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Leading Your Company in a Remote World: EuRA Panel Discussion Recap

Lessons Hidden in Plain Sight

At the beginning of June, I was privileged to represent Bennett at the annual meeting of the European Relocation Association (EuRA) in Seville, Spain. Not surprisingly, many of the sessions focused on the challenges and lessons-learned of managing businesses in the pandemic.

I was part of a panel for a session entitled “Leading Your Company in a Remote World,” that sought to address two crucial questions:

1. How do you maintain a sense of culture and cohesion in a team that is limited to remote/electronic interaction?

2. Furthermore, how to create an engaging work atmosphere that encourages retention in a remote work environment?

My panel was made up of a wonderful group of professionals representing a range of industries, nationalities, and perspectives. Some of us, prior to the pandemic, had already been managing either a fully remote workforce or a hybrid one. Of course, as a result of COVID, we have all experienced the remote workplace to one degree or the other, and if you’re still in business, it means that to some extent you’ve figured it out. The panel discussed different techniques and different challenges faced during the peak of the pandemic. Among the challenges:

· The pandemic’s peak varied by geography, so a widespread remote workforce was dealing with different challenges at different times. Everyone was “in a different place” with regard to risks and restrictions.

· Even with precautions taken, a significant portion of the workforce was ill at one time or another, leading to absenteeism (yes, even remote workers need sick days).

· There seemed to be a more pronounced rate of emotional illness, caused by isolation, fear, sickness, job insecurity, loss of loved ones and so much more. This had a direct impact on worker performance.

· As the movement of employees around the world ground to a halt, financial pressures weighed greatly on most service providers in the relocation industry. All of the participants were hit hard, the ramifications are still unknown and may yet to be seen.

There were quite a few creative techniques brought to bear to address these and other challenges, from enhanced professional development/training offerings to spirit-lifting activities like scavenger hunts (“Who can find a pair of Mickey Mouse Ears?”) and birthday parties – all delivered remotely, of course. We heard about enhanced meeting schedules and virtual retreats, all intended to keep the far flung connected to the mothership.

But perhaps the most important (and yes, obvious) insight to be gleaned from this session was the importance of having the right people on the team in the first place. It speaks to the crucial role played by your recruiting, retention, and performance management processes. If you had the right people in place when the going got tough, chances are the team pulled together and rose to the occasion.

Teams that allowed and tolerated negative, disruptive, non-team players to stick around, found that the problems posed by these employees were magnified in the crucible that was the pandemic. By the time some managers realized this, it was too late to take effective action – performance management and recruiting were notoriously difficult during the pandemic.

Now, as we (hopefully) dig out from under the pandemic, is a good time to look at how you manage your employee pipeline. Work to implement best practices; to steel yourself to identify and address areas of disruption and negativity in your workplace.

Who knows what the next challenge will be? Perhaps by learning from this experience today, we’ll be better prepared for tomorrow.

Timothy Dwyer, President

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Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.




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