Remote Leaders Can Still Promote Organizational Innovation


Everyone's working remotely, from frontline employees to company leaders. Reaching your innovation goals from home is not only possible, but necessary.              

Carter Liebscher|
June 16, 2020

To set boundaries is to set expectations.

This statement, though banal, rings especially true in our current remote work climate. Leaders who set fair boundaries—no answering emails or team chats outside work hours, for example—set realistic expectations for their remote employees in the process.

In the age of remote work, however, what are realistic expectations? Should managers expect greater output? Less?

We’re big proponents of transparency, meaning that the best way to uncover what’s realistic for your employees is to simply ask them.

However, let’s get granular and examine more closely the relationship between employee engagement and remote work and see how organizational leadership can be administered successfully through virtual means.

Clearly Defining and Reiterating Organizational Goals

Employee familiarity with your org’s mission seems to follow this general timeline:

• Preliminary research before interview.

• If hired, regular but low-maintenance upkeep until comfort sets in.

• Confidence in knowledge.

Long-term employees might feel it’s unnecessary to be told what their employer does and how their role fits into it because, well, they do know instinctively.

What we’re suggesting is, perhaps during a top-of-the-week meeting, leaders assigning or asking employees’ tasks and reiterating how vital those tasks are.

Your in-house graphic designer, for example, might be a few weeks deep into designing infographics for a whitepaper. The head of design could connect at the top of the week asking about the progress, seeing it, and thanking them for their work. That conversation could look like something like this:

“I know it’s been a challenge adjusting to working remote, but your work looks great! We’re really excited to get this out and show our audience how we’ve pivoted as a result of the health crisis.”

It’s short but still serves as motivation and a reminder of the purpose of their work, which is especially important as remote employees may lose sight of the big picture as they’re working on detail-oriented projects.

What we don’t suggest sending, however, is a link to your company’s “About Us” page—you can guarantee very few (if any) people will click on it, and it seems condescending.

Encouraging Employees to Share Their Work

Driving home the purpose of it all—what everyone is ultimately working toward, large-scale plans that will inevitably affect all employees—is a necessary practice for managers. Similarly, employees should be sharing any updates from their end to help their peers and managers how exactly they’re assisting in organizational goals.

A recent study conducted by the Association for Talent Development found that 83% of business leaders believe communication is the most important skill for managerial success. However, there’s often a gap between how well managers believe they’re communicating and how employees see it: 71% of employees feel like their managers aren’t spending enough time explaining goals and plans, according to safety training and compliance monitoring app Ving.

Leaders that engage in frequent communication themselves encourage employee to communicate frequently, helping increase visibility into important organizational information and reiterating our first point of your organization’s overall purpose.

Setting the Standard With Any Communication, Productivity, or Innovation Tools

The transition to remote work has inevitably caused a greater investment (or, at the very least, a greater utilization) of communication and productivity tools.

Regardless of different departments’ and employees’ familiarity with whatever technology your IT department implements, it’s the leaders who will need to set the precedent on how it should be sued to make the best of our collective work circumstances.

If your organization recently in a communication platform like Slack, it should be made clear how often employees should be engaging with it and what it should be used for.

For innovation-oriented organizations, innovation platforms can achieve all three aforementioned remote leadership tips:

• Leaders can clearly outline and align specific projects with their organization’s larger purpose.

• Employees can freely share and interact their peers’ ideas—ideas they perhaps wouldn’t have foreseen coming from them otherwise.

• Leaders can pose organizational challenges and open up the conversation to all participants.

Large-scale tech adaption can certainly be a challenge, but it can be more challenging to reach your innovation goals without it.

Read how Sanford Health, one of the U.S.’s largest health care systems, leveraged Ideawake’s crowdsourcing platform to address health care challenges in real time across the country

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