Written by: Shayne Flaherty, CTO at IndyConn
Goals-based Performance Guides Your Remote Workforce.
The entire reason that I wanted to work as a developer was so that I could work from anyplace. In retrospect it was an absolutely terrible reason to commit to a career objective, but here I am working from home. It turns out it’s not all that uncommon for people to choose a career based on a desired lifestyle.
The tech industry has come quite far in the relatively short time, especially when we start to look at the way people work today, and particularly in Information and Technology. Employers have had to radically shift the paradigm for what is considered ‘normal’ workplace culture. Talent has high expectations, sometimes unrealistic expectations, due to Silicon Valley company culture. Top tech talent is hard to find, and even more challenging to keep.
I now find myself in the unlikely position that I am constantly on the lookout for that talent. How can we attract top talent? What are the types of environments people that we want to work at our company are looking for? How is the Micro Project Model an essential part? The idea is simple: Let people work whenever they want.
The New Case
Now the idea is to take remote work a step further. In the consulting world, and even managed service world, typically the work occurs in bursts. Essentially, there are baselines, and peaks, but not typically valleys of work (in man hours). This type of work curve allows a week-to-week re-evaluation of workload, and workload distribution for your team.
The idea is simple: Let employees work whatever hours they want.
How Does it Work?
The technical team lead or direct manager constructs a weekly ‘Goals Block.’ A Goals Block is simply an expectation of work to be completed in some specified amount of time. If you are familiar with Scrum, this is like a ‘Sprint.’ For instance, a manager specifically details the requirements to be completed by the end of the week. A ‘Weekly Block’ would be made available on a Monday, and then reviewed by the assigning manager on the following Monday. Essentially, it’s a task list or a Micro Project.
The challenge for the Micro Project Model is effective management. Not everyone works at the same pace, and therefore it is the responsibility of the technical lead who creates the Goals Block to carefully distribute a manageable workload for all team members, as well as be able to refine the workload based on internal metrics. The importance of effective management in this role cannot be understated, it is the most critical piece of the puzzle. Additionally, the technical manager must always run on a fixed schedule so that they can assist with any roadblocks employees might hit completing goals. In order for the model to work, you must have an autonomous, cohesive team that understands one another’s capabilities.
The one concept that we have to come to realize and embrace is that people value flexibility. When I ask my employees and university students what are key to their workplace satisfaction, I get the same answers:
- Work-Life Balance
- Role with a Purpose
- High Salary
Purpose is a conversation for another article, and salary is typically the easy part. This means the area we have the most space to be creative with for potential employees, is typically work-life balance. The term ‘work-life balance’ means many things to many people, but let me offer up the key defining components as we see it:
- Balance is not working 65 hours week in, and week out
- Balance is the ability to be successful and appreciated in your role without working overtime
- A culture of balance ensures employees do not evaluate peers on hours logged, but value produced
- Working from home when possible, flexible schedules, and realistic expectations
An organization has to develop culture. It is an ongoing, continuous improvement cycle that must be monitored and guided by upper management. The fact is, a culture of positivity and ideas retains talent, where as a culture of negativity repels.
The first phase of the Micro Project methodology is a culture that allows people to work remotely (telecommute). The ability to work remotely is old news—available for over 25 years—and if you work in any technology space and you don’t allow employees to work remotely, you are retrograde.
Businesses who are behind the times in adopting well-proven working trends, are not going to be able to secure top talent. Instead, they are going to be left with a small talent pool that will be polishing up their resumes and looking for the first opportunity to leave. Additionally, there seems to be a spike in unmotivated, lackluster people, who have the same expectations as your total ace talent. Therefore: The primer is a flexible workforce that works remotely.
Obviously, this model is a hit wherever it is implemented. It gives employees the ability to complete their Goals Block at a time that works for them, this not only speaks to extensive flexibility for work-life balance, but also and unprecedented level of freedom that most professionals do not currently have.
You will see some people that will want to work at nights and on the weekends, and some will work like bandits to complete tasks in three days. The quality of the work will improve, as people are far more motivated to give full attention to a project when it is on their own schedule. Let’s face it, people have lives outside of work, and that’s a good thing. If you are struggling to acquire and keep the talent you need, some variation of Micro Project Model might be right for you.
The success of the implementation will depend upon:
- The thoughtful creation and careful management of the Goal Blocks
- The employees having the discipline to work in a consultant-like framework
The Possibilities?Endless. We can retrofit the method to any industry, and type of work so long as the primer of it being remote is fulfilled. So now the case for the Micro Project Model is out there. What will your business do with it?