Last week I wrote about the under-appreciated value of the older employee. This week let’s consider the virtual employee. Both of these non-traditional HR solutions have buttressed the value and efficacy of my executive sales outsourcing firm Corporate Rain International for 16 years and I heartily recommend our approach. It’s the way business is increasingly going, whether you like it or not, but more importantly, it can lead to a cornucopia of personnel riches for the entrepreneur and a large boost to corporate esprit de corps.
Traditionally, the most valuable employees are those who arrive at their desks early and remain there after everyone else goes home. And they often are great workers. However, these single-minded office hard-drivers are not necessarily what the evolving worker wants to model himself on.
The Kenexa Research Institute of Minneapolis, Minnesota has done extensive research on the telecommuting employee. Surprisingly, in a poll of 10,000 US workers, 73% of remote and home-based workers were happy with their company as a place to work, compared with 64% for traditional office workers. Furthermore, 70% of the telecommuters said they were “proud to tell people I work for my company,” in contrast to 64% for traditional office workers. Jack Wiley of Kenexa states:
“When companies allow employees to work remotely or from home, they are explicitly communicating to them that ‘I trust you to be dedicated to the accomplishment of the work, even if I’m not able to observe you doing it.’ It boils down to respect. I respect you and I have confidence in your commitment to the work—to do this under the conditions and at the time you feel will be most productive for you.” (WSJ-September 11, 2007)
Lifestyles and people’s needs are changing. I believe most contemporary employees are looking for a freer, less top-down work atmosphere. Jack Wiley of Kenexa notes that the most important thing an employee wants from an employer (besides compensation) is appreciation for the work they contribute and to be treated respectfully.
Flexibility is an increasingly valued commodity for employees. Many of my executive sales associates are very out-of-the-box in their needs and values. They are not people who necessarily want a traditional career. For example, Corporate Rain has sales executives who are raising venture capital on the side. Also, mothers who have held high-level corporate positions, but no longer want to be in that particular rat-race. We have two associates writing books on the side, as well as associates who consult independently in fields like PR, HR, Non-profit, ROI augmentation, and the production of beer. We even have had a former VP of Jack Welch who owns a trout farm in North Carolina!
These are non-traditional employees who value the lifestyle flexibility offered by my firm. Most of these folks are of a quality I could never afford but for the fact that Corporate Rain offers unique support for flexible lifestyle enhancement. (My company is also a company of equals. In many ways, it’s intentionally as close to a Communist company as you can get and still be a going capitalist concern. But that’s a discussion for another day. Maybe next week.)
Employees’ changing values and desires will change the office world. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester are exemplars of a new school of “happiness” research. They have found that employees do their best work when motivated from within, when they have control of their time and decisions, and when they feel a deep sense of purpose. (Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior–Plenum–1985)
So, why not happiness, freedom, AND work? Thomas Jefferson, who died on July 4, 1826 (as did John Adams), said, “It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness.” (Letter to Mrs. A. S. Marks–1788) Thanks, Thomas.