Recognizing Talent in Telecommuting Work Environments

Recognizing Talent in Telecommuting Work Environments

May 19, 2021
Annette Maggi
Career DevelopmentHuman Resources

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Professional and personal life run in intertwined patterns these days, and during a casual conversation with friends recently, the topic of identifying high potential employees within telecommuting work environments was discussed. Given the topic’s implications for retail dietitians, I sat down with Blake Grams, the Vice President of Global Operations at Toro, overseeing worldwide manufacturing at 26 plants, supply chain, distribution centers, and their internal transportation team. Blake was the originator of the topic in my friend circle, and I’m sharing his insights here in an interview format.

How has the pandemic and work-from-home impacted the ability to assess employee talent?
Most meetings are in a group setting, with focus on getting business done. There might be a presentation given or a specific issue discussed. In group meeting, team members have to choose the main points they want to as there’s limited time for each person to talk. There’s peer pressure and group think. It’s more difficult to get to know people, to get their perspective on the topic. In one-on-one situations that can happen when walking to and from a live meeting, people give you a more honest answer. 

The issue for company leaders is that we’ve had so many added challenges during the pandemic – employee safety, increased product demand, supply chain problems, putting out frequent fires – that we don’t have time to focus on talent. But we know we need to maintain this as a priority.

Employees are frustrated that they don’t hear from leaders outside of scheduled meetings. How are you managing this as a leader?
In an office environment, I can walk down the hall to see if an employee is at their desk and available for a quick conversation. But when working from home, it’s difficult to know if employees are free at the same time as I am. I need to check Teams or text before I call to see if a person is free. If not, we have to juggle to figure out when we’re both free for just a ten-minute conversation. It’ just takes more steps in a work-at-home environment. 

What advice do you have for high performing employees to ensure their work is getting noticed in telecommuting environments? 
Go the extra steps. If you think you’re not getting enough touch points with key people in the company, be proactive and set up time with leaders. Consider short calls, just 15 minutes, for example. It’s a two-way street, but we all have to do more to make sure we’re connecting as  face-to-face is always more effective and provides more context to the topic.

Many companies are starting to bring employees back to the office, and if given the choice, I think it’s important to get back to the office. Leaders need to see people face-to-fact routinely to fully assess high performers.