Success is not just a statistic on a spreadsheet. Now that teleworking, remote work, work-from-home arrangements, and camping out in a home office are all part of our daily lives, companies are redefining what success looks like. From the standpoint of technology and how we all connect in this new world, there are completely different parameters.
One of the most important changes in how we define success has to do with interpersonal skills. The loudest person in the room, the one who speaks up the most at the corporate office and who makes the most noise is no longer perceived as successful. Zoom and Skype have leveled the playing field for all of us because talking more than anyone else can get you muted. Dominating a conversation in a video chat now looks far worse than it has before.
Yet, there is also a temptation now to use analytics and purely practical methods to define who is the most successful. A big mistake would be to give employees extra encouragement, warm accolades or even special privileges based on their Zoom meeting attendance or only because they finish up a PowerPoint presentation in record time. While checking off every task on Trello or Asana is personally satisfying and a hallmark of productivity, it’s not the only way to measure whether an employee is actually making a difference, helping the bottom line, or developing new areas of new market penetration. In fact, in our new environment, checkboxes in Trello or the project management tool you use might be the worst indicator of success.
That’s because -- excuse the pun -- the employee might not be thinking outside of the checkbox. When we are all digital, all working remotely, and always on a computer, it’s dangerous to measure success only by the completed tasks. Instead, it’s wise to help employees feel successful beyond a simple checkbox list and meritocracy.
1. Reward innovative thinking
Personality tests like Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram do help us understand why some employees have a checkbox mentality to work and some are more entrepreneurial in their thinking. The problem is that the current work environment tends to favor the detail-oriented industrious types. They will look more successful if they are wizards when it comes to using digital tools and completing objectives. As an employer, it is better to look for those who develop new ways to tackle a problem, especially since we have a lot of new problems.
One example of this is when you assign two people to the same project, such as developing a new website. The practical box-check worker might know how to create a content management system, write code, and even work with the design department for new icons. We think success is defined by how many of those tasks are completed and in what timeframe. Then, there is the employee who discovers a brand new website builder that saves everyone time.
Employees will be anxious about success for that reason -- not everything they do will be obvious. If there was ever a time when it is easy to take credit for success that is not warranted it is now -- and employees will use digital means to communicate about that. They will pat their own back and it might be hard to discern if they deserve it.
2. Recognize the humble overachievers
As employers, it will be important to recognize and reward those who are working behind the scenes, who might not make a big fuss about what they have accomplished. They may be finding workarounds, talking to customers, relaying information to the team, and doing other things that help the company but they do not show up on digital reports.
Here’s an example of that. You might not know that someone is picking up some extra work for a colleague who is sick. There’s a good chance this good-hearted person is not going to trumpet what they are doing and simply do the work. You might have to dig harder. Once you find out about someone working harder or collaborating, call it out (in a good way). Employees will appreciate the positive feedback which leads to a greater feeling of success at work.
3. Standardize on apps
During the pandemic, employees are going to feel inundated with digital messaging. They will be on a PC or laptop all day trying to keep up with projects. There’s a constant sense of overload as they figure out how to self-motivate and avoid distractions.
One way to help employees feel more successful is to streamline. Figure out which business apps are really necessary and which ones will help the company the most, and then shut down as many unnecessary apps. When remote workers feel overloaded they do not feel successful. Streamlining gives then the sense that they are completing tasks efficiently.
Think about all of the messaging apps available. Someone might have to check for text messages, video chats, Slack messages, phone calls, and many others. An app like Asana is wonderful but also has a built-in comment and messaging system. When the employee has to keep up with all of them, he or she will feel like it is a losing battle. Standardize on one collaborative messaging app and avoid the nightmare scenario of forcing every worker to keep tabs on dozens of different apps all at once. It will not prove successful.
4. Create a digital feedback mechanism
One of the things we’re all missing right now is the ability to simply find the boss and talk about what isn’t working. There is no mechanism, for that now. On a Zoom chat, it might be awkward, and by other messaging tools, it could be lost or discarded.
Creating one avenue for feedback helps employees feel successful because they can register a complaint, air their grievances, and then get back to work. It is a way to unload about something in a way that is healthy and helpful. When they can send feedback digitally, they can start viewing their work under a new light -- one that makes them feel like a success.
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John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.