Georgiana Gitschuk from “The Inside Podcast” interviewed Sean McAuliffe, CEO of Organizational Chart software Huey.io. They spoke about the challenges of remote work, information for the company and team managers who work with remote teams, and the increased importance of employer branding for remote work.
Challenges of Remote Work Across the US
Remote work can be lonely, so Sean stressed the importance of making sure that people still come first in a remote environment.
Sean & Georgina also discussed how important time zones can be to a remote organization. The biggest difference between Berlin (where “The Inside Podcast” is based) and the US is that there are multiple time zones to deal with.
To illustrate this, Sean used a point of reference from within his own company. They had a Sales Manager based on the West Coast who managed several employees on the East Coast. They had to be careful of how they structured their days and make sure that time zones overlapped where they needed to.
The Value of Hybrid Work Environments
Another consideration is that some people just don’t work well remotely. They may be stellar in an office, but at home, they’re not so great. There may be too many distractions in the home.
As the CEO, Sean said you sometimes need to be upfront and say, “Let’s figure something out because it seems like you’re struggling,” and come up with solutions together. A hybrid work environment can be a great solution to this issue: giving employees the option to either stay home or work in an office.
Maintaining a Balance Between People and Processes
Sean believes that people and processes should work together in harmony. “It’s hard to prioritize one over the other. If you’re hiring remotely, make sure people will do well and thrive in a remote environment.” They should want to be there, Sean stressed. “Don’t try to force it if it’s not their thing.”
It’s crucial to have a process where you regularly touch bases with your team to build the company culture and share it with new hires, whether it’s daily, weekly, or biweekly. You can only share your company culture and employer brand by making sure you’re connected with your remote employees in the first place.
“The right people and processes (are both important),” said Sean.
Working with Remote Teams: What You Need to Know
Remote teams can be tricky, especially when you’re first starting out. Pulling from his experience working with remote teams, Sean had advice for company managers and team managers to help the process go more smoothly.
Advice for Company Managers
You must trust your people. It’s hard to let someone else take the wheel in making decisions for the company you started, but the result is better when you do.
Sean recounted how small his company was when he first started it as a side gig in his apartment. Eventually, it grew to 40 people, and through that journey, he learned to trust his people.
“If you hired them to do a job, (you didn’t) hire them to do it your way. You have a goal, you want them to get there. It doesn’t have to be your path. Trust their expertise and skills to make their own path toward the same goal.”
Trusting your staff can reap major rewards for yourself and your company. “It helped us scale and (I enjoyed) it more because I didn’t have to make every decision. I could just trust my people to make the decision.” It’s like cruise control for a CEO: once you’ve made the best possible hiring decisions, you can sit back and enjoy the view a bit more.
Advice for Team Managers
Managing a team requires constant communication, and Sean encouraged team managers to take the initiative to communicate often.
“(Stay) in touch with your direct reports,” he says. “It’s easy to get your head down and work. A couple of days go by before you touch base with one of your teams. (Have) a good cadence around keeping in touch, (being) a team, and working to everybody’s strengths.”
Empathy Goes a Long Way
During these difficult times, it’s become more important to reach out to one another. “Not every ‘touch base’ has to be about work. A lot of times, it should be on a personal level. With everything that’s been going on the last couple of years, it’s easy to get lost there.”
Georgiana affirmed how effortless it can be to communicate on a personal level: “When the (team) is close-knit and there’s a healthy company culture, eventually the personal note inserts itself.”
Keeping Company Culture Intact Through Mergers
Acquisitions and mergers can have an interesting effect on company culture. When companies don’t focus on culture during the process, the culture can dilute or fail entirely. Sean had a different experience. He shared the impact the merger made on his former company with a “glass-half-full” approach.
“Cultures can dilute, but you also get new ideas. It’s possible (for both companies) to benefit.” The first merger he went through was with a bigger, older, and more established company. The company had core values, whereas Sean’s didn’t. At the time of the merger, they added another core value - one Sean’s team came up with - to the core values that were already in place.
“That helped build a cohesive team. It’s not (that) they overtook us, we’re a new thing together, taking the best of Company A and the best of Company B and strengthening where we are both weak.”
What are the most important ways to keep company culture intact? “A lot of open and honest talk” and “clear objectives and goals” through town hall meetings, etc.
“Management has probably known about the merger for a few months. They had time to digest it and understand what was happening. Once it’s announced to employees, it’s still new to them for a few months. It’s critical to have a lot of communication.
“There’s a chance for dilution but there’s also a chance for ‘one plus one equals three’ situations.”
How important are transparency and communication, especially for larger companies? “The more information, the better,” Sean said.
The Importance of Employer Branding
Employer branding is a significant part of hiring and retaining the best talent in remote work environments. “It’s critical,” said Sean, “The hard part is conveying it.
“If you’ve been traditionally in-person, it’s easier to convey because you’re near each other, talking together, (and) in the same space. Remotely, it’s a lot more difficult. Time needs to be set aside to network internally. You don’t have as many water-cooler moments, so you kind of have to force them. It can be a bit awkward: a Zoom call where we’re not going to talk about work.”
Although those water-cooler moments don’t feel as natural from the start, they eventually become an integral part of the company culture and employees look forward to them. Sean said getting company culture across is essential. “If you don’t get (it) across, you don’t get buy-in from employees and the company’s not running at its full potential.”
Huey: The Org Chart Apps That Facilitates Teamwork
Remote work doesn’t have to be daunting, even after a merger or a period of rapid growth. Huey.io works within Slack to keep teams agile. Whether you’re curious about who does payroll or finding out who to report to with questions about specific issues, all you need to do is enter the shortcut /whodoes [keyword] and you’ll have instant access to their contact info to get a hold of them. No more asking “Who does that?”
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