Episode TwoHundredSixty

3 Remote Challenges for Leaders & How to Overcome Them

Guest: Anup Khera, CRO at Smarp

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About This Episode

Remote work is for real now.

However, some areas, like onboarding and culture, have lagged behind the reality of work from home. How do organizations best address the internal needs of their remote workforce?

Recently on Sales Engagement, I interviewed Anup Khera, CRO at Smarp, about strategies for leaders to improve employee communications and overcome the challenges of the remote working environment.

Let’s dive right into Anup’s insights!

3 remote challenges for leaders

The pandemic changed so much for everyone. For Smarp as a mobile first employee communications platform, it brought about growth that necessitated new hires. Which led to the first challenge.

  1. The hiring process isn’t face to face anymore, so the interview process has to change
  2. Coaching can’t rely on natural peer to peer knowledge sharing, so enablement has to change
  3. Team building doesn’t grow organically in an office workplace, so measures to avoid isolation have to be taken

“You can’t have the chat by the coffee machine Monday morning when people come in,” Anup said. “How do you make sure that people are part of the bigger team?”

For three challenges are three solutions:

1 — Hiring & interview

Anup had to redefine their interview process by involving more of the wider team from the start.

“More people are taking a view on that individual being the right person for the role, but it also gives the candidate an opportunity to get a real sense of the culture by meeting different people, not necessarily in their department, but throughout the business,” Anup said.

Two benefits to widening the interview team:

  • More team members get the measure of the interviewee.
  • There’s an opportunity to show and sell the culture.

2 — Onboarding & training

Before the pandemic, new hires would spend some time at HQ, but now they don’t.

Instead, Anup broke the onboarding process into two parts: one week onboarding across the wider business and one week onboarding for the specific role.

Week 1: This is where various stakeholders and departmental leaders and their teams provide an overall feel and a flavor of their roles and departments, to new hires. This gives the new hires the connections they need. 

Week 2: Whether it’s account management or new business, the new hires see the people who are involved and work with a buddy to feel comfortable in their new role.

This onboarding process, along with regular touch points, encouragement, and check ins, of course, helped offset the loss of the coffee machine chat. 

3 — Team building & communication

“Listen, have clear communications and expectations set, and then encourage,” Anup said.

To keep motivation and energy high, a leader must consistently do those three things.

Listening means hearing people’s frustrations, which means taking the actual time to converse. “Ultimately, feeling heard is really important for people,” he said. 

Team members, especially new employees, need to know what the expectations are for what a good day or week looks like. It’s a leader’s job to communicate that openly and clearly.

Encouragement should be a reflexive response for a leader. Hint: It’s not just about the metrics of closed deals. Smaller wins absolutely count.

Transitioning to virtual

Like almost all of us, Anup has seen his teams struggle with some aspects of the transition to working virtually.

One of the big ones is Zoom fatigue. We miss the days when we could just tap a colleague on the shoulder when we needed a quick answer to a question. 

From newbies to the tenured reps, everyone is missing their colleagues. “The culture can get lost, because we’re at home on our own,” he pointed out. “Along with the culture potentially being at risk is the ability to know what the wider business is doing.”

There are a few versatile strategies to offset these problems.

  • Encourage your people to stay healthy.

Take a break from the screen and go for an afternoon run. Leaders should set the example of finishing up early now and again.

“We hire adults in the organization. We give them that level of trust and responsibility that they’re going to do what they need to do for their job and their clients,” Anup said.

Repeat this often: It’s okay to take a break.

  • Schedule culture events to combat burnout and foster a strong culture.

Smarp has held pop quizzes, beers on Friday, an online Christmas party — and an upcoming company awards ceremony will be kicked off with a digital karaoke event.

  • Prioritize keeping people involved and informed.

Schedule frequent town halls, have monthly AMA (ask me anything) sessions, and don’t forget the importance of listening.

“We are an employee communications platform provider. We practice what we preach, so we keep our people informed by using our own technology to make sure that our teams know what’s happening within the business,” Anup said.

  • Implement a virtual office.

To help recreate the feeling of popping into a colleague’s office to ask a quick question, schedule virtual offices. “It’s a Zoom link where people can just drop in at any moment. They can feel they can ask questions, rather than just having to book time,” Anup said.

Anup’s parting advice

Leaders need to focus on emotional intelligence in order to make gains toward employee wellbeing.

“It’s really important now more than ever, as a leader, to have high levels of emotional intelligence,” he said.

Don’t be afraid to ask people how they are and push past the automatic response of fine. Anup booked 30 minutes with every single sales team member individually. 

“Take the time to understand how your people are and how they’re feeling,” Anup said. “If you look after your people, your people look after the number anyway.”

Get in touch with Anup on LinkedIn or at anupkhera@smarp.com.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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