Gartner’s NEAR model for remote-employee management

This four-step approach claims to encourage workers and also allow managers to play their part better.

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Lockdown has thrust managers as well as employees into a new situation of remote working, and both of them are experimenting with ways to get a hold on this new way of working. After a survey of 229 HR leaders across sectors, Gartner has come up with a few tips on how to manage remote workers. Remote working may just become the new normal and organisations will need to understand how to handle remote workers now and in the future.

“While 30 per cent of employees surveyed worked remotely at least part of the time before the pandemic, the Gartner analysis reveals that the post-pandemic, 41 per cent are likely to work remotely at least some of the time,” says Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered.”

The flipside to having remote workers is that there remains a risk of high turnover. A survey carried out by the organisation in the first quarter of 2020 revealed that workers operating out of office display a higher intent of staying with their current employer than remote workers.

This means that now more than ever, managers need to understand how to engage their remote staff and drive productivity while at it.

The NEAR model employs four steps to ensure that workers feel encouraged and enabled by their managers to work remotely.

Coach them to success

The survey analysis found that around two-fifths of the remote workers want their work to be more self-directed and not be micromanaged by their superiors. This entails that managers must trust their employees to deliver and coach them rather than direct all their work. The focus needs to be on output rather than the process.

Enable the social connection

Another survey by Gartner, fielded in the fourth quarter of 2019, revealed that more than 40 per cent of employees feel disconnected with their peers, and more than a quarter of them suffer from isolation.

There is a need for managers to understand when an employee is exhibiting signs of distress, as it can hamper productivity. Organisations have to work in tandem with their HR teams to learn to identify the signals and encourage team members to build social and emotional connections, so that work can progress in a seamless manner.

Promote two-way connection

While working remotely, instances of employees receiving corrective feedback are higher than of them hearing positive comments on things well done. This effectively makes conversations a one-way street, with the manager in the driving seat. Employees do not feel welcome to voice their opinions.

To solve this, managers must focus on keeping a balance. Applauding one’s employees for work done well with concrete examples goes a long way to promoting a healthy exchange of ideas and to making communication a two-way street, which is vital while working remotely.

Setting expectations

It is often assumed that remote workers operate solo. However, the analysis by Gartner has shown that employees who work fully remote are 3.5 times more likely to be involved with multiple teams across the organisation. This can take a toll on individual contribution and lead to disparate expectations from individuals.

Managers must take the lead in setting expectations and defining objectives with individual team members and also the larger team. This will ensure that there is effective collaboration across teams and individuals contribute effectively.

“While the majority of organisations are not currently hiring, nor are the majority of workers actively seeking new jobs, organisations do need to consider how they are managing their workforce. If companies are not thinking through the employee experience they are creating, they could face significant attrition when the labour market opens back up,” concludes Kropp.

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