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Transforming Pitfalls to Profits in a Virtual Company

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By Kim Shepherd, CEO
With Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

Part 4 In Our Series: Overcoming Virtualophobia Or How We All Went Home and Became a Better Company


Virtual workplaces can and do work, but not just by sending everyone home. In this series I’ve been writing about what’s worked for us at Decision Toolbox (DT), since we’ve been 100% virtual for years. Everyone assumes there are pitfalls to going virtual . . . and they’re right. But overcoming them can make your company stronger. If we weren’t virtual, DT wouldn’t have created a whole array of valuable tools and solutions. Here are five pitfalls and how we responded; in Part Five I’ll present five more.

1. How can I trust that my people are working?

Hire passionate, entrepreneurial and highly professional people, and then step aside. At DT the employees set the bar high on their own. Of course we have expectations and KPIs (more on that shortly), but any slackers would soon find themselves very uncomfortable surrounded our by results-oriented team.

But you can get a little piece of mind through “virtual time cards.” All our Recruitment Partners, for example, log their hours, and their calls are logged automatically. We can see if they’re working at 6 AM or 11 PM, and we can see chunks of time OFF in the middle of the day. But we don’t have to micromanage them. The work is getting done because they manage themselves better than a boss ever could.

2. My employees will lose control of their time and resources

The first thing you have to do is pull “personal empowerment” off that poster on the wall and embrace it as real. Really real. Let your employees manage their own time — but provide tools and resources. At DT most of our people can work any hours they want, as long as the work gets done. We’ve made a number of time management and project tracking tools available via Recruiting Machine, our ERP/ATS/CRM. For example, people can set alerts and reminders within our quality system.

3. Without direct supervision, performance will suffer

On the contrary, we monitor performance better now that we’re virtual. We have to. Clearly define KPIs and expectations, create systems to track them, and then take it up a notch: reward the strong performers. At DT we assign recruiting projects via a point system, and points are based on several KPIs. Since the Recruitment Partners are paid by the project, they are further motivated to deliver strong numbers.

One more thing: supervisors need first-hand experience of working virtually in order to support, motivate and coach their teams. Send ’em home. Ironically, the last to go virtual at DT was our Founder and CTO, Jay Barnett — we all remember the day he bade a tearful goodbye to his beloved servers!

4. I won’t be able to retain top talent

At DT we retain almost 100% of the people we want, and we do it almost 100% virtually. We do have an annual face-to-face All Staff meeting, and team members who live near one another get together when they can. But technology makes the miles disappear. Take webinar tools: you can be face-to-face and virtual at the same time. See Parts Two and Three for more about creating the culture that keeps the talent happy. And anything that can be in a handbook can be online. Decision Toolbox University, for example, is 100% virtual and offers training as well as quick references.

5. There’s no teamwork or collaboration in a virtual workforce

Are you kidding? We do more now than when we were sticks-and-bricks. We hold weekly “dodgeball” training sessions where team members toss questions at the trainers. We’ll hold tiger team sessions to tame a particularly toothy problem. We’ve set up a “loops” system, like chat rooms for specific topics. They let us build on one another’s ideas and keep stakeholders in the . . . well, you know.

Well, this will have to do it for now. Next up: five more pitfalls and how to leap them.


For more tips on taking your company virtual, download a free copy of Kim’s eBook “The Bite Me School of Management”

Connect with Kim on Twitter and LinkedIn.

To learn more about Decision Toolbox, please contact us – we’d love to hear from you!

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Inside the Box will share the secrets of life long happiness….not really, but we will provide you with some great talent acquisition articles and tips that will hopefully make your working life better. You’ll also get the inside scoop on DT.

One Response to “Transforming Pitfalls to Profits in a Virtual Company”

  1. July 09, 2014 at 6:53 am, 5 More Ways to Transform Pitfalls to Profits in a Virtual Company - DecisionToolbox said:

    […] in this final part I’ll continue responding (I started in Part Four) to some of the biggest concerns people have — some are unfounded, but some are true pitfalls […]


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