Training Today: Do Your Homework

It’s important for employers to remember that virtual work programs are not one-size-fits-all.

While the number of organizations offering virtual work arrangements has increased from 35 to 45 percent over the last few years, a few notable companies recently have gone against the trend and banned working from home policies. These moves may lead more employers to reevaluate their own flexible work arrangements, says Aon Hewitt, the global human resource solutions business of Aon plc.

“It’s important for employers to remember that virtual work programs are not one-size-fits-all,” says Carol Sladek, work-life consulting lead at Aon Hewitt. “They need to consider how to best balance workforce productivity with initiatives that attract, engage, and retain top talent. This balance is particularly important in today’s increasingly global and mobile workforce.”

Aon Hewitt offers five questions employers should consider when evaluating their virtual work programs:

  • To what extent does the organization’s strategy emphasize collaboration and innovation, and what tools does it have to encourage and enhance collaboration for those working virtually? How might collaboration be affected by requiring all employees to work on-site?
  • Are formal guidelines in place to help managers and employees evaluate whether a virtual work arrangement is appropriate for the role/employee, or are arrangements offered on an ad hoc basis?
  • How does offering a virtual work program affect employee attraction, engagement, and retention, especially with high-performing employees? What effect would eliminating this policy have?
  • Does the organization have managers who can successfully manage their teams, whether employees are working in or out of the office?
  • Are there tools in place to assess the effectiveness of virtual work, such as performance, engagement, retention, teamwork, and cost/savings impact?

“Virtual work programs are most successful when organizations set appropriate expectations, foster communication between managers and employees, and measure performance to ensure effectiveness,” adds Sladek. “They should be designed and implemented to support the needs of employees, yet drive results and support the organization’s overall business goals.”

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.