Capgemini CEO stresses the need to build trust in a virtual setting

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on April 10, 2020

The Covid-19 virus has sequestered many to their homes, but what it has also done is fundamentally recast the leader-employee relationship.

Though remote work allows businesses to compete in an increasingly globalised society, when workers are siloed communication can get muddled at times and trust and collaboration can suffer. It also becomes difficult to tell if employees are tasked with too little — or too much.

Trust is a very important element of leading effectively in a virtual environment, says Ashwin Yardi, CEO, India, Capgemini. “It requires encouraging a mindset and culture of carrying on tasks with minimum supervision. In a virtual environment, employees need to be entrusted with greater autonomy which would give them a sense of ownership to complete their work and fulfil their goals,” Yardi told BusinessLine.

To lead effectively in a virtual environment, therefore, means putting trust in employees and ensuring that leadership communications are empathetic and authentic, says the CEO.

“In a remote working environment, it is important to maintain clear and effective communication,” he adds, as employees tend to “miss out on physical cues and rely heavily on explicit and intentional communication.”

Collaboration and engagement can happen naturally at the workplace when employees trust their seniors and believe they are working toward a shared vision. However, it is a very different scenario in an environment where face-to-face interaction is a rarity. It is here that collaborative spirit and strategic team building can help instil trust in virtual teams.

Various researches

While research from the Harvard Business Review states that remote employees are more likely to feel alienated or disconnected when compared to onsite employees, another research from a Stanford professor has shown that remote work can both increase productivity and lower attrition.

The Stanford study revealed that employees working remotely found it easier to concentrate and were less likely to take sick days. Employers, on the other hand, also saved a bounty on real estate costs.

Capgemini’s Yardi says leaders need to show the way. Managing a virtual team also require leaders to double down on the fundamentals of good management.

A recent Capgemini Research Institute research shows emotional intelligence (EI) for leaders and line managers has assumed a new criticality at this time. While a pandemic creates significant uncertainty and nervousness, it creates an extraordinary situation that requires leaders to be extra vigilant in paying close attention to their teams and in steering the business.

The research notes the move to a virtual workplace becomes more than a change of modus operandi — it requires a deep change in behaviour and mindset for both leaders and employees.

Virtual workplace

“In a pandemic situation, where there is a huge amount of uncertainty and fear, employees are not in fact just looking for clarity from leadership. They are seeking reassurance, encouragement, empathy and authenticity in leadership communication,” says Yardi.

Since employees tend to rely on their leaders to take action and set the tone, communication from senior business leaders down the chain is imperative during this time. With virtual working becoming the new normal, the CEO adds organisations now not only need to work remotely, but also need to excel at virtual working.

So, while organisations need to ensure team collaboration and the effective use of digital tools, in order to maximise return on investment during crisis, they also need to ensure that high levels of trust are in place.

Published on April 10, 2020

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