How to Find the Right Communication Balance for Remote Leadership

Applied Systems is changing the way it communicates to bridge the digital gap.

Written by Taylor Rose
Published on Oct. 19, 2023
How to Find the Right Communication Balance for Remote Leadership
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Oprah Winfrey once said that “great communication begins with connection.”

The search for real connection is something that rattled so many during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. What happens when virtual communication loses some of the interpersonal connection? When does virtual communication allow for more thought and intentionality?

Communication and connection are in a constant dance with one another — and new balances and tempos are still being found as more companies shift to permanent hybrid schedules. Many workers feel the benefits of virtual work: Forbes found that “98 percent of workers expressed the desire to work remotely, at least part of the time.” 

Building a workplace that can maintain effective communication and connection requires a special touch. Applied Systems, a tech company that helps make the global insurance industry easier to navigate, has a track record of crafting clear communication. Built In sat down with Chief People Officer Bridget Penney to hear more about how Applied Systems communicates as a hybrid company. 

 

Bridget Penney
Chief People Officer • Applied Systems

Applied Systems is a cloud software leader that is revolutionizing the way insurance agencies and brokers succeed.

 

What are the differences between managing in person and in an office, versus managing team members remotely? 

After seeing successes in a virtual world, we decided to take the opportunity of what we learned during COVID to reimagine how we work. Now, we are working with a focus on outcomes, meeting people where they are and creating the time and space for high-impact connections. We strive to make sure these connections can happen both virtually and in-person while fostering the growth of our culture and business. 

At Applied, our goal has always been to create an environment that enables our team to deliver business outcomes and support their best work. Historically, that work was typically localized in regional offices across our operating regions. Our work reimagined is rooted in trust, and,  with that, we are committed to extending flexibility into our working model. 

We trust that our people will achieve the outcomes and deliver high-impact results to our customers. Our commitment is to find purpose in being in-person and know that everyone has a preferred way of working that may be virtual, in-person or hybrid. No matter what, we will find connection in each to spark new ideas, collaboration and much, much more.

Our reimagined work is rooted in trust.”

 

How do you stay connected to your direct reports without bombarding them with communication?

Leaders need to ask themselves: Is this information broadly applicable to the team? Is it specific to a function? Only relevant for an individual? These answers will guide the message and the channels best to communicate without creating too much noise. 

Whether in-person, fully remote or in a hybrid working environment, effective communications is one of the most important elements of a successful business.

Our leadership is intentional about cultivating a culture where people feel that they belong and they can show up authentically. We host quarterly company town halls in person, encourage leaders to bring teams together for planning and collaboration sessions, and empower our Communities of Interest, known as Employee Resource Groups, and community involvement arm — which we call Applied Cares — to host events. We designate funds so that teams can gather virtually or in-person both within and outside the scope of their work, which creates space for building relationships to support healthy communication channels.

 

Related ReadingFinding Your Fit: Company Culture Makes a Big Difference

 

What advice do you have for leaders getting acclimated to managing a remote team?

It’s a process. While we know first-hand that success in a remote setting is possible, it can still be an adjustment and come with growing pains for both the organization and the employee. 

The reality is: Every business model is different, and the culture of the business is an important guidepost for how leaders should support their teams in a remote and hybrid environment. For instance, at Applied, we talk a lot about our values in action — which include communicating effectively, embracing learning, innovation, adaptability and collaborating to put the whole team first among others. 

Out of the gate, leaders are anchored to those values as their foundation and it supports accountability in living those out with their teams — irrespective of in-person, remote or hybrid.

We will find connection in each other to spark new ideas.”

 

That’s the baseline — and we know it’s a journey — so we are focused on equipping our leaders with a spectrum of resources to support our reimagined workplace. It’s important to ensure that leaders have the tools to be successful in navigating day-to-day work, delivering constructive feedback and building individuals and teams for the future. 

Leaders need to appreciate that there might not be a one-size fits all approach. There is an opportunity for leaders to meet team members where they are — whether that be specific projects or even simple communication style preferences — and bridge the digital gap. 

It’s important to make sure the dialogue is a two-way street. Ask for and be open to any feedback your team has — the positive and negative — so that you can easily navigate through the roadblocks to effectively collaborate, innovate and deliver great outcomes. 

 

Read moreInside the Digital Transformations of 23 Companies

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies

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