October 5, 2020
Ciklum News

7 Questions to Olga Kuraksa about Remote Workforce Management

7 Questions to Olga Kuraksa about Remote Workforce Management

Starting from the interview with Olga Kuraksa, Vice President of Global Workforce Management at Ciklum, we are introducing a new blog series “The 7 questions”. This is a novel column that will give you a behind-the-scenes look at who makes up our company, and will also tell you about our customers and partners.

1. In your opinion, how easy will it be for people to be back on track after they worked remotely for so long? 

The workforce management team found it quite easy to work remotely. Given that we were well organised before, our productivity remained the same. All our KPIs, processes and organisational structure were in place already, so it did not take much effort to go remote, as it might have been for some teams that are at the forming stage. Also, we were always recruiting all over the globe, so absolute shift to Zoom, Skype wasn’t a rare thing to do and didn’t turn out as a blocker to success. 

Talking of going back to the office, according to our recent remote-mode questionnaire 58% of participants stated that they want to work in the flexible mode (partially from office, partially from home). Apparently, many people have a good working space at home, but those who have a lack of such or have kids would be happier to be back to the office. The obstacle that might come up here is, for instance, is that when some part of the team works remotely and the rest goes to the office – they have different dynamics, so it becomes harder to synchronise and organise both.

The crucial thing here is that nobody really knows how this new normal is actually going to be like, so all our current predictions are just guesswork.

2. Considering that remote management is the new normal, what can employers do to make sure that people are staying focused, committed, and happy? 

Some kind of a mood tracker, where workers would receive a few short questions every day about how they feel, what goes wrong, what is fine. And then when two or three thousand people answer them daily, you basically have full visibility of the wellbeing situation and other representative insights across different departments and types of people. 

If not automatically, managers might simply have some open-door chats where they designate, for example, one hour per week and chat to see how everyone is doing. Some people may really struggle with working from home, due to the lack of self-discipline, and they are those you might need more attention, while others are less needy in these terms. So the task here is to identify all these pain points. Communication is the key success factor as well in terms of keeping people informed about how things are going, preventing someone from thinking that they are out of context. 

My colleagues and I also have realised that communication is really the key. So now we find slots in our calendars for quick checkups every now and then, on top of the calls and meetings that we would have had anyways. 

Ciklum initiatives and activities during lockdown

3. Which benefits the remote workforce management have had that you didn’t expect in the beginning?

  • Productivity didn’t decrease at all, at least speaking of my team;
  • Time-saving, due to the irrelevance to commute to work;
  • And giving a broader perspective, it opened borders for us in terms of hiring people outside of Kyiv and gave better access to talents across the world.

For example, if we were looking for an employee to work in Kyiv, we probably wouldn’t search for them in Lviv or some other city. Well, now such an approach is absolutely irrelevant and gives a lot of opportunity for remote workers. But on the other hand, it really challenges the People Management, which has to adapt.

4. What are the top five things that business leaders and managers can do to create a good remote culture?

5. Do you have any remote team management success stories in Ciklum?

One of the biggest successes for my team and me is that remote team management works perfectly well for resourcing and recruitment in all the locations. We not only manage to stay productive but enhance collaboration with the hiring managers by providing coaching support on how to hire remotely. For example, it was quite a big shift in the mindset that personal meeting is no longer a must that supports faster recruiting and unlocks opportunities for many people.

6. What is challenging for you personally in remote management?

First of all, being an extrovert doesn’t make things easier for me being remote. Also, I am a mom of two: a toddler and a teenager, which makes me miss adult conversations. So I do feel for all working remotely parents.

7. What are your personal discoveries and tips on how to empower a remote workforce?

Honestly, I am not sure I want to empower it. I know it looks like it will be a new norm, but I still think that people should meet and talk personally, we are missing a lot of body language signs, empathy. Just from the calls, you sometimes cannot realise what a person is after just like it is harder for oneself to fully express yourself. 

But on the other hand, I have realised that maybe when we are back to ‘normal’, I feel like I would need more personal space than I used to have.

But what remote made me learn are these:

  • Plan, plan and plan – discipline. Unless you plan deliberately what your duties are for the day, namely home chores, meals, calls, you’re at danger of messing it up.
  • Read more books – to compensate for the information we are not able to get now from the outside, something that might fulfil you and have no relevance to your work. For me, these are philosophy and neurobiology. The book that helped me through quarantine is “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, for example.
  • Exercise, of course, this helps you keep going.
  • And for the finals, another interesting thing I’ve discovered is that we don’t need that many material goods. All these clothes that I used to buy so often and spent so much time and money turned out to be so useless.