology is essential to finding the best technology that will meet your organization’s needs. Each stakeholder knows their respective area of business best and can provide the most valuable input into how the technology under consideration will help them do their work better.

Any digital transformation team gathered at your organization should include a representative from each major area of responsibility: accounting, finance, operations, program management, marketing, outreach, grant management, donor management, and more. Let those who will use the technology have a voice in the decision of which one to adopt and why.

Process Changes, Too

The third pillar, or major consideration, when undergoing digital transformation is that technology never lives in isolation. It is the impact of technology on people, processes, and things that makes it such a transformation.

The people in the equation—your staff and stakeholders who will interact daily with the technology—must adapt and change their behaviors to work with the new system. There may be a steep learning curve for some. Routines must change, and with changing routines, come changing processes.

No matter how user-friendly the new technology, processes and people must both adapt to it. Make sure you give everyone the time and space they need to learn to use the new technology. Keep an open mind and be flexible to process changes and adaptations, too.

Are You Ready for Digital Transformation?

You’ve probably seen those ads on television for diet programs. They always show before and after pictures: someone looking sad and overweight in the before picture, triumphant and overjoyed in the after photo. What they never show is the in-between: the daily struggle to make wise choices, the moments of decision that lead to a successful outcome.

Your organization’s digital transformation is also like those weight loss programs. You have a “before” shot now: a problem you need to solve, a process that’s cumbersome or slowing things down, and so on. What you desire is the “after” effect: faster, more productive work. But, to get there, you’ll need to bring together these three pillars of strategy and vision, shared decisions, and adapting process to make it successful.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

7 Tips to Become a Better Virtual Communicator

By | Corporate Culture, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

According to The Washington CPA, 70% of managers say they are more open to a flexible working model now than they were before the start of the pandemic. If any good came from the last two years of turmoil, it is that companies are now recognizing that employees can be as productive and responsive when working from home as they can when reporting to an office.

Given that the world isn’t likely to return to pre-pandemic work norms, it makes sense to focus on improving communication skills in a remote working environment.

Barriers to Effective Virtual Communication

There are several barriers that must be overcome when communicating virtually with team members. Virtual communications differ from in-person communication in several ways.

When people converse in person, they rely on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to convey deeper meaning than words alone can convey. Virtual communication removes these added layers of information-sharing and puts the emphasis on written words alone. Even with videoconferencing, some nuances are lost, and not all work can be shared effectively during video conferences.

Best Practices

The skills you’ve come to rely on for effective in-person communication differ from those needed for effective virtual communication. Here, we share several tips to help you become a better virtual communicator.

  1. Use technology to enhance communication: Most companies choose one project management system, one instant messenger system, and add email and videoconferencing to the mix. These four basic technologies cover most day-to-day needs. It doesn’t really matter which ones you choose, as long as you use them consistently.
  2. Set expectations and boundaries around technology use: Establish response timelines and share them via written documentation. For example, you may request that during the business week, all instant messenger communications and emails are answered within 24 hours or that the project management system is updated by a certain day of the week. Share these expectations and hold team members accountable for following through.
  3. Select specific channels for different types of communication: Instant messenger tools such as Slack and Skype are great for quick responses, but unsuitable for longer discussions. Learn when to use specific types of communications. Some good rules of thumb are:
    • Quick questions or updates: instant messenger channels
    • Project updates or information sharing: project management channels
    • Formal communication, reports, or updates: email
    • Brainstorming, team meetings, large briefings: video conferencing or conference calls
  4. Provide frequent feedback: Another important element to virtual communication is frequent, regular contact with team members. Providing regular feedback on project updates, messages, and initiatives is vital for effective virtual communication.
  5. Close communication loops: Don’t leave anyone wondering what’s going on. Along with frequent feedback, “close the loop” by ensuring you alert others when a task is complete, a project is finished, or a customer situation has been addressed.
  6. Write in a short, succinct, and direct manner: Since so much of virtual communication is conducted via typed or written words, it must be impactful. Avoid extraneous thoughts, off-topic asides, and trying to convey emotions via writing. Humor and sarcasm may be suitable for your personal communication but added to a business communication can seriously twist a message, often to the point where it can be misconstrued. Use shorter sentences, plenty of bullet points, and other written communication techniques to ensure shared understanding.
  7. Keep everyone informed: A good rule of thumb is to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Include anyone who may need the information in an email as a Cc line, or forward information to team members who may need it.

As the world continues to embrace flexible work arrangements, more workers will demand the ability to work remotely. This is especially true as the so-called “great resignation” shows no sign of abatement. Offering virtual work options, flexible work arrangements, and telecommuting options allows you to hire outside of your immediate geography and find excellent candidates. But, in order to make it work, you and everyone else at your organization must improve your virtual communications. Become a whiz at that, and you’ll be set up for a strong future.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.