Sometimes we associate soft skills with the day-to-day communication in an office environment but for remote workers it’s still vitally important to cultivate soft skills. When hiring SuccessFactors consultants our clients have specific experience and qualification requirements but beyond that a lot of their decision-making comes down to elements under the umbrella of soft skills. These are the skills we recommend you pay particular attention to:
Commitment and work ethic
Remote workers need to show off their commitment. In an office environment you have a natural pace of work and team spirit. When you’re losing enthusiasm, others are there to pick you up. Working remotely requires strategies to keep yourself on track. But how? Scheduling regular progress meetings with your line manager will help to keep your focus or a training session is a good way of getting a boost. Communicating this with the hirer or manager won’t display any weakness. It will demonstrate that you’re a mature, determined consultant who has the experience to know that remote working is not all plain sailing.
Time-management (and stress management)
Working under pressure with a team around you can be exhilarating and satisfying. Working under pressure alone many miles from the action, can be a pretty stressful experience, especially when your job security relies on exceptional performance. It’s difficult to get a sense of the project progress as a whole. You may be panicking about deadlines when the office-based team are aware that the timescale is unrealistic and are developing contingency plans. This is where communication is key and you (and your employer) need to put in place strategies to ensure you’re kept in the loop and able to regularly discuss project developments.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
When clients talk about soft skills, nine out of ten times they’re talking about communication skills. The main fear of hiring remote workers, especially in a different country, is their ability (and willingness) to communicate. Communication comes in a lot of forms and we certainly don’t mean that you have to be chatty with a raft of anecdotes to keep your colleagues entertained! For remote workers you need to tread quite a fine balance between too much communication and not enough. In my experience the latter is a more regular scenario. It depends on the client but many will require a regular progress report. Remember this is for your benefit, not just theirs. If there are issues holding you back, you must inform people in good time. Try to suggest a solution rather than laying blame at someone else’s door. If you realise a deadline is not going to be met it’s far far better to inform sooner rather than later – it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means like every other project sometimes the deadlines are too ambitious.
Rule number 1 – Empathy is not some mushy concept that is for the nursery rather than the boardroom! Empathy is the difference between you being looked upon as a good person people want to work with again or that guy that was a bit of a pain in the £*$%. And if you work remotely and you earn a bad reputation as someone obstructive or plain rude, you don’t have much of an opportunity to redeem yourself – reputations spread! It’s the old adage of treating others as you would be treated yourself. No one wants to be lumbered with additional tasks, no one wants to be explaining someone else’s mistakes, no one wants to be chasing phone calls because colleagues don’t respond. It really is very simple but sometimes, when we work remotely, it’s easier to be impolite because you don’t have personal relationships with your colleagues. Remember that you share an online office with those people on the end of the phone and they deserve as much respect as they would if they were in the same room.
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